Julio Pino, a Kent State associate history professor, denies any ties to the Islamic State in light of a recent joint FBI and Department of Homeland Security investigation into allegations he has ties to the terrorist organization.
A pro-Palestinian Muslim convert, Pino was raised Catholic. He said he became an agnostic and then an atheist in his early teens and came back to religion when he was about 40.
“After a great deal of study of many of the world’s religions, what I found in Islam was a perfect balance between a code of personal ethics as well as social justice,” he said. “The appeal of Islam was to me just that ... it holds personal reaches from within (and) transforms human beings into better persons.”
Pino teaches Latin American courses at Kent State. He started at the university in August 1992 as an assistant professor and became an associate professor in 1998. He received tenure in March of that year and was promoted in April, according to records in his university personnel file.
Pino said neither the FBI nor Homeland Security has notified him of any sort of investigation.
“From a legal standpoint, I’m not aware that they’re going after me or charging me with anything,” he said. “I’m not aware of any kind of criminal investigation or charges or anything of that sort.”
He also said the university has not contacted him about the investigation.
Pino, who is pro-Palestinian, said all of his activities are legal and he does not support the Islamic State, nor does he discuss the terrorist organization in his classes.
“I’ve not broken the law,” he said. “I don’t advocate that anyone else break the law, so I’ll stand by that statement that I fulfill my duties as an American citizen by speaking out on issues that some people find controversial, of course, but no, I have not violated any laws that I’m aware of or that anyone has informed me of.”
Pino is teaching two classes this semester: History of Cuba and Central America and a senior seminar in history. He said he plans to continue teaching these classes this semester and will return in the fall semester.
“I’m sure there are stories circulating out there. People may take them with as much of a grain of salt as they want to, but my current status is that I’m a citizen of the United States with all the rights and obligations that entails,” he said. “I follow the law. I advocate that others do so also. And I ask others to respect my freedom of speech as I respect theirs.”
Because Pino is tenured, he has a certain level of protection to express his views, said Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Todd Diacon, in an August 2014 interview.
Gina Zavota, grievance and arbitration chair for Kent State’s AAUP chapter, said there is a sanctions process for tenured faculty members who might potentially face termination through the union’s collective bargaining agreement.
“There is no policy that specifically addresses removal of tenured faculty,” she said in an email.
Although tenure is not a guarantee of continuous employment, as long as professors are not facing any ethical, moral or legal issues in the classroom, they will most likely retain that continuous employment, Diacon said.
“Tenure protects what the professor does in the classroom, and tenure protects what the professor does in her or his research,” Diacon said. “What (professors) do as a private citizen doesn’t really, unless they’re violating laws, it doesn’t really impact their condition of employment.”
As part of Pino's nine-month contract, he made $79,703 in the 2014-2015 academic year.
According to the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, found on the American Association of University Professors’ website, tenured professors should:
“When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations,” according to the statement. “As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.”
AAUP-KSU's previous collective bargaining agreement, states that "sanctions will only be applied for cause, and the question of just cause ... may be tested under the appropriate sections of the Grievance and Appeals Article of this Agreement."
The agreement also states the provost may take immediate action by way of suspension and/or proposed termination, provided the faculty member and AAUP-KSU are first given written notice of the impending action.
Pino resigned from the editorial board of Latin American Perspectives, an academic journal that studies Central and South American politics, in November 2014.
Pino called his fellow editors at the journal “Yankee stooges and frightened, flinching pussycats” in his October resignation letter. He also said the journal was pro-Israeli.
He sent a letter to History News Network, an academic online publication run by George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, in August 2014 blaming pro-Israeli scholars on the website for the deaths of Palestinians in the Israel-Palestine conflict.
“I hold you directly responsible for the murder of over 1,400 Palestinian children, women and elderly civilians over the past month,” he said in the letter. “Your names are scrawled on every bullet fired, bomb dropped, body buried and burnt forehead in Gaza.”
In October 2011, Pino shouted “death to Israel” during a former Israeli diplomat’s lecture at Kent State.
In 2007, he was accused of writing for Global War, a self-described jihadist news service that allegedly supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban and militant Palestinians. However, this was found to be untrue.
Pino received several awards from Kent State, including the Faculty Excellence Award in 2010, 2003, 2000 and 1996, along with the Professional Excellence Award in 1999 and 1997, according to his university personnel file.
He went on sabbatical during the Fall 2010 and Fall 2001 semesters.
Pino has submitted several letters to the editor of The Kent Stater, including in August 2014, about the Israel-Palestine conflict, where he called himself “the slave of Allah.”
He attended high school at Van Nuys High School in Los Angeles from 1974 to 1978 before earning his bachelor's in history with a minor in Portuguese from UCLA in 1984 and a master's in history with a Latin American concentration from UCLA in 1987.
Pino received his Ph.D. in history at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1991; his dissertation was titled “Family and Favela: The Reproduction of Poverty in Rio de Janeiro," in which he studied poverty in the Brazilian city.
He has taught at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, and El Camino Community College in El Camino, California.
According to his Kent State faculty application, he is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese and speaks basic French.
Emily Mills is the editor of The Kent Stater. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org