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Northeastern Illinois University's New AAUP Chapter Hits the Ground Running

By Loretta Capeheart On September 27, 2012 the new AAUP chapter at NEIU held its first public meeting. The meeting was attended by about thirty faculty, staff, and students. The event gained a boost from an article in the Chicago Reader published on that same date. As Deanna Isaacs of the Reader wrote, the administration at NEIU has a long term campaign to turn faculty into obedient Stepford Wives. It is the resistance to this obedience that created the need for an AAUP chapter at NEIU and drew many to the meeting.

We were welcomed to campus by Sophia Mihic, president of the NEIU chapter of University Professionals of Illinois (the faculty union affiliated with IFT/AFT). Then a student from the student radio station, WZRD explained the situation with the radio station. Finally, John K. Wilson, editor of Illinois Academe, spoke about the connections between the student and faculty concerns urging those present to join forces in service to our common goals.

WZRD, the formerly student run radio station at NEIU was shut down and taken over by the university administration this past summer. Wilson offered eager students resources and ideas for regaining control of the station. As Wilson pointed out, due process is required in any fair system. Such process seems lacking with regards to the Wizards (the name used by disc jockeys working at the student station).

Other ongoing problems at NEIU were discussed including a controversial non-tenure decision reviewed by Illinois AAUP's Committee A which recommended reconsideration of the non-tenure decision by NEIU President, Sharon Hahs. President Hahs failed to recommend tenure for Linguistics professor, John Boyle even after he had received glowing support for tenure and promotion from his department, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and the University Personnel Committee. The president alone did not recommend Boyle for tenure. Wilson explained the problems inherent in such a unilateral decision and its implications for others on the campus.

Wilson also addressed the flagrant disregard for faculty rights exhibited by the university administration in their arguing in Capeheart v. Hahs that faculty have no right to free speech when engaged in their official duties. As Mr. Wilson explained, these arguments made by the university in federal court put all faculty in danger of retaliation for any and all speech made while teaching, engaged in research, and while carrying out faculty service including duties required by shared governance.

Attendees engaged Wilson with questions and were eager to find ways to make NEIU a more open and fair university. The wishes expressed by those in attendance were for exactly the values and principles of the AAUP; academic freedom, shared governance, due process, and respect for faculty, students, and staff engaged in the important work of higher education. We hope that our presence will move the campus toward these values.