Committee A Report:
Bradley University and DePaul University
By Peter Kirstein
Committee A was contacted by the AAUP chapter at Bradley University concerning a promotion and tenure case. Documents were examined ranging from departmental, college and university-level deliberations. A rather lengthy assessment of various documents was compiled by the chair in a running commentary format for about ten pages. A formal Committee A investigation was not forthcoming nor requested.
One item of note: if a faculty member at Bradley wins an appeal subsequent to a denial of tenure and promotion, the case is referred back to the original units for reconsideration. This strikes me as outlandish and highly prejudicial to the faculty member. Departments, deans and other unit levels are not inclined to reverse themselves merely because an appeal board seeks a reconsideration. If one wins an appeal, she should receive more than merely another round of review by the same units: this makes a mockery of the appeals process at Bradley.
Bradley should change their Handbook to ensure a successful appeal recommendation goes directly to the president for acceptance or rejection under carefully controlled circumstances. Apparently university lawyers, of all people, have rendered interpretations that are either binding or consciously cited when determining which units should constitute the reconsideration process. The professoriate and not lawyers should determine what the appeals process is! Shared governance needs to be robustly addressed at Bradley University based on the considerable amount documentation I examined in this case.
At Bradley and elsewhere, if a faculty member wins an appeal, that decision should go directly to the president or governing board and unless there are extraordinary reasons for rejection, a successful appeal should be accepted. Part of the corruption in higher education today is the calamity of justice in appellant reviews whereby a university president gets a second or even a third opportunity to deny a faculty member tenure and promotion.
Certainly the Bradley model where a successful appeal does not even generate a report to the president seeking reversal of tenure denial, but another repeat performance by various units, is stunningly egregious.
The Chronicle of Higher Education, Chicago Sun-Times, Inside Higher Ed and the Chicago News Cooperative have covered Illinois Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure’s involvement in Assistant Professor of Philosophy Namita Goswami’s tenure and promotion case at DePaul. Committee A submitted its initial report in July 2010 after it was reconstituted by Michael Harkins in 2009.
The report was cited by a DePaul Faculty Review Board that recommended a reversal of President Rev. Dennis Holtschneider’s denial of tenure to the professor on academic freedom and procedural grounds. The report is online and widely available.
Committee A played a decisive role in Dr Goswami becoming the first professor to win an academic freedom appeal at DePaul. The Committee has laboriously worked on this case on an almost daily basis since July. We were able to impress upon national AAUP the need to write letters to President Rev. Dennis Holtschneider concerning adherence to the appeals process and procedural mandates in the faculty Handbook. Those letters are online as well.
There are many significant issues surrounding this case that are still unfolding and I believe it prudent to limit these comments to the summation above and reiterate our ongoing efforts to defend professors in the state of Illinois who are denied academic freedom and who claim academic discrimination. Your Committee A is on a steep learning curve as it attempts to enhance its effectiveness and is ready to assist those who are denied academic freedom with robust determination and dedication to cause.
Your Committee A members are Kurt Field, Bradley, Matthew Abraham, DePaul and John Wilson, editor of Illinois Academe.
Peter N. Kirstein, chair, Committee A (Ill.) firstname.lastname@example.org; 773.298.3283.