Sharon Hahs, Collegiality and the N.E.I.U. Boyle Case

One of the arguments that President Sharon Hahs makes in her denunciation of the national AAUP report, that condemned the denial of tenure of John Boyle, was that she did not inappropriately use the category of collegiality in her non-recommendation of tenure for Dr John Boyle at Northeastern Illinois University.

Illinois Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure initially raised the egregious use of collegiality in its July 13, 2012 report. It was this report that triggered the courageous and essential investigation by the national office of the American Association of University Professors. In the Illinois Report it stated:

“Furthermore, you {President Hahs} raise disturbing innuendos concerning Dr. Boyle’s alleged lack of collegiality. Your letter repeatedly refers to the issue of “cooperation with colleagues and students.” Illinois Committee A has not examined a single document that charges Dr. Boyle with a lack of collegiality visà-vis other faculty. The UPC-produced data summaries of course evaluations are also probative that Dr. Boyle established a very good relationship with students.

“The AAUP discourages elevating collegiality as a separate category in tenure decisions. On Collegiality as a Criterion for Faculty Evaluation (1999) proscribes introducing collegiality as a factor of probationary performance along with research, teaching, and service. Although collegiality is not a separate area of evaluation at NEIU, it is a specific component within (Department of Linguistics) LING-tenure guidelines. In addition the frequency with which you refer to Dr. Boyle’s need to attend “cooperation with colleagues and students” is an excessive reference to this criterion. The AAUP notes, “The invocation of collegiality may also threaten academic freedom.” The Association warns against using collegiality to suppress dissent or demand a sunny disposition: “Certainly a college or university replete with genial Babbitts is not the place to which society is likely to look for leadership.” Every unit from the Chair of the Department of Linguistics, the Department of Linguistics, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and the University Personnel Committee rated Dr. Boyle’s teaching as “superior” and recommended him for tenure. He implemented and completed your action plan. As noted, Dean Njogu, a member of your administration, explicitly addressed action-plan concerns and concluded his teaching/performance of primary duties was “superior” in her recommendation for tenure.”

The Illinois report stated that collegiality is not a separate category at N.E.I.U. which is a major prohibition in the AAUP document. President Hahs in her response is correct in that observation. I also prefer that departments, as President Hahs cites, do not include it in their departmental assessment. You don’t have to be nice, to get tenure. However, at no time did the president demonstrate to Dr Boyle or reveal in any document a lack of collegiality that could possibly give rise to a recommendation not to grant tenure or promotion. The complaints against Dr Boyle never discussed collegiality, but were bullying, gutter tactics and ruthless destructive efforts by Teaching English as a Second Language Professors William Stone and Lawrence Berlin. They complained that Dr Boyle was trying to enhance the Linguistics Department programme in poaching minors that TESL wanted.

This is what academic advisors should do and John Boyle did it well and had the academic freedom to speak to students and discuss their minors and attempt to recruit them into his department. Professor Berlin and Stone used in-your-face language to denounce Dr Boyle and for some reason the president chose to take these egregious complaints, that were initially not even shared with the professor, and turn it into a collegiality issue. Anger and rage by professors out to destroy another professor with a trumped up student complaint reflects a lack of collegiality and basic decency. Professors in a turf war who go after a non-tenured professor and use their lofty tenured status should be ashamed of themselves. Efforts to destroy an individual’s career on that campus are execrable. This was over policy, not a lack of collegiality. Professor Boyle was adored by his students, popular within his department, had a great relationship with staff and other professors. So the issue for AAUP, was that in addition to the retaliation, denial of academic freedom and other inappropriate reasons that led to the denial of tenure, the president in her constant references to a lack of collegiality had no basis for that argument. This was a get even action by a university president who was angry about votes of no-confidence. The denial of tenure was a ruse to assert presidential power over recalcitrant faculty and departments who dared question the performance of the president, and dared to demand shared governance and academic freedom for their colleague, John Boyle, Ph.D.

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