DePaul University and its Broken Tenure and Promotion System

One of the recurring failures of DePaul University in developing a system of review for promotion and tenure is its  University Board on Promotion and Tenure. This is the highest level of faculty review for an applicant for tenure and promotion at the Chicago university.

The UBPT unfortunately a virtual adjunct of the president and not truly independent. Yes members are from the faculty but they are not required to share in a transparent manner their reports with ANY faculty member including  the faculty member under review. It is absolutely not accountable for its actions and processes of deliberation. It is a secretive, almost star-chamber motif of evaluation even though its members are elected faculty. Transparency requires and justice mandates that the University Board on Promotion and Tenure share its report with the candidate and be held directly accountable for its actions. Instead it transmits directly its recommendation to the president of the university, The Reverend Fr. Dennis H. Holtschneider.

It is egregious that a unit of evaluation is not required to share its report with the person under review. President Holtschneider is not required to provide a copy of the report to individuals that are applying for tenure and promotion. He rarely provides an in depth summary but usually writes a sentence or two including the vote tally.

A candidate who is denied tenure and seeks appeal is not provided a process to challenge directly a UBPT’s non-recommendation. Reverend  Holtschneider rarely if ever contravenes the recommendation of the UBPT and, therefore, this secretive, non-transparent faculty body has inordinate power. This situation should be changed to protect faculty denied promotion or tenure, who currently have limited means of redress to challenge directly the results of an adversarial UBPT hearing.

The University Board on Promotion and Tenure does conduct oral interviews with each faculty member at the end of their probationary period. They answer questions and presumably are allowed to argue their case. Some interviews are perfunctory and last a few minutes. Others are extensive and at times quite adversarial. I am not aware of there being any written guidelines or standards that accompany the interview process. However, I recognise that some flexibility and freewheelin’ atmospherics should be allowed during “oral arguments.”

The DePaul system has many flaws which were starkly revealed during the Norman Finkelstein case in 2007. He was denied tenure because of special-interest group opposition to his writings. He was forced to take a settlement which did NOT lead to the restoration of his position or his career. He was expelled from academia, shamelessly and viciously. DePaul University needs to reflect on its processes and, as I have indicated, allow greater transparency in the assessment of its faculty. It should revise the practice of concealing UBPT reports from affected faculty and change their Faculty Handbook in accordance with best practices.

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