A.A.U.P. Supports Finkelstein, Larudee Right of Appeal of Tenure Denial

The DePaul University administration has argued there can be no internal appeal of a decision concerning the denial of tenure. I have seen some documents that astonishingly assert that a presidential decision at DePaul on a tenure matter is “final.” DePaul’s own handbook and precedent suggest that indeed a professor may seek internal grievance of a denial of tenure upon completion of the probationary period. The two distinguished professors, Norman Finkelstein and Mehrene Larudee, sought American Association of University Professors intervention in this matter. This letter from Robert Kreiser, associate secretary of the A.A.U.P., indicates a significant concern that appropriate due process be afforded these professors. A.A.U.P. is obviously fully engaged in this matter as it should be. It is my hope that if the DePaul administration does not reverse these judgments, that a formal Committee A investigation will be forthcoming.

07.10.2007 | American Association of University Professors

The Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M.
President
DePaul University
1 East Jackson Boulevard
Chicago, Illinois 60604-2287

Dear President Holtschneider:

Dr. Norman C. Finkelstein, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at DePaul University, and Dr. Mehrene E. Larudee, assistant professor in the university’s International Studies Program, have each consulted with the American Association of University Professors in connection with their efforts to appeal your decision to deny them tenure. We understand that they are both alleging that that the evaluations of their academic performance were not in accord with the university’s stated policies and procedures and that considerations that violate their academic freedom contributed significantly to the negative decisions.

The Association’s interest in the cases of Professors Finkelstein and Larudee stems, as you know, from our longstanding commitment to academic freedom and tenure, the basic tenets of which are enunciated in the enclosed 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. That document, issued jointly by the AAUP and the Association of American Colleges and Universities, has received the endorsement of more than 200 educational organizations and disciplinary societies. Derivative principles and procedural standards for faculty members in their years of probationary service are set forth in the AAUP’s enclosed Statement on Procedural Standards in the Renewal or Nonrenewal of Faculty Appointments. We have noted the pertinent provisions of DePaul University’s Faculty Handbook, in particular the “Evaluation of Faculty” and “Separation” sections.

The provisions in the Association’s Statement on Procedural Standards apply equally both to non-renewals of an appointment and to denials of tenure. Under those provisions a probationary faculty member who wishes to contest a decision against reappointment—including a decision against granting tenure—is entitled to appeal to a representative committee of faculty members not previously involved in the case. When a violation of academic freedom is alleged, as it has been by Professors Finkelstein and Larudee, Regulation 10 of the Association’s enclosed Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure provides for preliminary review of the allegation by an elected faculty body in order to determine whether, in the committee’s judgment, the faculty member has a sufficiently credible case to warrant a hearing of record where “it is incumbent upon those who made the decision against reappointment to come forward with evidence in support of their decision.”

The appeals procedures set forth in the “Separation” section of DePaul University’s Faculty Hand-book appear to track those recommended by the AAUP in the above-cited document, and the two faculty members, we understand, have sought to appeal the decisions to deny them tenure under those procedures. The administration has rejected their requests, however, on grounds that the Faculty Handbook precludes an appeal against a decision by the president to deny tenure, which is deemed to be “final,” and that the appellate procedures called for in the “Separation” section of the handbook are “not applicable to tenure decisions.” We note that this interpretation of the university’s policies, advanced by the university’s general counsel, was rejected by the Faculty Council in a resolution adopted at a specially called meeting on June 13, in which the Council declared that the applicable provisions of the “Separation” section do call for a review procedure to challenge an adverse tenure decision and further declared itself open to consider all requests for a formal review of an adverse tenure and promotion decision according to the criteria and procedures set forth in the Faculty Handbook.

If a right to appeal is not explicitly provided for in the tenure section of the handbook, neither does that right seem to be explicitly proscribed, and we would think that the president could allow for it at his discretion. The administration’s position in this matter is not only inconsistent with generally accepted practice in the academic community. It is also, we gather, inconsistent with prior practice at DePaul; according to the president of the Faculty Council, this right was last exercised in a case in 2005. As an Association investigating committee observed in its published report on another case involving the nonrenewal of an appointment, unless nontenured faculty members who are candidates for retention are afforded an opportunity to prove that the decision to deny them reappointment violated their academic freedom, “the academic freedom assured to nontenured faculty members in a college’s stated policies and in the 1940 Statement has little meaning.” Especially because of the number and intensity of the concerns raised by the cases of Professors Finkelstein and Larudee, we urge that the DePaul administration offer them such an opportunity.

Our information about the cases of Professors Finkelstein and Larudee on which this letter is based has come to us from them and from other faculty sources at DePaul as well as from the extensive public record. We realize, however, that you may have additional information that would contribute to our understanding of what has occurred. We would therefore welcome your comments.

Sincerely,

B. Robert Kreiser
Associate Secretary

BRK:id
Enclosures
cc:
Dr. Helmut P. Epp, Provost
Jose D. Padilla, Esq., Vice President and General Counsel
Dr. Charles S. Suchar, Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Professor Anne Clark Bartlett, President, Faculty Council
Professor Gil Gott, Chair, Faculty Governance Council, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Professor Michael A. McIntyre, Director, International Studies Program and President, AAUP Chapter
Professor Michael L. Budde, Chair, Department of Political Science
Professor Norman G. Finkelstein
Professor Mehrene E. Larudee

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