Additional Observations on the Review Board and DePaul’s Mehrene Larudee Tenure Case

I am struck by the fact that Professor Larudee has never received the University Board on Faculty Promotion and Tenure denial of tenure report. Perhaps that is “privileged” but I have seen no evidence that she has had any substantive indications explicating why the U.B.P.T. recommended the denial of tenure. Her only notification of the report was the one-sentence reference that was contained in DePaul University President Dennis H. Holtschneider’s, C.M. June 8, 2007 letter. I wonder if the U.B.P.T. were able in both the Finkelstein and Larudee cases to inititate such arbitrary reversals of departmental/programmatic, college peer review because it operates in the shadows without apparent transparency for those whose careers may be banished?

The Review Board, in their denial of Professor Larudee’s appeal, specifically affirm that she was improperly prevented from receiving a substantive summary of the U.B.P.T. report, that included the actual vote and the grounds for the decision before the report was sent to the next stage of review. The report seriatim listed the various reasons why the DePaul Faculty Handbook should have been adhered to. DePaul faculty are entitled in receiving at each stage of the review process a report or a summary of the decision before the review goes to a higher level of assessment. Yet the Review Board, in  repeatedly conceding that the professor should have received a report of the U.B.P.T. before Fr. Holtschneider had access to it, dismissed the complaint because she could not have used that report in appealing directly to the president.  While agreeing substantively with one of her major complaints in her appeal of the denial-of-tenure letter by Fr. Holtschneider, the Review Board took the unusual step in averring that it made no difference given the absence of an appeal process that could be taken directly to the president.

Yet how could the DePaul University Review Board effectively render an opinion on a tenure appeal when it did not possess the U.B.P.T. majority report? It relied merely on the outrageously brief and incomplete letter of the president. Dr Larudee was also at a distinct disadvantage because she did not have access to the U.B.P.T. finding against her. She was appealing a tenure-denial decision without having the means to refute the specific allegations concerning her teaching and scholarship. Note that Professor Larudee was recommended for tenure by the International Studies Programme, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Personnel Committee and the college dean, Chuck Suchar.

The Review Board should have ruled that due process was violated in a manner that WAS substantive and not irrelevant to her capacity to appeal her decision. Namely: Dr Larudee was prevented from exercising due process; the denial of a reasonably thorough report was egregious and that the lack of transparency materially affected her capacity to appeal. They then should have accepted her appeal of her tenure denial on the grounds that her rights were violated by the administration. The Review Board should have ruled that the failure of the administration to adhere to the Faculty Handbook in the transmittal of documents prevented both the Review Board from rendering and the professor from receiving a  fair hearing.

Note: The DePaul University Faculty Council is meeting Wednesday, November 6, 2007 and the Academic Freedom Task Force report is to be presented (but it only has 20 minutes on the agenda). This task force was convoked to address the seminal issues of academic freedom that have been so blatantly eviscerated in recent months at the Vincentian university. Professor Larudee is holding an informational meeting on Thursday afternoon at 3:30 for faculty in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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