AAUP Letter to National Louis University Pres. Megahed: “Rescind” Your Slash and Burn Department Eliminations

At the American Association of University Professors, Illinois Conference annual meeting on April 28, 2012 at Concordia University in River Forest, there was a comprehensive report on National Louis University’s unseemly and egregious termination of departments with the intent to offer subsequently the same courses, previously taught by tenured or tenure-track faculty, with exploited non-tenured, underpaid adjuncts. Such a cynical assault on the tenure system, with a faux veneer of institutional economic challenges, contravenes the principles of academic freedom, due process and continuous tenure. A tenured faculty member can be removed for a bona fide financial exigency in which the postsecondary institution’s very existence is at stake. Such is not the case here. A program can be eliminated but the AAUP letter indicates NLU’s process lacked shared governance, sufficient evidence of economic necessity and due process in the area of termination.

AAUP is standing tall in this letter as it revealed the wild-west show at NLU in which arbitrary, capricious treatment of faculty is in high gear. Even peripheral adherence to seminal AAUP documents such as its iconic 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure and its Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure is abandoned as National Louis wages war against its own faculty with ruthless disregard for justice much less the academic efficacy of their own institution.

I noted with bemusement that National Louis is firing tenured faculty with a one-year severance salary. That is construed as adherence to AAUP guidelines but its planned severance of contingent full-time faculty is in apparent violation of the one-year severance salary rule. I don’t question the solid letter’s accuracy but would merely emphasise that there should be no severance of any kind. No faculty member should be fired in order that the university can basically cheat on its own tenure system and replace those with tenure with contingent faculty. Of course, universities can save money by firing tenured faculty and replacing them with non-tenured faculty. Yet the corporate, bottom-line mania of higher education has marginalised their raison d’etre of providing excellence in education. Putting the best instructors in the classroom is the means to that goal and tenured faculty must have job security to attain that objective. Excellence in education at National Louis University is being sullied by administrators who are more concerned with “profit” than critical thinking in the minds of their students, many of whom are being trained to be teachers.

May 7, 2012

Dr. Nivine Megahed

President

National Louis University

122 South Michigan Avenue

Chicago, Illinois 60603

Dear President Megahed:

Members of the faculty at National Louis University have sought the advice and assistance of the American Association of University Professors. They have done so as a result of actions announced by the NLU administration last month to discontinue numerous academic programs­ four departments (English/Philosophy, Fine Arts, Mathematics, and Natural Sciences), nine degree programs, and five non-degree certificate programs–effective with the fall 2012 term and to terminate the appointments of a large number of tenured as well as other long-serving nontenured faculty members in core academic areas. You are quoted in the press as having stated that the decisions were made pursuant to a “prioritization process” and that “serious fiscal pressures on the university” and a significant decline in enrollment required “tak[ing] action immediately.”

Our Association’s concern about the NLU administration’s actions stems from its longstanding commitment to academic freedom and tenure, the basic tenets of which are set forth in the enclosed 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. That document was coauthored by the AAUP and the Association of American Colleges and Universities and has received the endorsement of more than 200 educational and scholarly organizations. Derivative principles and procedural standards are found in the Association’s enclosed Recommended Institutional Regula­tions on Academic Freedom and Tenure. We have noted the applicable provisions of NLU’s official policies.

The 1940 Statement allows under extraordinary circumstances for termination of tenure on the basis of a demonstrably bona fide condition of financial exigency. Regulation 4c of our Recom­mended Institutional Regulations sets forth the AAUP’s formulation of criteria and procedural standards in the area of concern. In addition to termination mandated by financial exigency, the Association recognizes that termination of tenured faculty appointments may occur because of the formal discontinuance of an entire program or department of instruction based essentially on educational considerations rather than mandated by financial exigency. (See Regulation 4d.) Educational considerations are “determined primarily by the faculty as a whole or an appropriate committee thereof,” exclude “cyclical or temporary variations in enrollment,” and “must reflect long-range judgments that the educational mission of the institution as a whole will be enhanced by the discontinuance.”

President Nivine Megahed

May 7, 2012

Page Two

Faculty members at National Louis University have questioned the extent of the current financial difficulties. They have noted that the decision to discontinue the affected programs, with the consequent termination of tenured faculty appointments, was not preceded by the administration’s having demonstrated that the magnitude of the budgetary constraints facing the institution necessitated the closing of the programs and departments and the resulting terminations of faculty appointments. They contend that the administration has not come forth with specific figures showing the amount of money its actions will save, and they have challenged the enrollment figures they say have been cited as the basis for targeting these programs.

Moreover, faculty members have questioned the adequacy of faculty participation as called for in AAUP-recommended standards-by the faculty as a whole or by a representative body of the faculty-in the discussions that preceded the administration’s announced actions, in setting the criteria for terminating programs, and in singling out the particular ones for discontinuance. You have stated in letters to the NLU campus community that the consultative process which led to the actions “was fully collaborative, including faculty, staff, and others in a shared governance model,” and that the “recommendations for program closure were supported by NLU’s Faculty Senate Academic Planning Committee and the full senate.” Faculty members in the affected programs, however, along with many of their colleagues, have questioned whether the process was genuinely consultative or respected the basic rules of governance at the university. They point out that the faculty members who served on the “prioritization” task forces were all chosen by the administration, and they allege that these bodies were “given incomplete and faulty data to make decisions based on criteria … and targets that were … predetermined” by the administration. According to these same sources, the specific recommendations on program closures and appointment terminations were formulated without meaningful faculty involvement. In addition, members of the faculty in the affected programs report that they were neither consulted about nor alerted to the impending actions, and that they were not given the opportunity to propose money­ saving reforms. We understand that on May 4 the Faculty Association, meeting in special emergency session, voted overwhelmingly to call upon the administration to “rescind its letters of termination to all tenured faculty members” and “reverse the elimination of departments.” It also called upon the administration to “make available financial data that have been used as the primary rationale for cutting faculty, but that faculty have not seen.”

* * * * *

Under the Association’s recommended standards, “Before the administration issues notice to a faculty member of its intention to terminate an appointment because of formal discontinuance of a program or department of instruction, the institution will make every effort to place the faculty member concerned in another suitable position.” We understand that courses in English, mathematics, and the other terminated departments that the released tenured professors have taught or are qualified to teach will continue to be taught as general education courses, and indeed such courses were previously scheduled for the 2012-13 academic year (and presumably beyond). We understand further, however, that the faculty members being released have not been afforded opportunity to teach these courses. The administration is reported to have stated that adjunct faculty will be engaged to teach most of them, contrary to the above-quoted standard.

President Nivine Megahed

May 7, 2012

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Association-supported standards further provide that faculty members whose appointments are being terminated are entitled to an on-the-record adjudicative hearing before a body of elected faculty peers. In such a hearing, it is incumbent upon the administration to demonstrate that the stated grounds for the action are bona fide and that every effort is being made to relocate displaced tenured faculty members in suitable positions elsewhere within the institution. UNI’s policies appear to be silent on the right to a faculty hearing, and thus affected faculty members presumably are not being afforded in this regard the academic due process to which they are entitled under Association-supported standards.

* * * * *

With regard to the amount of severance salary being paid to the professors whose appointments are being terminated, Regulation 8 of our Recommended Institutional Regulations assures the tenured professor faced with termination of appointment or nontenured faculty members with two or more years of full-time service a year of notice or severance salary unless moral turpitude is involved. NLU policy appears to afford tenured faculty members the option of receiving severance salary that is in essential conformity with this standard. However, long-serving faculty members who are on a “terminal letter of appointment” and whose entitlement to tenure has not been recognized should receive the same amount of notice, yet the administration has apparently not provided it.

* * * * *

A subcommittee of the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure has for the past year been developing refinements of our recommendations on program closures for financial reasons. When notified last spring that program cuts and terminations of appointments were to take place at constituent institutions of the University of Louisiana System, Professor Michael Bérubé , the chair of that subcommittee, issued the enclosed statement, with its wide distribution encouraged by Committee A. After pointing to apparent departures from AAUP-supported standards, Dr. Bérubé notes that the UL System “appears to be going well beyond anything that can be justified by economic hardship, launching a capricious assault on tenure as well as minimal standards of job security for the untenured. Faculty nationwide should be advised that the UL System has effectively nullified its tenure procedures; and students in the UL System, and their parents, should be advised that maintaining the quality of core liberal arts programs is no longer a priority of the UL System administration.”

Last September our Association authorized a formal investigation of program discontinuances and the resulting terminations of tenured appointments in the UL System, an ad hoc investigating committee made site visits in November, and its report was published in April. In June our Committee A may recommend to the AAUP’s annual meeting that it impose formal censure on the administrations at two UL System universities based on the findings in that report. Last month an investigating committee was also authorized with respect to the University of Northem Iowa to

President Nivine Megahed May 7, 2012 Page Four

inquire into issues that are virtually identical to those addressed in the UL System report. Our committee is on the UNI campus interviewing concerned parties as this letter is being written.

* * * * *

We appreciate that the information on which this letter is based has come to us almost entirely from faculty sources at National Louis University, and that you may have additional information that would contribute to our understanding of the decisions that have been made and the process that has been followed in reaching them. We would therefore welcome your comments. Assuming the essential accuracy of the facts as we have recounted them, we urge that the administration rescind the notices of termination that have been issued and that any further action be in accordance with the procedural standards we have set forth.

We would welcome your prompt response.

Sincerely,

B. Robert Kreiser Associate Secretary

BRK:id Enclosures (sent via surface mail)

cc: Mr. Richard M. Ross, Jr., Chair, Board of Trustees Dr. Christine J. Quinn, Provost Dr. Walter Roettger, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences Dr. Alison R. Hilsabeck, Dean, National College of Education Mr. Thomas R. Bergmann, Vice President of Human Resources Professor Timothy Collins, Chair, Faculty Senate Professor Michelle Turner Mangan, Chair, Senate Finance Committee Professor Todd Price, President, NLU Chapter AAUP Professor Michael Harkins, President, Illinois Conference AAUP Professor Peter Kirstein, Chair, Illinois Conference Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure

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