InsideHigherEd: On DePaul Faculty Council Motion to Follow Academic Freedom Process in Namita Goswami Case

InsiderHigherEd which has covered this case with unwavering thoroughness and detail, has in its Quick Takes section reported on the DePaul University Faculty Council motion, that first appeared online on this blog, demanding that President Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider adhere faithfully to the process of academic freedom appeals that is required in the Faculty Handbook. The university claims that it is troubled by the disparity between white and non-white faculty that received tenure this year and that the current situation is “concerning.” One wonders why it has displayed such unwavering and stubborn determination to terminate a woman’s academic career even at the expense of procedural due process. Here is an opportunity for the university to demonstrate good faith, humility and reverence for fairness and allow a hearing or issue a new contract to the professor. They are facing the prospects of ongoing and perhaps more significant pushback if they persist with this shocking preemption of the process of appeal. If they are serious about diversity and non-discriminatory treatment of women and ethnic minorities, they cannot treat them in this manner and preempt a dean’s required duty to recommend a new contract or a hearing. If the administration does not wish to issue a new contract–grant tenure–then it must allow a hearing as required in 5.1.1 with all the trappings of a dismissal for cause. It cannot be allowed to fire her in this arbitrary manner: we are a nation of laws not arbitrary authoritarian power. Those with power must use it fairly, with grace and humility and listen, listen to those voices on the DePaul campus and throughout the country that are deeply wounded and unsettled by these actions.

This is the InsideHigherEd piece:

Faculty Council Urges DePaul President to Reverse Tenure Ruling

The DePaul University Faculty Council on Wednesday passed a motion calling for the president to reverse the tenure denial of Namita Goswami, a philosophy faculty member. Following the denial, a faculty appeals board determined that the decision should be reversed because of policy, procedural and academic freedom violations in her review, but DePaul’s president, the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, chose not to overturn it. The denial of Goswami, who is female and South Asian and has a well-regarded academic record, intensified the ongoing debate over why many women and minority candidates have been rejected in tenure reviews at DePaul.

The entire motion reads, “Faculty Council calls upon President Holtschneider to withdraw his final judgment in the Namita Goswami tenure case in order to allow for the full consideration of academic freedom.” The council voted to pass it 20-4-2, citing neglect to follow faculty handbook provisions that allow for a formal hearing or another contract when the appeals board finds academic freedom violations. Tenured political science professor Valerie Johnson previously told Inside Higher Ed that if the motion passed and Father Holtschneider still did not take action, she thinks “that would probably lead to a mobilization of a vote of ‘no confidence.’”

Prior to the meeting, Provost Helmut Epp sent a memo to the council that was later obtained by Inside Higher Ed. In the memo, Epp argued that a closer reading shows the handbook provision does not apply after a tenure decision has been made – rather, it applies only to faculty members whose academic freedom was violated before the final tenure decision. “While the language of the handbook could certainly be stated more clearly,” Epp wrote, “this seems to me to be the reading that best harmonizes and respects all the relevant texts.”

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