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In His Own Words: Louis Wozniak on His Firing

On Nov. 14, 2013, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign engineering professor Louis Wozniak had his tenure revoked and was dismissed by a unanimous vote of the Board of Trustees. Illinois Academe invited him to tell his side of the story, and this essay is reprinted from the Fall issue.

By Louis Wozniak

This is not about a 52-year veteran of the University of Illinois with the dubious distinction of having been recommended by President Easter to the Board of Trustees for revocation of tenure and dismissal. Having defended convincingly at all faculty-staffed committees, and to have their recommendations unheeded by administration, this is about faculty “shared governance” that has degraded to an oxymoron.

I have achieved local notoriety over the past few years through Champaign News-Gazette articles and the November 11, 2013 Chicago Tribune lead article. What follows is a summary of early events that brought the case to the Nov. 14, 2013 decision to revoke tenure and dismiss. More recent events are presented on my website, ILLEthics.com.

They summarize events during three years of suspension, filing of charges with the Faculty Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure and having been found innocent of all allegations except for a joke in poor taste, and ultimate hearing before the Board of Trustees, not to mention six digits legal expenses in my defense.

Events began in 1992 when Prof. Thomas F. Conry’s performance as department head greatly displeased my colleagues, who adamantly opposed his reappointment with written evaluations and a direct appeal to Dean Schowalter. I openly supported the faculty action. Additionally, the department Assoc. Head Prof. Michael Pleck wanted me to recommend him for a teaching award, which I declined.

Then, Head Conry corrupted my 1992-93 promotion papers, assigned me a teaching overload, and declined cooperation in two filed Grievances. The Faculty Advisory Committee concluded, “Professor Conry cannot be expected to treat Professor Wozniak in a fair and unbiased manner in future deliberations.”  University Associate Counsel Laura Clower relied on Prof. Conry to demonstrate my “long history” of malfeasance when it was Prof. Conry who had the adjudicated a long history of malfeasance.

Dean Schowalter (’96-’02) registered himself, Michigan’s Dean Director, and the College accountant as directors of an Indiana Corporation to capture alums’ donations, rather than route them through the University of Illinois Foundation (UIF). I obtained more data via FOIA from the UIF and published the scheme to University officials.

In a 1994 punitive teaching overload, I taught a section of graphics, chaired by Prof. Pleck.  His “rules” forbade practice exams and posting of old exams. Dean Schowalter then cooperated with Head Conry to suspend me from teaching, based on allegations that I administered an unauthorized practice exam (which I had), declined to submit gradebooks (which I offered and did submit), and failed to use Assoc. Head Pleck’s generated-grading program which required hours of graduate student labor. When teaching that course, I devised a computerized program that graded and reported students’ errors in seconds.

The FAC opined regarding the gradebooks: Senate Executive Committee Chair Prof. Thomas Riley confided that the alleged, even if true, were not sanctionable. The Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure (CAFT) Chair Prof. Finkin concluded that, “administration was without authority to unilaterally suspend Prof. Wozniak without according adequate due process.” The teaching suspension lasted for seven years.

Punitive wages were set by Dean Schowalter with Head Conry, and later by Dean Adesida for whistle blowing, despite my superior teaching ability, research, and contributions to course development.
On this November 14, 2013 trip’s end, the Board of Trustees is to publish its resolution regarding revocation of tenure and dismissal. From past experience with academic professionals, the University m.o. is to sever internet service and change office door locks for the involved individual immediately after the results of their decision is made public. I have no reason to believe that tenure would be accorded greater courtesy, and as such I was occupied in gathering my personal belongings and sensitive information prior to the lock-out.

In my career I have been nothing less than delighted and honored to have the privilege to associate with stellar quality young people that has resulted in a lifetime friendship with so many of them. I am also proud of having resisted the corruption and injustice toward me as well as toward students to my last work day.

The final point that should be obvious from a poster boy advocating fairness, academic freedom, and truth in word and action, is that considering faculty shared governance to be on life support at the University of Illinois is an overstatement. The plug has been pulled with this very act of the Board of Trustees. I hope all will realize the need for a faculty association to support their rights against oppressive administrators.

Louis Wozniak was formerly an Associate Professor of General Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His website is http://www.illethics.com, and his email is profwoz@gmail.com.

3 comments on “In His Own Words: Louis Wozniak on His Firing

  1. professor_at_large
    January 8, 2014

    How is this case different from what the Kansas Board enunciated as its right (under Garcetti and other SCOTUS cases) to terminate faculty/staff under its new policy concerning communications made in social media?

    Yes, the Kansas Board is now willing to revisit its policy under pressure from AAUP and other groups, but note that the national AAUP appears hesitant to apply such pressure in this case at Illinois. Clearly, former AAUP President Nelson of Illinois is speaking as a minority member of AAUP’s national Committee A.

    The irony in the fact that the professor’s complaint about governance should raise questions as to whether or not the “due process” at Illinois was indeed in full accordance with the Association’s standards appears lost on both the national Committee A staffer Scholtz and the former Committee A member law professor Finkin. Where is the statement from a member of AAUP’s Committee on Governance, for example, or its staffer Nichols? Committee A is not the only AAUP game in town (cf. http://www.aaup.org/about/comm….

    Indeed, as in the case of Ward Churchill, it appears that the AAUP leadership may later look back on this case and realize that, once again, its own internal weaknesses, born in no small part of its top-down relationship to the conferences and the membership, have led it to miss yet another forest through the trees.

    [comment sent to Inside Higher Education concerning its article at http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/01/08/questions-raised-firing-tenured-professor-u-illinois%5D

    • professor_at_large
      September 29, 2014

      Indeed — now we have the Salaita case, same campus, some same and some different administrative players.

      Has AAUP connected the dots?

  2. professor_at_large
    January 8, 2014

    For the first time, I note that my attempted comment has been met with a notice that it is awaiting “moderation” before posting — therefore, please provide a link to the “moderation” policies of this blog which will indicate to the public whether all comments without exception are first “moderated” before posting (with a notice to that effect sent to the commenter as occurred here) or whether only those of “outspoken” AAUP members are “flagged” for such attention. Of course, some might say that it really was only a matter of time before this blog resembled an earlier AAUP list (http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2007/09/25/aaup).

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This entry was posted on December 3, 2013 by in academic freedom, faculty, shared governance, tenure and tagged , .
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