The American Association of University Professors censured Northeastern Illinois University at its annual meeting this past June. The annual meeting launched the centennial celebration of the Association’s founding. The censure was an appropriate sanction for the tenure denial of John Boyle, a linguistics professor at the university, who has since moved on to another institution.
The Illinois Conference of the A.A.U.P. will be holding its fall meeting on the campus on Saturday, October 4, 2014. This decision emanated from a suggestion from Lee Maltby, secretary of the conference, and was arranged by Michael Harkins, president of the conference, and Loretta Capeheart. The latter teaches at N.E.I.U., serves on Illinois Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure and was a pivotal player in many facets of the investigation that led to the ultimate censure of Northeastern Illinois. She was also involved in a major academic freedom case of her own at the institution that received national coverage. She also received considerable legal support from the American Association of University Professors.
The Illinois Conference seeks to maintain a public commitment to A.A.U.P. principles that were egregiously violated at the censured institution. We will monitor the situation beyond the national censure list and the annual letter that is sent to a censured administration seeking reform and modification of misbegotten policies. While those are important, Illinois A.A.U.P. is affirming that the conference has an ongoing commitment to the faculty and the A.A.U.P. chapter on that campus. The fall meeting at Northeastern Illinois University hopefully will demonstrate to President Sharon Hahs that the evisceration of academic freedom, shared governance and academic due process remain open wounds and essential issues on the campus.
Perhaps it would be wise for other State Conferences of the A.A.U.P. to consider scheduling meetings on campuses of censured institutions. It would entail partnering with an A.A.U.P. advocacy chapter, union or some faculty unit willing to host an A.A.U.P. meeting on campus. While some might prefer boycotts of institutions that are found in violation of A.A.U.P. principles, continued engagement and activism in seeking reform and revision of inappropriate administrative action may be preferable. We must find ways after an institution is censured to communicate a new reality: that things will not return to normal, unless there is a new normal.