DePaul’s Merhene Larudee’s rights violated

The DePaul Academic Freedom Committee sent out this statement today:

Tenure Process Violated DePaul Professor’s Rights, Review Board says

Professor Mehrene Larudee’s rights were violated by DePaul University during her tenure process, according to a Review Board decision issued October 26. Unanimously approved for tenure by her department, the International Studies Program, as well as the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LA&S), she was turned down by the University Board on Promotion and Tenure (UBPT) in May, and the president denied her tenure in June. It is widely thought that she was denied for supporting Prof. Norman Finkelstein during his controversial tenure case last spring.

According to the Faculty Handbook, Larudee should have been notified promptly both of the fact that the UBPT had voted against tenure for her and of the reasons why. Had this rule been followed, she would have had a chance to give the President reasons to reverse the UBPT decision. The Review Board agreed that her rights were violated, but offered no remedy, saying the Handbook has no defined mechanism for a response to the President. Larudee insists the Handbook does define a right to respond. The Review Board also rejected her separate claim that her academic freedom was violated.

The Review Board ignored evidence, too, that the UBPT failed to use criteria prescribed in the Faculty Handbook to evaluate her performance, as the lower levels had. Many at DePaul wonder why the UBPT failed to follow the written guidelines, and why the Review Board made no response to Larudee’s objections. Possibly the Review Board decided this was beyond the scope of their mandate. If so, says senior International Studies student Evan Lorendo, “I strongly disagree. It implies that many rules for evaluating faculty for tenure in the Faculty Handbook are unenforceable.” Victor Lang, a senior Economics student, says, “Larudee is an excellent instructor, a good scholar and should be tenured. This is a loss for the students of the International Studies Program.”

The Review Board of three, a dean and two faculty, of whom one recently served as an administrator, excluded faculty from the College of LA&S where Larudee and about half of DePaul faculty teach.  Its decision stands in stark contrast to a recent report by an ad hoc Academic Freedom Task Force of faculty in the College of LA&S. The report insisted that if a candidate is endorsed for tenure at the department and college levels—as Larudee was—then the UBPT may only reverse that decision by uncovering procedural error or bias at the lower levels. The UBPT decision against Larudee’s tenure cited no such procedural error or bias.

Larudee is exploring further action to challenge the tenure denial.

The denial of tenure to Larudee, and the fact that the Review Board sustained that decision, has created a state of uncertainty regarding the rights of faculty at DePaul University. Junior faculty in particular are feeling pressure to avoid any stance that may be construed as controversial.
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