Monday, March 28, 2011

AAUP Writes Letter to Northwestern Criticizing Protess Suspension

The national AAUP has written a letter to Northwestern University today about the suspension of David Protess, which I wrote about last week. Hundreds of former students of Protess, such as the Nation's Ari Berman, have spoken out against Northwestern's decision. The Northwestern administration gave a "no comment" in response to my query about the Protess suspension.

Here is the full text of the AAUP letter:

Dear President Schapiro:

Dr. David Protess, professor in the Medill School of Journalism, has consulted with our Association as a result of the decision earlier this month by Dean John Lavine to remove him from teaching his assigned course in investigative journalism in the spring quarter (which begins today). Professor Protess reports that the notification of his suspension came without warning, that no stated explanation for it has thus far been provided, and that it is being imposed without affordance of opportunity for an independent faculty hearing.

Under Regulation 7a of our Association's enclosed Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure, incorporated in all essential respects in Northwestern University's official policies, if the administration "believes that the conduct of a faculty member ... is sufficiently grave to justify the imposition of a severe sanction, such as suspension from service for a stated period, the administration may institute a proceeding to impose such a severe sanction." The proceeding, akin to one in which dismissal is sought, is to be an adjudicative hearing of record before an elected faculty body in which the administration bears the burden of demonstrating adequacy of cause for the sanction it seeks to impose. See our enclosed report, On the Use and Abuse of Faculty Suspensions.

Our concerns in this matter are heightened by press accounts of the events which preceded Professor Protess's suspension, particularly a longstanding conflict between him and the dean which reached a head only days before his removal from the course that was about to begin. These accounts suggest to us the possibility that the decision to remove Professor Protess from the course may have been taken for reasons that violate his academic freedom.

The information in our possession relating to the case of Professor Protess has come to us primarily from him, and we realize that those at Northwestern with administrative responsibilities may have additional information that would contribute to our understanding of what has occurred. We shall therefore welcome your comments. If the facts as we have recounted them are essentially accurate, we urge, absent demonstrated cause or threat of immediate harm, that Professor Protess be informed of reinstatement as soon as feasible to his regular teaching duties.

B. Robert Kreiser
Associate Secretary

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