DePaul tenure process takes a turn for the. . .

WTF, dudes?  First, DePaul denies tenure to Norman Finklestein, then five out of its seven tenure denials this year were women.  But they’re now rushing to tenure two adjuncts who have never been granted tenure-track positions or been through the annual review process for probational faculty?  As one Associate Professor called it, DePaul apparently has a Leona Helmsley tenure processit’s only for the little people:

In the memo, Robin Burke, an associate professor of computing and digital media, cited Helmsley’s much-derided quote that “only the little people pay taxes,” to say that DePaul appears to have a “Leona Helmsley tenure process,” in that “only the little people are reviewed for tenure.” Burke cited the decision by Provost Helmut Epp to accept a departmental recommendation to award tenure to two faculty members in Burke’s college at DePaul.  The two (whose names are not generally featured in the voluminous memos that have been flying at DePaul about their promotions) had been working off the tenure track and were simultaneously put on the tenure track and tenured — without the standard, lengthy process that would normally be required for someone at the university coming up for tenure.

If I were in one of the departments there that had recently recommended a candidate for tenure who was then turned down by the Provost, I’d be hopping mad too.  Just read the whole story, and you be the judges.  (It’s nice to see adjuncts elevated from their lowly status–but seriously, WTF?)  I’d also be veryconcerned if I were an Assistant Professor at DePaul.

This story gives me just the excuse I need to post this little ditty by my favorite internet homegirls, Garfunkel and Oates–I’ve been dying to since last summer, when I first saw it.  NSFW or small children!  You’ve been warned:

0 thoughts on “DePaul tenure process takes a turn for the. . .

  1. What academic freedom means at sectarian (especially Protestant, Catholic and Mormon) universities will, I predict, be the question of the next ten years. A lot of universities are struggling between retaining their “core values” in faculty they hire and tenure and committing to academic freedom for these new hires. For those of us graduate students who hope to go on the market in these circles (as well as the public/private nonsectarian schools), it presents a totally different set of challenges and questions: Does marketing myself to religious schools disclose opportunities to market myself to nonsectarian schools? …. I think there’s a lot more academic freedom in nonsectarian environments, MOST of the time, but then again not always. It’s really tricky business. That said, my heart goes out to Norman Finkelstein and all the others denied tenure.


  2. Whether or not the department supports the hire, it’s astonishing that two adjuncts would be tenured by the fiat of the Provost. It undermines the overall hiring process, suggesting that back doors are the way to go at DePaul. Not that I’m surprised, given the rest of what I know about the institution and its history, but still. . . .


  3. Janice, I guess that’s all we can really say from the outside. I agree with your point that this was probably a bad move however pure the motives or deserving the two lucky duckies. (How many of you want to bet that they’re both men?) If a department did this, I can see a dean or provost stomping all over it. But, provosts are little dictators–when it comes to hiring and firing, there’s not much they can’t do just because they feel like it. (But, retaining the confidence of the institution and the community it serves is quite another thing.)

    Julianna, I’ve worked at one public uni and three private schools, two of which were Catholic. I agree that public schools at least don’t have a sectarian or official ideological axe to grind, but academic freedom is really complex and multivalent. The unis that I think may be in a more vulnerable position are those sectarian unis, mostly Catholic schools, which don’t require all faculty to sign a profession of faith. (Unlike for example Calvin College in MI, or the various Brigham Young campuses, which require faculty to be members in good standing of the churches that they’re affiliated with.)

    The situation at DePaul sounds less like a Catholic thing than a bad management thing, IMHO. (As Susan suggested, it’s a process thing–some of us are just hung up on process, go figure!) It’s cases like the recent proffer (and subsequent withdrawl) of a Deanship at Marquette to a lesbian sociologist who works on LGBTQ stuff that is more difficult to suss, and that suggest that academic freedom at Catholic unis may be changing in relation to leadership from the Council of Bishops and Rome. Here’s hoping you have more than one job offer to choose from when the time comes!


  4. “I get metaphysical like I was John Donne…”

    Damn, but I love me some Garfunkel and Oates. Though I’m partial to the one that goes “My self-esteem’s not low enough to date you…” for reasons that shouldn’t be articulated. here.

    (Yes, I realize that there was a serious point to the post, but I’m easily distracted.)


  5. I swore I would never post on this blog again, but this is really too much. For those of you who don’t know, DePaul fired an adjunct a few years ago because he got into an argument with a bunch of Palestinian students about the Middle East conflict. The argument took place outside of class, and these students were not people he was teaching or had ever taught. So if they now intend to treat adjuncts decently, I say good for them. Not only that, the institution showed extraordinarily good judgment in denying Norman Finkelstein tenure.


  6. Julianna: I know that’s what DePaul said, and I understand people’s interest in ensuring that dialogue on controversial topics remains civil and respectful. But, DePaul hired him and kept him teaching for years, and he did what he needed to do for tenure. As I understand it (which is perhaps dubious from this distance), he had great reviews from his colleagues. The time to raise issues of civility and respect are in the annual reviews during the probationary period–not at tenure denial after a case has already leapt most of the hurdles.

    Unfortunately (or not) we can’t deny tenure capriciously just because people are jerks or we disagree with them. Process matters and should be defended or it’s meaningless. As the linked article on Finkelstein says, “there are a number of scholars who don’t necessarily share Finkelstein’s analysis, but who think his treatment by DePaul raises issues of academic freedom.” Count me in that camp for sure.


  7. Pingback: DePaul University: safe for white male scholars only? : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

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