No Justification for Tenure Terminations at National Louis University

April 18, 2013
For more information, please contact: Anita Levy

Washington, DC—A new investigating committee report released by the American Association of University Professors concludes that administrators at National Louis University had no acceptable financial or educational justification for discontinuing fourteen academic programs, closing four departments in the College of Arts and Sciences, and terminating the appointments of at least sixty-three full-time faculty members, sixteen of them with continuous tenure. In so doing, the report finds, the administration, which did not declare financial exigency, acted in violation of the joint 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure and of related Association-supported principles and procedural standards and disregarded stated university policies and past practice. 

The investigation, conducted in October and chaired by Professor Kerry E. Grant (Southern Connecticut State University), was authorized by the AAUP following complaints from NLU faculty members that the administration had decided to discontinue departments and programs, and to terminate tenured faculty appointments, without first demonstrating the magnitude of the financial constraints facing the university and adequately consulting the faculty. The program closures and tenure terminations followed from the fall 2011 administration announcement that monthly revenue shortfalls had grown—reportedly to $5 million—which prompted the comprehensive review of academic programs known as the prioritization process. An Academic Prioritization Task Force conducted hurried deliberations, which, according to the investigating committee, were “so ‘confidential’ as to be invisible to much of the faculty.” The investigating committee noted that faculty concerns about the hastiness of the review process were ignored and that appeals to rescind the letters of termination and to reverse the elimination of departments went unheeded.

AAUP policy recognizes only three reasons for terminating an appointment with continuous tenure: for cause, on grounds of financial exigency, and as a result of the discontinuance of a program or department based essentially upon educational considerations. The investigating committee found no evidence that any of these three reasons played a role in the department closures and resulting appointment terminations. In fact, the investigating committee found that the closing of the four affected departments was a pretext, not a reason, for terminating the appointments of tenured faculty members.

The report concludes that the administration concealed from responsible faculty bodies its intent in the evaluation of programs to terminate faculty appointments and that it ignored faculty objections once the decisions on termination became known. The role the administration afforded the faculty before, during, and after the decisions on program discontinuance and appointment termination was grossly inadequate.

The investigating committee was particularly struck by how quickly the administration acted to replace competent and experienced members of the faculty, many of them with decades of service to the institution, with a cadre of part-time adjunct faculty members. The committee speculated that the administration’s decision to drop full-time faculty members in favor of adjunct faculty members was motivated by the major savings in faculty compensation, since the adjunct faculty members reportedly receive an average of a little over $2,000 per course and no fringe benefits. The release of scores of experienced full-time faculty members and their replacement by adjunct faculty members serving at will, the investigating committee concluded, threatens to make poor conditions for academic freedom under the current administration of National Louis University even worse.

National Louis University, with its main campus in downtown Chicago, has four other suburban Chicago locations and additional locations in Milwaukee and Tampa. The university enrolls approximately ten thousand students, 80 percent of them part time, with degrees extending to the doctoral level.

The AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure approved the publication of the report, and at its spring meeting it will formulate a statement on the NLU case that may recommend censure to the Association's 2013 annual meeting mid-June. 

The full report is available on the AAUP’s website. For questions about the report, please contact Anita Levy.

The mission of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is to advance academic freedom and shared governance, to define fundamental professional values and standards for higher education, and to ensure higher education’s contribution to the common good. Founded in 1915, the AAUP has helped to shape American higher education by developing the standards and procedures that maintain quality in education and academic freedom in this country's colleges and universities. The AAUP is a nonprofit professional association headquartered in Washington, DC.

Media Contact: 
Anita Levy
Publication Date: 
Thursday, April 18, 2013