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Investigative Report at Indiana University Northwest

By Mark Criley

In January the AAUP published an investigative report about the summary dismissal of Mark McPhail, a tenured professor of communication at Indiana University Northwest in Gary, Indiana. In September 2021, a month after summarily suspending him from service, the administration sent campus police officers to his Wisconsin home to inform him that he had been dismissed and banned from campus, supposedly because he had made racially charged threats of physical violence, including words to the effect that “the only way to end racism is to kill all the white people.” No accuser was identified, no criminal charges were filed, and no faculty hearing was afforded him. Having been denied a hearing before a faculty body in which the burden of proof lay with the administration, McPhail was compelled to appeal the administration’s actions to a faculty review board, to which he argued that institutional authorities had retaliated against him for his criticisms of the administration’s handling of racial equity issues. Despite McPhail’s having to bear the burden of proof, the board found both the suspension and the termination to be unwarranted. Nevertheless, the administration rejected the board’s findings.

The investigating committee found that the administration’s actions against McPhail violated AAUP-recommended standards of academic due process; that allegations that McPhail had made violent threats were implausible, adding further credibility to his allegation that the administration had acted against him for reasons that violated his academic freedom; that IUN appears to be an unwelcoming environment for faculty members of color; and that conditions for academic governance at the institution are unsound.

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