Mass Terminations of Full-Time Faculty Appointments at NLU

By Anita Levy

An AAUP investigative report on National Louis University deals with the administration’s actions in spring 2012 to discontinue nine degree programs and five nondegree certificate programs, to close four departments in the College of Arts and Sciences, and to terminate the appointments of at least sixty-three full-time faculty members, sixteen with tenure. Administrators cited financial problems and the likelihood of deficit budgets for 2012 and 2013, but at no point did they assert that a condition of financial exigency existed.

The investigating committee’s report focuses on the cases of three tenured professors whose positions were terminated. The subject of the first case was a biologist in the natural sciences department, one of the departments that was closed. The administration acknowledged that the university would continue to offer science courses as part of the general education curriculum and offered some of these courses to him to teach—provided that he did so at a reduced salary as an adjunct faculty member. (He declined the offer.)

The subject of the second case was chair of the natural sciences department. She told the investigating committee that no alternatives were discussed that would have allowed for retention of tenured natural sciences faculty, notwithstanding the fact that nine general education and upper-level science courses for students concentrating in biology or natural science would still be offered at NLU beyond the 2011–12 academic year.

The third subject is a professor who taught in the fine arts department, which was also targeted for closure. She planned to continue beyond her terminal full-time year to teach courses on a contingent basis for approximately $2,000 per quarter, including general education courses that she had routinely taught as part of her normal workload as a tenured faculty member.

The investigating committee concluded that the administration, in terminating the appointments of more than sixty faculty members without having demonstrated cause for dismissal or a state of financial exigency, acted in violation of AAUP-supported standards. The committee further concluded that the role the administration afforded the faculty before, during, and after the decisions on program discontinuance and appointment termination was grossly inadequate. The committee was particularly struck by how quickly experienced members of the faculty, many of them with decades of service to the institution, had been replaced by a cadre of part-time faculty members with weaker academic credentials.