Sanction Imposed on Illinois Wesleyan University

By Gregory F. Scholtz

On November 20, the AAUP’s governing Council voted to add Illinois Wesleyan University to the Association’s list of institutions sanctioned for substantial noncompliance with standards of academic government. IWU was one of eight institutions included in the 2021 special investigative report on COVID-19 and academic governance. In July 2020, Illinois Wesleyan University’s board of trustees discontinued programs in anthropology, French, Italian, and religious studies, and the administration issued notice of appointment terminations to nine tenured faculty members in those programs. The investigating committee found that IWU’s administration and governing board had disregarded principles and standards of academic governance, as set forth in the Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities—specifically, by failing to inform the faculty that program review would result in terminations, disregarding the relevant policies in the faculty handbook, imposing a program-review process not justified by those policies, and declining to provide the faculty with a detailed and compelling rationale for rejecting the proposals of the program-review committee, a body that the board and administration had unilaterally created to conduct the review.

In May 2021 the AAUP’s Committee on College and University Governance recommended to the AAUP’s governing Council that it vote to sanction six of the eight institutions included in the investigative report but declined to make a recommendation regarding Illinois Wesleyan while the appeal of an affected faculty member whose case was unresolved was pending. In June the university’s president wrote to inform the AAUP that the administration and the professor had reached a “mutually acceptable agreement” that entailed the professor’s retirement as professor emeritus, an outcome the professor confirmed. While the governance committee welcomed that news, it learned that the IWU administration and governing board had declined to accept the recommendation of the faculty hearing panel to which the professor had appealed—namely, that he be retained and relocated to another suitable position within the institution. At its November 1 meeting, the Committee on College and University Governance construed this final refusal to accept the recommendation of a faculty body as merely the last in a series of violations of principles and standards of academic governance detailed in the report of the investigation. The committee accordingly adopted a statement recommending to the Council that Illinois Wesleyan University be added to the Association’s list of sanctioned institutions.

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