Academic Freedom and Tenure: Hillsdale College

Published in the May-June 1988 issue of Academe.

The 1988 report of the investigating committee deals with action by the Hillsdale College administration to issue notice of nonreappointment to a probationary faculty member. The faculty member was then concluding the second semester of a three-semester leave of absence, serving as a visiting professor elsewhere and then on a research fellowship. During the first semester of his leave, he was notified by the administration that on the basis of "good teaching and superior scholarship" he would receive a merit increase in salary upon his return. During his second semester on leave, he joined in the preparation and publication in the student newspaper of a letter criticizing the college's dean of women for having initiated litigation against another member of the faculty. He reports that administrative officers voiced oral criticism of his role in the production of the letter. When he subsequently received notice of nonreappointment, his requests for a written statement of reasons were denied. He alleged that the notice stemmed from his activity relating to the published letter, permissible activity under principles of academic freedom, and thereby violated his academic freedom. No procedure for appeal was available to him.

The investigating committee concluded that the administration, in declining to provide the faculty member with a statement of the reasons for not reappointing him and in failing to afford opportunity for review by a faculty body of his allegation relating to academic freedom, denied him basic procedural safeguards to which he was entitled under the Association's Statement on Procedural Standards in the Renewal or Nonrenewal of Faculty Appointments. The absence of these procedural safeguards, the committee found, leaves the faculty of Hillsdale College inadequately protected against an improper exercise of administrative power.

The investigating committee further concluded that there is prima facie evidence, unrebutted by the administration, that the administration's decision to notify the faculty member of nonreappointment when it did was determined by his activity, relating to the issuance of the letter, in which he had a right to engage under generally accepted principles of academic freedom.

Committee A recommended to the Seventy-fourth Annual Meeting that Hillsdale College be placed on the Association's list of Censured Administrations.