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Northwestern University Bans Political Science Professor from Campus, Retaliation against Critic (September 2016)

 At the end of July, with no warning and no specific charges or evidence of wrong-doing, Weinberg College Dean Adrian Randolph banned me from contact with students, including students not enrolled at Northwestern, and from the Northwestern campus, including my office and the libraries in Evanston and Chicago. The alleged rationale?  Claims of faculty "feeling unsafe" around me, assertions untethered to any specific actions or statements on my part. These prohibitions are in place as I await my mandatory "fitness-for-duty" interview with an NU-chosen psychiatrist. And yet for over a month, NU has failed to provide the psychiatrist with the materials he needs to even schedule our interview.  I recently learned that my Department Chair had been coordinating this event with the Provost's office since last fall, shortly after the publication of my article in Perspectives on Politics offering an unflattering portrait of Northwestern as exemplifying the military-industrial-academic complex. The fact that I played a key role in obstructing the appointment of a retired military officer whose leadership of the Buffett Institute for Global Studies was a hard fought for objective of NU's Board and administration must have hardened their resolve.

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    September 1, 2016     
    In 2010 I was hired as a full professor in the Political Science Department at Northwestern University, where I teach political and legal theory.  I also am the founding director of the Deportation Research Clinic as well as a founding co-convener of a research working group on the Global Research University, both housed in the Buffett Institute for Global Studies at Northwesterrn University. For 2013-14 I was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.  In 2014, I was the keynote speaker for the Association of Political Theory.  
     In 2011 I received the Project Censored award for #4 of the Top 25 Censored Stories of 2010, for "America's Secret ICE Castles," an article revealing that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Fugitive Operations were surreptitously holding people in unmarked buildings in office parks across the country, and working out of New York City's Chelsea Market, which also houses the Food Network. My scholarship, most recently on private prisons, also has been used in successful individual and class action lawsuits.  For more on my work, please go here.  
    For several years I also have been a scholar and critic of the militarization of political science. In 2015 I published in Perspectives on Politics an article exposing NU's militarized Board of Trustees, including Boeing's side contracts supporting Doha's "Education City," where NU runs a journalism school the U.S. State Department tasked with changing Al Jazeera's anti-U.S. coverage.  
    Last year I was at ground zero of an effort by faculty, students, and alumni to block the appointment of retired Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry to run NU's Buffett Institute for Global Studies. Eikenberry didn't have a PhD or any peer-reviewed articles, but he did have excellent connections in the Department of Defense and State Department, not to mention China. The administrators said he'd help rotate NU faculty through government, like Harvard, they said. The CEOs and directors of Abbott Laboratories, Boeing, Caterpillar, and General Dynamics who run NU thought the China contacts would be good for business, a colleague with ties to the upper echelons of the administration told me.  
    In mid-April, 2016 we were elated to learn that the private letters, public petition, and the resolution opposing the appointment two students introduced for consideration by the Associated Student Government worked!  Instead of showing up in the fall, 2016, the Chicago Reader announced in mid-April: "Northwestern surrenders..."  (Eikenberry later explained that he couldn't handle the criticism: "...opposition proved so persistent that Eikenberry decided in April to pull the plug," the Washington Post reported.) 
     A jointly crafted, oddly worded press release conveyed NU's responsibility for not adequately managing the situation.  The Chair of NU's Board of Trustees, William Osborn, told the Faculty Senate in June that the appointment was "not properly socialized."
     A dis-appointment, if you will.        
    June brought another momentous announcement: Provost Dan Linzer was "stepping down," as NU's President Morton Schapiro phrased a decision widely understood as the Board firing Linzer for botching the Eikenberry appointment.
     The triumph of faculty and students over the administration and its Board was covered by the Washington Post, which exacerbated and actually called the episode an "embarassment" for NU's administration.
      And so it came to pass that by the end of July I learned I was next.   
     As a number of collaborative projects with about a dozen students and recent graduates from NU and other campuses were humming along quite nicely (student names are pseudonyms)--e.g., Richard was coding FOIA litigation over redactions asserting claims of proprietary information or trade secrets; Diane was coding cases of Illegal Reentry with claims of U.S. citizenship; Maria was drafting a FOIA lawsuit to obtain contracts from the State Department; Margaret was doing legal research on historical criteria for evidence of U.S. citizenship; Mark was analyzing FOIA releases on ICE facility work programs; and I was advising Anne on her research comparing the FOIA law in England with that in the United States--Weinberg College Dean Adrian Randolph emailed to me a two-page letter with edicts banning me from campus, prohibiting me from all contact with students, including those enrolled elsewhere, and ... ordering me to undergo a mandatory fitness-for-duty examination with a psychiatrist chosen by Northwestern.       
    The reason? Dean Randolph was just following up on reports he and my Chair helped stir up, the gist of which was that I might explode at any moment and cause a "blood bath" in Scott Hall.  (Turns out Randolph had numerous reports claiming the opposite, including one from a student grateful for my support after the Provost let it be known Eikenberry might sue her for defamation. He disregarded each and every one of these.)  
     Right.  Completely outrageous.
    And yes, also surreal.  If this reminds you of Stalin's Soviet Union you can join the chorus of my colleagues at NU who know me and, as importantly, know the folks behind this.  Watching this unfold feels a bit like finding myself in the middle of the sort of twisted plot you'd encounter in "House of Cards," especially when I read the report of the pseudo-independent investigator NU hired.  It turns out she's very close with several attorneys in NU's Office of General Counsel (OGC) and co-wrote an article on how to fire tenured faculty.
     Just for the record: I have never been diagnosed with a mental illness, nor prescribed psychotropic medications, nor even had this suggested to me. I also have never physically threatened much less assaulted anyone, anywhere; I have never made any statements to third parties threatening anyone else, anywhere; and the single factual allegation on which the Dean based his ban -- that I spoke "aggressively" and was "threatening" -- is from a faculty member whose aggressive conduct toward me was the reason the investigator was called in!  

Slammer

    That's right: I followed NU procedures and filed the complaint accurately pointing out my colleague's unprofessional conduct, but the investigator had arranged our meeting in a tiny windowless room adjacent a university police officer, due to her alleged concerns about her physical safety. Meanwhile, prior to meeting me, she met the guy who slammed the door -- let's call him Slammer -- in his office and with no adjacent police. Slammer, it turns out, was overheard by a student, who, on hearing yelling and a door slam, approached me and reflexively asked if I was okay and what happened.  The student has signed a sworn statement that if called to do so he will testify in court that he heard a man's voice yelling, including "get out!", no other voice, and the door slamming, and that he told this to NU's investigator.  
      In other words, there is one specific allegation of my actually doing something that supposedly made this guy (who is larger than me and has bragged about being an athlete) feel "threatened by" and "unsafe" around me and a student has signed a document stating he will give evidence under oath that will show this guy lied.  
    Slammer has denied in writing raising his voice and stated that he closed the door quietly; my contemporaneous complaint stated that Slammer blew up, yelled at me, and slammed the door.  NU's investigator reported the student "never actually saw anything," and omitted what the student told her that he heard.
    I know.  Lots of head scratching.  I must be leaving something out.  
    I am.  
    According to letters alleging I pose a risk to campus safety--authored by five members of the Department who are part of the administration and/or people about whose improprieties I had complained:   "she is a 'No' vote on many matters before the Department"; I have a "bias against the military"; am "peculiar" (i.e., gender non-conforming, queer); "feel [I] can say anything"; am "disrespectful"; and "question [the] integrity" of the Chair (according to the Chair); and some students disliked how I ran a class.
     The documents shared with me purport to show wrongdoing, but contain not a single specific charge of any rule violation, even though NU's Faculty Handbook (pp. 30-31) requires this be shared with faculty prior to taking any actions that impede our research or teaching.  
    The best this little clique can do to support the alleged fear of me is to reference several ridiculously petty and false allegations unrelated to physical safety, many involving third parties.  The idea appears to be that if they can show I am unstable (by voting no, being "biased" against the military, questioning admissions decisions made by people who did not read most of the files, and so forth), that must mean I have a "borderline personality disorder," as one colleague suggested, and that must mean I will attack people physically.  
    No one explains how I could have this severe, dangerous psychological disorder and yet have never actually threatened or harmed anyone.
  My favorite email is from a political scientist stating that the editor of the Daily Northwestern rejected a letter by a graduate student who supported the Eikenberry appointment and told the student it was because  "Professor Stevens is a powerful person." This was the sole example this individual had to support his claim I posed a threat to students.  
     In the end, the Daily published the student's letter.  Or at least it published a letter by a Political Science graduate student (a major in the Air Force) claiming I was a "conspiracy theorist." And someone posted this letter on both ends of the hall in the Political Science Department when Eikenberry gave a talk, where the letters remained for some time thereafter.  (Based on my research on the nation-state I object to militarism; so do the veterans who opposed Eikenberry's appointment, including Aaron Hughes, whose Tea Project at Northwestern was organized and supported in this same time-frame by several anti-Eikenberry faculty and students, myself included, as discussed in this Letter to the Daily.)
     Someone must have been pretty hard-pressed to step up for the administration if the best he could do to speak on behalf of apparently vulnerable students references nothing I have said or done.  To be clear, outside the classroom I have no authority at all anywhere in the university, save that awarded by evidence and logical analysis--in this case documenting Eikenberry shilling for Rwandan political leaders the U.N. stated had perpetrated genocide and who were currently jailing and killing dissidents and journalists.  

Why?

    In response to the head-scratching as to why NU would undertake an action that is so blatantly bullying and hence damaging to its reputation -- as though it needs one more round of national publicity to add to its recent violations of academic freedom and speech (e.g., Laura Kipnis, "My Title IX Inquisition"; "U.S. Bioethicist Quits over Censorship Row at Northwestern University; and Provost Linzer threatening students opposing Eikenberry with a defamation lawsuit)-- my response is what I've been saying all along: NU is not a research university committed to the free exploration of ideas. It is an appendage of a military and corporate board that for close to a century has been using its authority to further a range of unsavory deals.  
     Yes, inspiring research, scholarship, and teaching occur here.  Every day I wake up excited to work with the wonderful colleagues and  the students I have encountered here, including in the Political Science Department.  The Mafia-owned Rao's restaurant served great food, but even a four star chef wouldn't last if the family felt its illicit deals were being exposed.  
    In my view, the end game for NU is not a legal victory, but rather an effort to cloud my reputation by accusations of insanity.  NU's Office of General Counsel is run by Philip Harris, who used to be a partner in the Chicago law firm that for decades represented General Dynamics and the Crown family.  Harris is well-aware of my research into the financial and personal ties that reflect poorly on the Board, most as yet unpublished.  Harris, instead of recusing himself because of the appearance of his own conflicts of interest in my case was, and I assume still is, overseeing the current actions pursued against me.  My view is that the individuals behind this care more about their own reputations than that of NU and are thus willing to sacrifice the latter in a pathetic attempt to discredit as a "conspiracy theory" my disclosures.
    Alas, the actions these attorneys and administrators are pursuing will bring a great deal of unnecessary and unflattering attention to the Political Science Department, whose faculty and students do not deserve this.  My reporting is my reporting and I imagine people will decide on the basis of the evidence whether my analysis of NU is correct or off base.  Likewise, I have no intention of relinquishing my responsibilities for faculty self-governance, including challenging and reporting, in accordance with NU's policy, conduct that I find unprofessional or abusive.  That said, this is a shot across the bow to all faculty, tenured and otherwise, that you should be worried about  being harassed if not fired by an unaccountable officialdom disloyal to Northwestern's research and teaching mission.   (First the Chair and Dean prevented me from paying the undergraduates; and in July, when the students were working with me for no pay, the Dean shut down our work entirely.)
   

Now What?

    Can you fire, or even ban, a tenured professor because of the junior high school antics of a few bullies asserting that they are the ones "feeling threatened" and "unsafe"?
    Common sense, NU's Faculty Handbook, employment law, and my lawyer, say "Are you kidding?  No way!"  This is such a transparent ploy to retaliate against me for inquiries into unsavory actions by political science faculty and the university that my colleagues and the former students with whom I have discussed this to date concur: it's going to waste a lot of time and money, cause a huge distraction, and I will keep my job.  
    The next step is a mandatory interview with an NU-selected psychiatrist.  However, it is over a month since I received the letter and I cannot even schedule an appointment; Northwestern failed to send the documents the psychiatrist needs to schedule this. This delay seems consistent with the Chair's stated goal of keeping me off campus for the fall quarter and, as I read her letter to the Dean, eventually to fire me.
    Fortunately, I have the support of colleagues and former students at Northwestern and elsewhere who are shocked and disgusted by these transparently retaliatory and thuggish tactics.  Again, I assure everyone reading this that there is nothing I have ever said or done that would justify, even remotely, this treatment.    

How Can I Help?

Email to Northwestern, short is fine, from people who know me and simply can vouch they have never known me as unbalanced, retaliatory, or physically threatening in any way would be extremely helpful.  To date Randolph has completely disregarded positive letters--he omitted any reference to them in his summaries or his August 17, 2016 letter for the psychiatrist-- but perhaps if they are tallied in the dozens or more this will make a difference. Please write to Dean Adrian Randolph (weinberg-dean@northwestern.edu) and copy my attorney Rima Kapitan (rkapitan@kapitanlaw.net).   Thank you!

If you would like to contact me personally, please write me at swn AT protonmail.ch.