Brand NU World

Committee without Cause, Political Science Department without Politics

October 7, 2016

Committee on Cause Response

Last week I received the report from Brand NU's Faculty Senate Committee on Cause (CoC) responsive to my appeal of "the ban," including the prohibition of contact with students; the retraction of $3,000 in Farrell Fellow funding; and the forced psychiatric screening.  Supporting documents, all available on this site, also indicated a pattern of harassment in support of my claim that the actions against me were taken in retaliation for my academically protected speech, including questioning policies within the Political Science Department that are providing benefits to the U.S. military not available to other government or non-profit organizations.  

The Committee, chaired by Northwestern Pritzker School of Law Professor Ronald Allen, submitted a report whose main purpose was to explain the Committee's irrelevance to faculty self-governance.  Since it had no official charges from the University, the CoC claimed it could not proceed:   "Professor Stevens may very well have been mistreated in numerous small and not-so-small ways; perhaps there is a hostile workplace environment actionable under law; but the Committee on Cause is not an appropriate forum to air such diffuse and wide-ranging disagreements."  The Committee acknowledges that "this may appear to permit the Administration to manipulate processes such as these by simply refusing to give such statements."  Indeed, this is not just an appearance but a factual statement of what Allen and his colleagues allowed.  

{ADDED 10/14/2016- The point person in the Provost's office, working hand in glove with Monoson all year to ban me, was Associate Provost Lindsay Chase-Lansdale.  Guess who decides when to convene the Faculty Senate Committee on Cause?  Right, Chase-Lansdale, one of the persons whose actions the Committee would be evaluating.  In the Brand NU World the official accused of bad faith is the same one deciding if and when when her actions will be reviewed.  

I sent my appeal of the ban and numeorus other harassing actions to Chase-Lansdale on August 18, 2016.  Faculty Senate President Professor Laurie Zoloth told the Daily that she was ready to convene the Committee at any time, including over the summer.  Yet not until September 16, 2016,
the day after the psychiatrist cleared me to return to work, did Chase-Lansdale convene the Committee. For an article covering this in the Daily Northwestern, please go here.}

I will appeal.

There is nothing transparent and hence nothing precedential about these decisions--they are typically not released--but one takeaway is that any time the Brand NU administration wants to harass professors, it can simply call punitive actions against tenured professors non-disciplinary.

(The CoC noted that the Faculty Handbook requires the administrative unit taking disciplinary action to notify the faculty member of "'the charges being brought, the factual evidence supporting the charges, and the relevant University policy and/or the basis for showing that the faculty member has breached acceptable standards for responsible academic service or conduct.'  Apparently no such statement was given to Professor Stevens, nor turned over to the Committee following a request for it to both parties"  (CoC 9/26/2016, p. 1).)  

Main Problems with Report
The report's main problem is that it is absolves the Committee of responsibility by mischaracterizing my appeal, as well as by the latitude it gives the administration.  According to the Faculty Handbook, "It is not the function of this Committee [on Cause] to make formal findings of fact" (Handbook 31).  And yet the report includes false statements about my own submissions and two false statements about Brand NU's actions.

(1)  I failed to provide them instances of specific violations:  "Although Professor Stevens has provided numerous actions taken by members of the Department and Administration, she has not provided a succinct list, either" (CoC 9/26/2016, p. 2).  

(2)  The COC says the ban on contact with students was lifted immediately.  "The Committee also notes that the most serious of the allegations of sanctions--barring Professor Stevens from contact with students and barring her from campus--were ameliorated almost immediately, as in the case of student contact (she was allowed contact with students for whom she gave a reason to be in contact) or have since been abrogated (she is now allowed on campus)."

(3)  The Faculty Handbook requires the Administration follows certain procedures prior to forced medical leave.  The procedure and timeframe in my case, as we pointed out, were entirely at odds with this.  It is obvious that the Administration pursued the ban in bad faith in retaliation for my scholarship and participation in faculty governance.

Expansion on Points 1-3

(1)The first statement implies that I provided a rambling account of unpleasant interactions, and inexplicably suggests that if one endures numerous violations of the Faculty Handbook and the list is not "succinct," the Administration obtains a free pass. The Administration need merely accompany major disciplinary actions with a number of more minor lessor sanctions in the hopes that the Committee on Cause will throw up its hands and declare the matter too complicated to fall within its purview.   

In the event, my attorney Rima Kapitan presented an eight page single-spaced document that in the first paragraph clearly listed 10 specific actions against me and proceeded to narrate how each one violated a disciplinary requirement of the Handbook.

The CoC letter inexplicably ignores my reference to a specific and still ongoing denial of $3,000 in funds for undergraduate research assistance awarded me through the Department's Farrell Fellow program, as documented in a recent article in the Daily Northwestern.  This is the very first charge mentioned in our list.  

As we point out, the denial of funds is among actions considered "major sanctions--actions leading to the loss of salary, removal of all teaching responsibilities, loss of institutional support for academic or research activities, suspension, or termination"  (Handbook p. 30, emphasis added).  The CoC inexplicably and irresponsibly ignores this.

(2)  Also, the CoC inaccurately claims that the bar on contact with students was ameliorated immediately.  It was not.  Between July 29, 2016 and September 19, 2016 I was prohibited not only from meeting in person with students, but also categorically prohibited from telephone conversations, text messaging, and mail.  On an ad hoc basis I was allowed limited contact with students only on email.  For instance, I could write in response to a request for a letter of recommendation, but was not allowed to provide feedback on an opinion piece the student wanted to submit to The Guardian, nor to put her in touch with colleagues at foreign institutions.

The categorical ban on communications by mail, telephone, and texts had enormous consequences.  First, as I documented to Dean Randolph at the time, and then conveyed to the CoC, two of the projects required me to oversee students making coding decisions on hundreds of court documents.  I was working remotely by phone or when in Evanston in person with teams of students viewing the same documents and spreadsheets online in real-time, and it was just not possible to do this on email.  Randolph's inteference in the summer, when students were available and in the midst of completing these projects, brought work to a standstill and squandered dozens if not hundreds of hours of previous collective work.  

The student who was organzing the analysis of FOIA court decisions in cases when private firms asserted exemptions for proprietary or trade secrets had been working on this project since January, 2016 and is now too distrustful of Brand NU to resume. First they pulled his Farrell funds and then, when he was working for no pay, would not allow me to respond to his texts or phone calls.  In response to his text messages pleading with me for a time when we could speak, Randolph required me to say no more than that I was now "on leave" and refer him to the Director of Undergraduate Studies (who had no responsive information).  Randolph refused to let me explain further.  The student, with whom I had been in contact at least once weekly for several months, only learned of the real reason for my sudden failure to reply to him when he read my account here on September 1.  

Moreover, the ban on mail, also in place through September 19 had a major impact on the work of Deportation Research Clinic Program Associate Charles Clarke, a JD/PhD student writing his dissertation on the concept of deportation.  Without any warning, Chair Sara Monoson had all mail in my department box sent to my address in New York City, including mail addressed to Charles Clarke!  One CD forwarded from the Department of Justice arrived broken, the first such casualty among the dozens I have received.  Along with the broken CD was a piece of junk mail addressed to Sara Monoson.  Also among the mail were several pieces of handwritten correspondence to Clarke from someone he was trying to assist with his claim of U.S. citizenship and who, Clarke learned on finally being able to read the mail, had been locked in solitary.  Just as Clarke was trying to resume contact, we learned this individual had been deported.

I also was not allowed to send by mail comments in the margins on a draft of a graduate student dissertation. And, I was not allowed to speak with student journalists.  (This impeded my research because one of them had information connected to Brand NU-related offset contracts.)  There are numeorus other effects on student and my research that created irretrievable losses, including student trust in university administrators, for which the Brand NU operatives who did this should be ashamed and should apologize.

(3)  The thought that the CoC felt compelled to defer to the bad faith implentation of Handbook rules is of great concern.   If any measures taken against me interfere with my research or teaching, then the Handbook indicates these are "major sanctions."  If a medical leave is implemented in bad faith and interferes with my teaching or research, the CoC certainly could say as much, and not simply defer to the i's Randolph dotted and the ts he crossed.  

In an article on immigration judge misconduct I am co-authoring with a colleague and a student (also delayed because of the ban), we note the theoretical impoverishment of the literature on misconduct and propose a focus on temperments of misconduct and not just procedures, the framework current scholarship implicitly privileges.  We do so in recognition of the fact that procedures are worthless if the people implementing them do so in bad faith.  

(To explain immigration judge misconduct we use heuristics of The Bully, The Accountant, The Moron, The Thief, and, especially important, The Crony, all personas behind the harms perpetrated against others and myself by Brand NU operatives.)

Harrassed While Off the Clock (And Off the Faculty Senate Radar)

The report's emphasis on timing -- their response after the ban was lifted -- also raises concerns.  I first filed an appeal with the CoC concerning Monoson's retaliatory removal of Farrell funding in May, 2016, as the rules required an appeal within 20 days of the action taken.  The then-Chair of the CoC told me that because Randolph had indefinitely delayed his response to my appeal with him, the CoC would not act.  I filed the second appeal on August 18, after the ban was imposed.  No one convened the CoC over the summer and the case was not taken up until after the ban was lifted.  

Also troubling is that although Monoson filed an official letter on May 3, 2016 indicating she felt "unsafe" in my presence (so afraid that she charged up to me and yelled at me twice when I first returned), Randolph did not initiate the ban until July 28, the day after my attorney called to follow up on the removal of my Farrell Fellow funding.  If he had imposed the "fitness for duty" interview in the time frame appropriate for the allegation, I would have been able to straighten this out through the CoC while it was still active, and before the summer break.  The lag between claims I was violent and the ban meant that by the time the Committee on Cause got around to weighing in on the propriety of my discipline, the disciplinary process had already run its course and therefore was supposedly beyond the purview of the committee.

Finally, when reading Brand NU President Morton Schapiro's announcement yesterday about increasing the number of paid winter holidays, based on his supposed observation that we need  recuperative breaks, I started wondering about the intrusion into my summer plans with the restrictions on my ability to speak with not only NU students but also students at other campuses who were collaborating with us.   (Like most Brand NU employees, I am paid for nine months of work, distributed over 12 months of pay checks.)  If he is so concerned about our rest, then why not implement administrative actions requiring time-intensive responses in a time frame when NU employees are actually being paid?

Current Status

I am thrilled to be back in the classroom teaching the "Deportation Law and Politics" course.  Students observed their first immigration court hearings last week and seem engaged by what they saw, including some who watched a televideo "relay translation."  Through a video monitor in a Chicago immigration court we observed one interpreter translating from K'iche' to Spanish and a second from Spanish to English for an illiterate man from Guatemala detained in Wisconsin and whose family is in Kentucky. The respondent's attorney abandoned him and failed to file with the court the asylum application as promised to the immigration judge in a previous hearing.  It was eye-opening for all of us. If Monoson et al. had their way, these students never would have seen this nor have had the opportunity to learn about the law and politics behind what they were watching.

I remain for no discernible reason locked out of my office in Scott Hall, isolated from my colleagues, and still do not have a personal office but am sharing space with students in the Deportation Research Clinic, which is housed in a commercial office space Brand NU owns and is using as swing space for the expanding Buffett Institute.  Students cannot leave papers and there is no office support, i.e., copying, mail, etc.

Research Funds
I also still do not have access to the Farrell Funds on which the Deportation Research Clinic has relied heavily for its research activities.

The Eikenberry Enablers Protesteth Too Much

Those behind the ban, Tillery especially, have gone out of their way to claim they did not care about the Eikenberry appointment or my concerns about the advantages the department was providing the U.S. military over other organizations. The evidence suggests otherwise.  

In November, 2015, 67 faculty members signed a private letter to Provost Dan Linzer and President Morton Schapiro protesting the search process and the apparent annointment of Ret. Lt. General Karl Eikenberry former Ambassador to Afghanistan, to run the Buffettt Institute of Global Studies.  The administration ignored us.

In February, 2016, several colleagues joined me in approaching the 67 signatories to ask if they would sign a letter we were submitting to the Daily Northwestern and we asked others as well.  46 faculty signed an open letter protesting the Eikenberry appointment.  

Those who declined to sign the public letter typically did not reply or simply asked that their names not be included, with three notable exceptions: Sara Monoson, Will Reno, and Alvin Tillery, all faculty at the core of the efforts to have me fired, two of whom went out of their way to affirm their support of the U.S. military, and all of whom have been public in their attacks on me.  Monoson also coordinated with Linzer to author an April, 2016 faculty letter in support of Eikenberry, signed of course, by Reno and by Tillery.

Here's what Monoson wrote: 
Please make sure that my name is NOT on this letter. I disagree with it in its entirety. (Email February 8, 2016.)
Here's what Reno wrote:
I reject the assertions in the open letter below. I do not object to Karl Eikenberry's military background. I consider service in the armed forces to be honorable. I am proud of my family's substantial record of military service. Association with the military does not automatically translate into blind support for current policies. The charge below is ironic, as it was Karl Eikenberry who authored the classified cables to his superiors that were leaked in January 2010. We learned that in November 2009 he provided a negative assessment of proposed U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. He argued that a troop buildup would actually hurt the war effort. I regard his frank and sober analysis and his willingness to challenge the policies of his superiors as evidence of his substantial leadership skills. (Email February 8, 2016.)
Tillery wrote:
While I do think that there were likely better choices available, and I would have preferred an academic to head the Buffet, I actually have no objection to Mr. Eikenberry's military background. On the contrary, I believe that service in the armed forces is honorable and also provides SOME individuals with incredible leadership skills. Moreover, I trace my own family's ability to thrive in this nation, even while subject to the harshest of color bars, in part to the skills that men in my family acquired serving in every war since the Revolution. (E-mail Feb. 6, 2016.)
I have no problem with some of the statements in the e-mails responding to the letter.  I have said on the record that I thought Eikenberry raised appropriate concerns about the U.S. engagements in Afghanistan.   However, the simplistic embrace of military service, especially by Tillery, who is a scholar of W.E.B. Du Bois, is indeed troubling.   Du Bois was a passionate critic of U.S. imperialism and had complex, evolving views on the utility of military service for then-Negroes; Du Bois during World War One was swayed by arguments about the short term benefits African-Americans might derive through U.S. military service.  But he never confused this with genuine advances for people of color and the struggle against imperialism. Throughout his career, begun in Germany, Du Bois's analyses were inherently global.  

In response to Du Bois's progressive politics, the same U.S. government Tillery praises for the military training it provided his ancestors, harassed Du Bois for his support of communism and his critiques of U.S. militarism for decades, including FBI investigations and bans on travel.

Numerous people of color from military families, as well as those who have themselves served in the military and acquired skills from that service, have come to reject it.  Consider my newest hero, Eva Jefferson Paterson, who in 1970 became the first African-American elected president of NU's Associated Student Government.  She grew up in a military family in France, but was among the student leaders protesting NU's involvement with the military, including the Navy ROTC program.  One of her main objections to the wars then ongoing? The U.S. backed wars in Vietnam and Cambodia killed civilians and created refugees.  Tillery touts his ancestors' service in the same military Jefferson , from a military family, opposed.  (I have no idea what "the men in [Tillery's] family" did during the Vietnam War, but it appears he lauds military service, as long as it provides leadership skills to African-Americans.)

Of course a politics rooted in the parochial advantages a policy provides one's immediate family or even men of an oppressed race is naive and muddle-headed.  If Reno and Tillery disagree and can produce a coherent theory defending U.S. military service based on family heritage, that's great.  Let's debate this in faculty meetings or in public talks, or even schedule our own.  Banning me instead of discussing issues with me seems a violent concession to a fear of rational discussion, which I believe is the source of their actual anxiety about encountering me, not guns.

There are complex, political questions about the relation between the university and the military, some of which focus uniquely on benefits provided by Brand NU's Political Science Department.  If I leave the Department to the likes of Monoson, Reno, and Tillery, past experience suggests that no one else will raise them, and thus there will be no one to resist the inertia embodied in the pro-military statements by those who may claim their views of me are not tainted by politics and can credibly believe this only because in the Brand NU World discipline is not discipline and politics is not politics.