Brand NU
Nothing but the Truth

Part II of II

September 11, 2016

 This is an account of the sham investigation NU initiated after I requested indemnification for the legal threats Tillery made against me.  See Part I describing the non-investigation of my accurate report of Alvin Tillery's March outburst.

The Best Report Money Can Buy

In a Facebook post September 9, Alvin Tillery triumphantly reveals a screenshot from Kathleen Rinehart's Executive Summary of June 22, 2016 in which she writes, "None of the witnesses, other than Stevens, heard shouting or any form of verbal abuse from Tillery toward Stevens..."

A Tillery FB friend posts, "Vindicated!"

Of course, Tillery neglects to mention the sworn statement of an actual witness (posted here September 8) which corroborates my account.  In the Brand NU World, facts matter little and subjective alleged or actual feelings reign supreme, especially if they suit the preferences of powerful administrators.

Why should anyone believe Rinehart, the well-paid, long-standing confederate of the folks at NU who want me gone, and not the former NU student, who was there, heard a male voice yelling, heard the door slam, and swears that he told this to Rinehart and that he will testify to this in court?  
In fact, all Rinehart's incoherent report does is confirm that NU is creating pretexts to ban me. Tillery is helping them.  So are a few other people in my department.  In Rinehart's account my great sins were: 1) obstinately refusing to retract my (true) statements about Tillery; and 2) my allegedly having caused through this and other unspecified acts: "the loss of a sense of safety" among unspecified colleagues.  

This chronology picks up after Tillery's April 6, 2016 demand letter to me, threatening legal action unless I retracted my accurate statement about his outburst.  

1.    DEMAND LETTER, April 6, 2016.
Tillery through his attorney, whose name is Mudd, sent me a demand letter in which Tillery threatens to sue me unless I retract an accurate report I made pursuant to NU policies.  

Leaving aside that threatening to sue a colleague, along with collaborating with the administration to have me banished, is hardly "remain[ing] silent for the last six months about what was happening," as Tillery whines to the Daily, why in April is he threatening me with legal action and not speaking with me or seeking mediation? Nothing in our actual history comports with this response.  
As I wrote in my March 8 email to Monoson, I was "hopeful we could work this out."  

Highlights of the April 6, 2016 demand letter include:

a)  The observation that Tillery "immediately memorialized the event to his supervisor."

Where is this memorialization?  Northwestern's Faculty Handbook prohibits suspensions without notifying the faculty member of "the factual evidence supporting the charges," and a hearing before a faculty committee in which the faculty member "will have the right to cross-examine all witness."

b)  The letter states, "Tillery learned you had filed a report with his supervisor."  

How did he learn this? Why did someone, presumably his close friend and Chair Sara Monoson, tell Tillery of my accurate report of his misconduct, but not share with me even a summary of his account, ever? And again, why didn't someone immediately contact the student for his statement?

c)  The letter also states, "Given the history of your prior conduct..."  

Again, the same vague insinuations that I have a "history."  The only history that comes to mind  is that in 2015 Monoson barked at me when I was entering her open office to discuss an e-mail she'd recently sent, ran up and slammed the door in my face, and then concocted a story making me the villain.  It worked.  She was the Associate Chair, and the then-Chair, Edward Gibson, acted as though he believed her, even though there was zero evidence to substantiate her shocking and false claim and circumstantial evidence to discredit her account, from which she walked away with me, privately, when she invited me into her office shortly thereafter and explained her behavior as based on feeling stressed by events that had nothing to do with me.  (In what now appears to have turned into the trial balloon for the current episode, Gibson told me Monoson claimed I made her "feel threatened" and no one corrected the record to indicate that the truth was Monoson lost it for reasons unrelated to me personally.)  As a result of Monoson acknowledging this with me, we were able to resume a working relation thereafter.


On receipt of this letter on April 6, I contacted NU's Office of General Counsel and was referred to Stephanie Graham.  For almost three weeks, Graham gave me no information responsive to my request for indemnification, per my contract.

On April 26, 2016, Graham by phone told me before NU would honor its contract, I was required to submit to an "independent investigation," even though no such stipulation is in the indemnification clause.  Graham also stated that the encounter was clearly work-related, thus triggering coverage, unlike another episode she'd shared (of law professors arguing about a gambling debt, I believe).   The indemnification policy covers employees long as they are following NU policies and acting in good faith, as I was.  Graham suggested the investigation was just a formality and required because the complaint involved two professors.  (As I pointed out, only one of them, Tillery, was threatening litigation.)

I met with Kathleen Rinehart, in-house counsel at St. Xavier University.  It turns out that she has an expertise in firing tenured faculty and tried, unsuccessfully, to require faculty traveling among St. Xavier campus sites to submit to mandatory, random urine drug-testing. 

The entire meeting was an ordeal, as I explained in an e-mail thereafter to Graham.

(We are redacting documents for release.)

The document bears only the vaguest resemblance to an inquiry into indemnification.

    a)  Its subject heading is: 'Executive Summary: Investigation -- Conduct in the Political Science Department," not "Indemnification."  

    b)  Rinehart's summary of her indemnification inquiry fails to engage NU's indemnification policy!  
"...I assume the University, not unlike other colleges and universities across the country, insures its faculty under some form of educator's professional legal liability coverage...Eligibility for defense and/or indemnification usually is dependent on the following: ..."  At the end of the report she states, "the nature and impact of Stevens' hostile and aggressive conduct toward colleagues over time [again, nothing specific] ...her refusal to retract public statements that Tillery verbally abused [sic] on March 8) [sic] may constitute a breach of her duty of loyalty under University Statutes and thereby may preclude the indemnification of her conduct toward Tillery on March 8."   Four other conclusions have nothing to do with March 8 or indemnification.  

NU told me they were bringing Rinehart in to provide me indemnification but NU obviously tasked Rinehart with something quite different, which I consider fraud.

   c)  The report distorts my indemnification request.
Well into her disorganized narrative, Rinehart includes a paragraph in which she  invents an incoherent account of my indemnification request, to wit that I didn't want to "waste time and money on an attorney" and that "at the recommendation of Gibson, [I] would have a conversation with Attorney Mills Graham."  This makes it seems as though I was not requesting indemnification to hire an attorney, even though this was the sole purpose of our interview.  

I'd already talked with Graham and indicated I wanted NU to pay for an attorney.  

In the event, even here, Rinehart says nothing about whether the narratives she's just provided are consistent with NU's indemnification policy, which she can't ever do because she doesn't bother to engage with what the expansive policy actually states.   If I were hallucinating that Tillery yelled at me based on a psychotic "break from reality," then that would be a symptom of mental illness and any consequences thereof could not be construed as a breach of loyalty to the university, per NU's policy. Reinhart can avoid this inference only by failing to consider NU's policy.

Would a truly independent expert commissioned to write a report on an employee's eligibility for indemnification avoid entirely the contracting university's specific indemnification policy?

d.  Summary repeats non-specific anxieties from an unknown number of interviewees.
All but one of the individuals with whom Rinehart met appear to have been selected by Monoson -- whom a colleague reports was in constant communication with Rinehart during the investigation and recently had been working closely with Provost Dan Linzer to save the Eikenberry appointment, including corralling faculty signatures, including Tillery's, for her letter of support, a platidinous piece of puffery that misrepresented the facts and that was read out loud at the Faculty Senate.  The sole exception to the NU-organized list was the then-student witness, whose account Rinehart disregarded.

Rinehart's summary concludes, "Faculty (other than Stevens) and staff with whom I met expressed a sense of relief in having a confidential and safe place to discuss concerns about Stevens' conduct -- either the particular conduct that occurred on March 8, or other conduct in which Stevens has engaged that is similar to what occurred on March 8.  But, faculty and staff also were very clear in their desire for the University to do something tangible and formal to address and manage Stevens' conduct, as well as the impact it is having on them personally (e.g., emotionally, physically) and professionally (e.g., interference with Department and subfield work, harming the Department's atmosphere and the ability to work productively as colleagues.)"  

Paraphrased: People chosen because they dislike me for my conscientious department citizenship were happy for Reinhart to elicit, validate, and retaliate based on claims of vague, pseudo-grievances, the only one specified being Tillery's claim I filed a false report.  

The single best line I've received so far to explain the Department craziness comes from my colleague Professor Rebecca Zorach in her letter to Dean Adrian Randolph, which I quote with her permission:

"The overt charges mentioned in Professor Stevens's account appear to consist of the shocking behavior of acting like a tenured professor while female."  

(A slight correction: I have no specific charges.)

 e.  The Psycho Faculty Playbook
Rinehart states without hesitation or qualification that my accurate report of Tillery yelling "reflects a pattern of conduct that he and others in the Department view as disturbing and highly erratic 'breaks from reality.'"  This is a phrase Tillery repeats in his interviews and on Facebook.  

"Breaks from reality" is a psychiatric term of art for describing psychotic behavior, such as in schizophrenia, as when someone believes she is Napoleon.  (Here's an interesting use of the phrase in a court case.)  Conveniently, this maps onto a legal script for removing faculty from campus successfully deployed elsewhere.  

Right, alas, it turns out that I am not alone.   As a result of the high profile of this case, I have been receiving emails from academics across the country, mostly women -- one man -- who have gone through something similar.  Here's an excerpt from an email that just arrived today, used as redacted and with the sender's generous permission:

I had the exact same thing happen to me at [REDACTED].  My department chair, on her word and her word alone, accused me of being "a threat to the safety of others."  I was banned from campus and prohibited from speaking to anyone from [REDACTED], including to one student who was a fellow volunteer at a non-profit.  So I was told that I was not allowed to speak to someone even in the context of an activity of my personal life.  My friends were told to "report any contact" from me.  I have a tape recording of the Dean telling me I was not allowed to speak to any faculty, staff, or students.  So, 38,000 people that I was not allowed to speak to.
In my case it was because I had $[REDACTED],000 in NSF funding attached to my name.  I was banned from campus and the money disappeared.  I learned the hard way that there is virtually no accountability for how NSF funding is spent.
I just want you to know that you are not the only one that this has happened to.  And please remember that you are the good person here, and that the chair and associate chair are behaving incredibly irresponsibly and unethically.

As I obtain more permissions I will share these accounts as well.

As to why I call this sexist when perpetrated by female supervisors: these conniving court minions resemble the officials who might be found in Putin's Russia, or Qatar's "Education City"; they are threatened by the critical engagements expected of tenured faculty, including women, and they are not immune to stereotypes as to who may be attacked for nonconformity.  

5.   The Throw-Her-Out Report.
The reason Tillery is begging for NU to make Rinehart's account public is because it baselessly defames me, which is exactly what NU was paying for.  To paraphrase, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) about the so-called Valukas Report General Motors commissioned to explain why no one bothered to fix faulty ignition switches that were killing people, the Rinehart report is the "best report money can buy."  

And, by the way, it's not as though NU's General Counsel Philip Harris is a stranger to bogus independent reports.  Where did Harris worked before coming taking over at NU?  That's right, the Anton Valukas-run Chicago law firm of Jenner and Block. And what was Harris's specialty?  Defending General Motors, including in product liability cases, a long-standing relationship that predated his employment at Jenner and Block.

Valukas thanks the anonymous Jenner Block attorneys who assisted him in the report's preparation.  Of course you don't need to be a partner in the firm associated with one of the most high profile white washes in recent history to hit on the sham report, but an amusing coincidence nonetheless. The Valukas report alone proves nothing, but it does provide context important for evaluating Tillery's reliance on a similar commissioned legal product and the report's suppression of actual evidence from the ear-witness, who swears he shared his experience with Rinehart.  (NU's spokesperson Alan Cubbage did not immediately respond to a request to identify Harris's specific responsibilities in preparing the Valukas report; I will amend as additional information arrives.)

Harris, Graham's supervisor and copied on Rinehart's report, assumed duties as NU's chief legal and hence ethics officer on January 1, 2016, after more than 25 years on Northwestern's Board and coming from a firm that has been representing General Dynamics (GD) and GD's founding Crown family, the mainstays of NU's Board, since the mid-20th century. (NU's voting trustees are a small subset of the total.)  Harris's longstanding mutually interlocking affiliations and board memberships with other NU trustees suggest he is the worst person to serve as an independent check on trustees hijacking NU for private purposes, including trashing the institution's academic bona fides by trying to fire a tenured professor for asking tough questions about Harris and his crony bosses' use of NU for private purposes, the acts and consequences thereof to be documented here this year.

Harris has long been aware of my concerns about unseemly conflicts and income sources for him and other NU trustees and officers.  I first drew the Faculty Senate's attention to Harris at the meeting on March 4, 2016, the minutes of which have disappeared from the Faculty Senate website.  On April 6, 2016, shortly before the first Associated Student Government meeting to discuss their resolution to oppose the Eikenberry appointment, I sent Harris a query as to his apparent conflicts of interests, including a request for his actual statement of these, per the NU's Board's policy.

Harris did not reply.  

I did receive a reply later that day from Julia Campbell, who directs NU's Office of Conflicts of Interest under the Associate Vice President for Research.  She assured me that "no conflict of interest has been identified."

In the Brand NU World vindication can be bought.