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Why Tenure Matters

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An object lesson:

A former administrator at Chicago State University has accused its president and other officials of firing her in part because she refused their demands that she file a false sexual-harassment charge against a faculty member critical of the leadership.

LaShondra Peebles, who was fired last June as interim vice president for enrollment and student affairs, said in court filings that other administrators, including Wayne D. Watson, the president, had pressured her to file the charge against Phillip A. Beverly, an associate professor of political science. Ms. Peebles said the other administrators had hoped to use false charges against Mr. Beverly to justify his dismissal and to shut down a blog in which he and other faculty members routinely published criticisms of Mr. Watson and other top officials at Chicago State.

Administrators pressured her at several meetings to file the false charge and accused her of “not being a ‘team player’” when she refused, Ms. Peebles said in a sworn statement submitted in federal court on Thursday. The statement was made in connection with a lawsuit in which Mr. Beverly and another faculty member have accused Mr. Watson and two university lawyers of violating their free-speech rights

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  • Brett

    Seriously. People who think tenure doesn’t matter tend to believe in the whole Cult of the CEO/Principal/Administrator who could organize the university in a superb manner if only he or she had absolute power. Never mind the rich history of political interference, abuses of power, and shit like this (especially appalling and exploitative at a time when discussion over college sexual violence is at an all-time high).

    • J. Otto Pohl

      I don’t doubt the importance of tenure in US universities where most faculty are not unionized. But, in much of the world tenure simply doesn’t exist. Instead there are long term contracts and unions for faculty. As a strategy I am not sure which is better to promote in any given sitution. But, unionization rather than tenure does seem a lot more equalitarian. A starting lecturer is a full union member whereas they don’t have any tenure protections. If I was told that I could exchange my union for a possibility of getting tenure in the future I might very well stick with the known and guaranteed security of the union. Certainly tenure unlike my union has never gone on strike against the government to get me back pay.

  • sharculese

    I just… holy mother of fuck.

    There’s no angle of this story that doesn’t make me extremely angry. The bullying. The endangering of people’s livelihoods for no good reason. The idea that sexual harassment is a fucking toy we can use to get rid of people we don’t like.

    Garbage people. Straight up sucking trash out of a fucking dumpster assholes.

    • DrDick

      They had a perfectly good reason for their actions. These plebes had the audacity to challenge their authority! It is almost impossible to overestimate the hubris and thin skins of university administrators.

    • ExpatJK

      Yeah, pretty much every aspect of this is jaw-dropping.

    • Brett

      It completely enrages me that in the midst of a long-overdue examination of college sexual violence and sexual harassment, these fuckers wanted to exploit it with a false accusation to try and get a faculty member dismissed.

      Seriously, fuck whoever tried to force her to do this if the accusation is true. I hope they get fired and civil-suited for the foreseeable future.

  • mikeSchilling

    And if the same thing happened in a non-academic setting, everyone involved would be shit out of luck because the only way to fight this kind of criminal behavior is tenure?

    • Warren Terra

      I guess the theory is that these administrators are venal evil monsters but that in the absence of tenure protections their true natures would not have been revealed, because they would have had no need to resort to a criminal conspiracy merely to get someone fired.

      • matt w

        Yes, if there were no tenure at Chicago State they would’ve just straight-up fired Beverly without needing to go the fake sexual harassment route. Or more likely, Beverly would never have dared to start (or contribute to) a blog criticizing the Chicago State administration.

        • sparks

          Beverley could have done it anyway if he anonymized himself enough not to be discovered. I’ve reported on conditions at a major employer here without being discovered before I left employment there. I’m sure it still can be done. It’s a PITA but necessary nowadays.

      • Scott Lemieux

        I guess the theory is that these administrators are venal evil monsters but that in the absence of tenure protections their true natures would not have been revealed

        Well, no. The theory is that employees should have protections against venal administrators. It’s not terribly complicated.

    • Murc

      And if the same thing happened in a non-academic setting, everyone involved would be shit out of luck because the only way to fight this kind of criminal behavior is tenure?

      In a non-unionized academic setting, there would have been no need for criminal behavior; the people involved would have simply been fired (or, at the level these guys operate at, told to resign, which is the same thing) and that would be that.

      This is why many people, myself included, fight for strong employee rights. Tenure-equivalent shouldn’t be just for academics, it should be for everyone.

      • Lee Rudolph

        Tenure-equivalent shouldn’t be just for academics, it should be for everyone.

        That is a point that cannot be made too often.

        • Indeed. This is one of the things I like about UK academia.

    • Barry_D

      “And if the same thing happened in a non-academic setting, everyone involved would be shit out of luck because the only way to fight this kind of criminal behavior is tenure?”

      Actually, pretty much yes. I’d reckon that the original target would have been fired long ago, along with any middle management people who got in the way.

    • Pamoya

      In addition to tenure, there are a number of protections at a public university that the standard at-will private employee doesn’t have. So the administrator filing this lawsuit, as an employee of a public university, has a property interest in her job. She is entitled to due process before termination, and the university as part of the government can violate her free speech rights, as she’s alleging here.

      Not that tenure isn’t important, and at a private university none of those protections would apply.

      • rea

        the administrator filing this lawsuit, as an employee of a public university, has a property interest in her job.

        I don’t think that’s technically correct.

    • mpowell

      Yeah, I’m not really impressed by this post. This is not about free academic inquiry. Tenure happens to address some of the problems here, but there are also systems that serve that purpose that are not structured like tenure.

      • sanity clause

        Maybe it’s not about free academic inquiry, but it’s about an administrator demanding an employee perjure herself as a condition of keeping her job. That’s almost Nixonian in its bullying and creepiness.

      • Scott Lemieux

        Again, you seem to missing the point. Without tenure, the professor who criticized the administration would have been fired without cause. The additional malfeasance occurred because the protections worked.

  • cpinva

    first off, I admit my lack of in-depth knowledge of the ways of higher academia. that said, do administrators have tenure? I ask, because I always thought tenure was restricted to the actually teaching classes, not administrative types. you know, the types that might well need to be protected from the arbitrary & capricious acts of said administrators. am I mistaken in this understanding?

    or, were you referring to the instructor she was being pressured into filing a sexual harassment complaint against?

    • Warren Terra

      As I say above: as I read the story, it became important to some powerful administrator that a certain tenured professor be fired. This could not readily be accomplished by legal means, so it is alleged that a criminal conspiracy was concocted in order to generate the appearance of cause sufficient for the dismissal of a tenured professor. Had the professor not been tenured, the criminal conspiracy would not have been necessary, merely to get them fired.

      • cpinva

        yes, now that I’m actually conscious, I readily see that. probably shouldn’t say anything when I’m halfway asleep.

  • Manju

    Wow. Unbelievable. Literally. So, with doubt creeping in, I checked FIRE for some context / background info. If FIRE is accurate, this admin has been out of control for a while:

    http://www.thefire.org/chicago-state-tries-to-censor-faculty-blog-again/

  • MAJeff

    I hate to say it, but as shocking as it is, I’m not surprised. I wouldn’t put anything past the academic management class. I’ve seen administrative folks sabotage job hunts out of spite on more than one occasion.

  • Lee Rudolph

    Is it fair to deduce that there was only this one woman in the administration?

    • wca

      Sadly, no.

      At least, according to the college’s web site. But on the bright side, they are apparently searching for a new president.

      • Lee Rudolph

        After posting, I found what purports to be the entire Declaration of LaShondra Peebles in ‘Beverly, et al. v. Watson, et al.’ at the CSU Faculty Voice website. According to her, two other female administrators were also to be involved, at the behest of higher-ups, in the (purportedly) false harassment allegations. Nice place to work, that!

        • Downpuppy

          Her rise was as fast as her fall. (And talk about too many administrators!)

          1. I was hired by Chicago State University (“CSU”) in March 2012 as a Process Improvement Specialist.

          2. In July 2012, I became the Director of Compliance for Enrollment Management.

          3. On July 1, 2013, I was promoted to Interim Vice President of Enrollment and Student Affairs. My duties were to manage and supervise eleven departments and a staff of approximately 130 employees in the areas of enrollment related services and student affairs. In this role I oversaw a budget of approximately $7,000,000. I was employed by CSU in this position until my termination on June 2, 2014.

  • Matt_L

    Chicago State University has been a cesspool of administrative malfeasance and iniquity for a long time. At least since the 1990s.

  • rewenzo

    I will decide for myself the guilt of the parties once I have ascertained the USNWR ranking of Chicago State University.

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