The AAUP has published an investigative report on the summary suspension and dismissal of Dr. Mark McPhail, a tenured professor of communication at Indiana University Northwest in Gary, Indiana, who had previously served as the institution’s chief academic officer. The investigating committee, for which I served as chair, found that, in acting against McPhail, the administration disregarded AAUP-supported standards of academic due process. The committee further concluded that conditions for academic governance at the institution are unsound and its racial climate is unwelcoming to faculty members of color.
Join us on February 16 at 2 p.m. ET for a webinar discussing the investigation and the AAUP’s process for investigations–what prompts an investigation, how they are conducted, and what the end goal is.
In September 2021, the administration dispatched campus police officers to McPhail’s home to inform him that he had been dismissed and banned from campus, supposedly for making racially charged threats of physical violence, No accuser was identified, and no criminal charges were filed.
The AAUP investigating committee deemed “implausible” the charge that McPhail had made violent threats, and it found “highly credible” McPhail’s allegation that the administration’s actions were prompted by his criticism of the administration’s handling of racial equity issues and therefore violated his academic freedom. With respect to that climate, the committee noted that McPhail had regularly highlighted racial inequity on the IUN campus and that the criticisms and charges against him employed racial stereotypes of Black men as incompetent, angry, and violent.
Having been denied a hearing before a faculty body in which the burden of proof lay with the administration, as required under AAUP-recommended standards, McPhail was compelled to appeal the administration’s actions to a faculty grievance committee. In his appeal, he argued that institutional authorities had retaliated against him for his criticisms of the administration and for filing equal opportunity complaints against the administrators responsible for suspending and dismissing him. The grievance committee found both his suspension and his termination unwarranted. The administration rejected the committee’s findings.
Based on the report’s findings, the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure will now consider whether to recommend to the AAUP’s governing Council that it place Indiana University Northwest on the AAUP’s list of censured administrations. Placement on that list informs the academic community and the public at large that conditions for academic freedom and tenure at the institution are unsound.
Afshan Jafar, chair of the investigative committee,
Professor of Sociology, Connecticut College