April 23, 2012



Resolution in Support of Academic Freedom in the Case of Loretta Capeheart.

Professor Shingavi (English) introduced the resolution seeking support for academic freedom in the case of Professor Loretta Capeheart, a graduate of the University of Texas and current faculty member at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) in Chicago. The resolution is included in Appendix B. Professor Shingavi provided a brief description of the Garcetti v. Cerballos where the Supreme Court ruled that the free speech rights of public employees, with the exception of faculty members, were not protected when they comment on issues related to their workplaces. He said Professor Capeheart was awaiting the decision of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on her lawsuit against NEIU for penalizing her for speaking out about affirmative action on the campus, using her statements in public forums to deny her merit increases, and denying her the chairmanship of her department even when the departmental faculty had voted in favor of her becoming chair. Professor Shingavi said the spirit of the resolution was for the Faculty Council and faculty of the University of Texas to support Professor Capeheart because a final court decision against her case, Capeheart v. Hahs, would have a extremely adverse impact for faculty governance and academic freedom in general. When Chair Friedman asked if there were a second to the motion, the resolution received one. Professor Alpert commented that he had just seen the resolution for the first time at the meeting; although he thought everyone would affirm free speech and academic freedom, he asked what a “yes” vote would mean in terms of the language of the document? Professor Shingavi said the resolution was written by Professor Dana Cloud (communications), but he thought support of the resolution meant an affirmation of the faculty’s commitment regarding academic freedom and the importance of the case in terms of the implications it would have on faculty rights at public institutions. Secretary Greninger said she agreed with Professor Alpert regarding the lack of advanced notice for the Council and asked if there would be a problem if the vote were delayed until the May meeting to give members time to find out additional information about the situation. Professor Shingavi said the case was in the federal circuit court with an impending decision by the end of the month so there was an urgency in passing the resolution.  He added if members were not prepared to vote now, he did not want to force a vote; however, he would like the faculty to affirm the spirit of the resolution that supported free speech rights for faculty members. He said the original ruling in Garcetti v. Cerballos indicated that an exception applied to faculty members, but the exception was basically being overturned by the NEIU administration.

Professor David Hillis (integrative biology) asked if a “yes” vote would just approve the resolution itself and not the background material? He commented that the resolution was quite objective and well written, but the background discussion contained more subjective language than the resolution itself. Chair Friedman replied his understanding was the resolution would just be the two paragraphs following “be it resolved that.” Professor Strong asked if the minutes of the Council meeting would reflect only the resolution because she also was concerned about the language in the background material. Chair Friedman responded that the secretary would need to answer that question. Secretary Greninger said the minutes would refer to the document number as being approved and the background would be a part of the document.  She added that she would prefer the resolution by itself because she had some reservations about the language in the background material and was not knowledgeable herself about the specifics of the Capeheart case. Professor Shingavi said he was amenable to excising the background material if that would expedite the vote on the resolution.

Professor Yates was concerned that Council members would be endorsing and supporting the faculty member’s lawsuit if the resolution passed. He said he thought the Council members were endorsing and supporting faculty freedom and free speech, but he wondered if the wording could be interpreted that the Council might be willing to provide financial support if it were requested. He said he was not prepared to endorse and support a specific suit given the limited information he had about the situation. Secretary Greninger added she was very much in favor of academic freedom, but she didn’t think she could vote in favor of the resolution until she knew more than she currently did about the lawsuit and would prefer to delay the vote until the May Council meeting.

When Chair Elect Hilley asked Professor Shingavi if he had mentioned that the court decision was unlikely to come down until the end of the month, he responded he did not know, but it was pending in the appellate court. Chair Elect Hilley said she understood the hesitation among the Council members since they had just received the resolution to review. She asked if the Council might wait for even a week to take a vote? When Chair Friedman asked if she meant a mail ballot, Chair Elect Hilley asked it that were possible? The chair said it would be possible if a motion to that effect were passed or if Professor Shingavi withdrew the resolution and worked out a different accommodation for handling it. Chair Elect Hilley moved that the vote be postponed until April 30, and the motion was seconded. Chair Friedman said he was uncertain if the motion were debatable or not, and he noted that the parliamentarian was not present at the meeting.

Professor Hillis asked if Chair Elect Hilley was proposing to postpone the vote on this particular document until April 30 or was proposing that the resolution be revised and the background information removed or revised for  the a vote on April 30. Professor Hillis said he would argue against this particular document; if voting on the resolution were to occur, then he suggested that the resolution be clarified and the background material be omitted before the vote should occur. Chair Elect Hilley said she had already made the assumption that the resolution without the background material would be used in a mail ballot vote on April 30.  Chair Friedman asked if the chair elect’s motion were clear now and if everyone understood that the vote would be postponed until a mail ballot can be arranged for April 30 on the part of the document starting with the word “resolution.” When Secretary Greninger asked if a mail ballot assumed an email ballot, Chair Friedman said he was assuming an email ballot but that could be left up to the Office of the General Faculty and Faculty Council. Senior Lecturer Leslie Vaaler (mathematics) asked if a “yes” vote on the motion meant there could not be an improvement in the language of the resolution, such as the revision suggested by Professor Yates to change the word endorse.  Chair Friedman asked Chair Elect Hilley if her intention, as part of the motion, was that the maker of the resolution be allowed to change some wording if he decided to do so? The chair elect said she approved Professor Yates’ suggested change and would agree to changes in wording to the extent that the maker (Professor Shingavi) wished to provide them. Chair Friedman asked if there were any other comments or questions, and there were none. He called for the vote, and the motion was unanimously approved by voice vote.

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