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DePaul Accused Of Denying Tenure To Minority Professors

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In 2007, Chicago's DePaul University attracted national attention when it denied tenure to the controversial Israeli-Palestine scholar Norman Finkelstein. The school was accused of allowing outsiders to influence its decision, and not following proper procedure in its tenure process. Two years later, the university again was criticized when it denied tenure to four women and one minority man. Students and other faculty members called the school's tenure process racist and sexist.

Just one year later, it's happening again.

Namita Goswami, a philosophy professor who was born in India, joined DePaul in 2003. She has since "published and won the university's highest teaching award," according to the Chicago Sun-Times. But last month, she was denied tenure by the school. Now, Goswami and African American chemistry professor Quinetta Shelby are challenging the university's tenure process--which has been called "broken" by outside academic groups and DePaul faculty members.

The Chicago News Cooperative reports:

DePaul president Dennis Holtschneider denied allegations that race was a factor in the tenure review board's decisions, though a statement released today by the university said he was "concerned at the number of faculty of color whose tenure applications were unsuccessful" in June 2010.

The statement said Holtschneider rejected the tenure appeal made by Namita Goswami, an assistant professor of philosophy who specializes in postcolonial race theory. She was originally denied tenure in June, her research was deemed, "insufficiently philosophical," she said, but she appealed the decision to a faculty board. For the first time in the university's history, that board found the tenure decision to be a violation of academic freedom--meaning that it unjustly compromised Goswami's ability to do research.

Meaning, Holtschneider denied tenure to Goswami even after the faculty board ruled that the process was unjust--violating the faculty handbook. Shelby also appealed the tenure denial, and an appeals board ruled that she, too, should have been granted tenure.

Ann Russo, a professor of Gender Studies at DePaul, told the CNC that tenure reviewers may have based their decisions on "underlying sexist and racists assumptions." Russo pointed out one particularly sexist comment made by the review board: that Goswami's only strong article was "co-authored with her husband."

Goswami, Shelby and other faculty members are now calling on DePaul's Board of Trustees to do something about the schools broken tenure process. Mayoral candidate Gery Chico is on the board, along with Chicago Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey.

"We need more faculty with tenure to step up and support these faculty members denied their academic freedom," Peter Kirstein, the vice president of the Illinois-Association of American University Professors, told the CNC.

If the school's decision is not reversed, both Goswami and Shelby's contracts will end in June.