MARK MCPHAIL, Ph.D., former IU Northwest Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. (Photo credit: IUN)
AAUP report concludes university has unwelcoming racial climate
The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) published an investigative report on the summary suspension and dismissal of Dr. Mark McPhail, a tenured professor of communications at Indiana University Northwest in Gary, Indiana, who had previously served as the institution’s chief academic officer.
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, including “words to the effect that ‘the only way to end racism is to kill all the white people.’” No accuser was identified, and no criminal charges were filed.
The investigating committee found that, in acting against McPhail, the administration disregarded AAUP-supported standards of academic due process.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Crusader contacted Indiana University Northwest for an interview and/or comment on the AAUP report. We received the following statement from the IUN spokesperson Emily Banas, who is the marketing and communications strategist. “We disagree with the findings in the AAUP report. Because this involves ongoing litigation, we cannot comment further at this time.”
More information on AAUP censure can be found online at aaup.org, search for “What Is Censure.”
The full AAUP report on Indiana University Northwest is available at aaup.org, search for Academic Freedom and Tenure: Indiana University Northwest.
The mission of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is to advance academic freedom and shared governance; to define fundamental professional values and standards for higher education; to promote the economic security of faculty, academic professionals, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and all those engaged in teaching and research in higher education; to help the higher education community organize to make our goals a reality; and to ensure higher education’s contribution to the common good. Founded in 1915, the AAUP has helped to shape American higher education by developing the standards and procedures that maintain quality in education and academic freedom in this country’s colleges and universities.
A follow-up story to this report will be published in a future issue of the Gary Crusader.