GWU Slammed by AAUP For Violating Tenure During Pandemic
An Outspoken Tenured Professor Was Suspended Without "Cause" or a Hearing
Public interest law professor John Banzhaf says that he may be a canary in a coal mine, and a harbinger of what GWU and other universities might try to do in order to slash costs or to rid themselves of outspoken professors.
This could be particularly serious because many professors at GWU are at risk for publicly calling for the censure if not dismissal of its president and provost, and have strongly condemned many of their actions, some of which were rolled back as a result of these widespread professorial complaints.
The AAUP, along with another major independent higher education organization, has demanded Professor Banzhaf's reinstatement, and the Department of Justice, the Office of Human Rights, the American Bar Association (which regulates law schools), and other bodies are mulling formal complaints against the university.
This determination by the AAUP is particularly important because the standards of the two independent bodies which accredit or regulate law schools in the U.S. - the American Bar Association [ABA] and the Association of American Law Schools [AALS] - require adherence to the standards regarding tenure of the AAUP.
In its similar letter of warning to GWU, the influential Foundation for Individual Rights in Education [FIRE] wrote GWU's action amounts to "an end-run around the protections of tenure."
Suspending a tenured faculty member is very rare if not virtually unprecedented, at least in the absence of a declaration of financial exigency or a slashing of course offerings, because of the huge barriers created by tenure. Thus many universities have declined - or failed - to rid themselves of even faculty members who have engaged in egregious actions.
Here, says Banzhaf, GWU has never even articulated a valid "cause" for his suspension without pay, much less held a hearing at which it would have the burden of proving it.
Banzhaf also notes that he was outspoken in criticizing GWU's announced plans to hold in-person classes in the Fall despite the enormous risks of COVID-19, especially to the many professors who are over 65 and/or have medical conditions which make them at very high risk of death, disability, or hospitalization.