The Daily Northwestern

University drops campus ban on political science Prof. Jacqueline Stevens

Political+science+Prof.+Jacqueline+Stevens+speaks+at+a+campus+event+last+winter.+The+University+lifted+Stevens%27+ban+from+campus+on+Monday.+
Political science Prof. Jacqueline Stevens speaks at a campus event last winter. The University lifted Stevens' ban from campus on Monday.

Political science Prof. Jacqueline Stevens speaks at a campus event last winter. The University lifted Stevens' ban from campus on Monday.

Daily file photo by Zack Laurence

Daily file photo by Zack Laurence

Political science Prof. Jacqueline Stevens speaks at a campus event last winter. The University lifted Stevens' ban from campus on Monday.

Julia Jacobs, Editor in Chief

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Political science Prof. Jacqueline Stevens has been cleared to return to Northwestern’s campus immediately after completing a required fitness-for-duty evaluation, according to a letter from Weinberg Dean Adrian Randolph sent to Stevens on Monday.

Stevens will be permitted to teach her Fall Quarter undergraduate class and advise students, Randolph wrote in the letter. But the dean said he is also considering disciplinary action based on interactions with colleagues that have “demonstrated a lack of civility and are in contravention of our policies.”

The University put Stevens on immediate leave and prohibited her from contact with students at the end of July, according to a letter Randolph sent to Stevens that she recently disclosed on her blog. The decision was based on reports that she posed a threat to campus safety — an action Stevens maintains was baseless.

The professor publicized the University’s action at the beginning of September on her blog, where she also included the dean’s letter taking her off leave. Stevens wrote in a blog post Monday that she had attended the four-hour fitness-for-duty interview the previous week, after which she felt “cautiously optimistic” about the results.

“It now appears we have excluded the possibility that your conduct was unintentional,” Randolph wrote in Monday’s letter to Stevens. “We will now turn to how to remedy problems in both your teaching and conduct with the understanding that your behavior is intentional and controllable.”

Stevens wrote in Tuesday’s blog post that the University’s latest move is a “tactical retreat” but she believes the effort against her continues.

Randolph did not respond to a request for an interview but previously said the University would not comment on the issue to protect the privacy of the people involved. Stevens declined an interview request.

Randolph wrote in the letter that he is exploring with The Graduate School the prospect of disciplinary action after complaints from graduate students “put into question the quality of (Stevens’) teaching.”

In Tuesday’s letter, Randolph also requested Stevens “work with a coach” and/or take part in Northwestern’s Faculty and Staff Assistance Program — a counseling service — with the University shouldering the costs.

Although one of Stevens’ classes was cancelled due to low enrollment, she is scheduled to teach Deportation Law and Politics, which had 13 out of 15 seats filled as of Tuesday, according to CAESAR.

Weinberg senior Bit Meehan had been in contact with faculty for the past couple of weeks in an attempt to determine whether she should find a new advisor for her political science honors thesis. Meehan said she was frustrated that no one reached out to her with instruction in light of Stevens’ situation, but on Monday, she said she discovered she would be able to continue her work with her advisor.

Stevens maintains that the University’s action can be credited to her criticism of the institution and her political activism, including her role facilitating opposition to former ambassador Karl Eikenberry’s appointment to lead the Buffett Institute of Global Studies. The former lieutenant general pulled out of the position in April.

“The underlying events include perfectly normal actions and frictions typical of any department,” Stevens wrote in Monday’s blog post. “It was only my persistent and effective criticisms of NU, and the promise of more to come … that led administrators to take an unprecedented interest in grievances normally found to be laughable.”

However, political science Prof. Alvin Tillery has countered that Stevens’ ban is without connection to politics, saying her behavior was “threatening” and that he had been prepared to sue Stevens after she filed a complaint saying he screamed at her and slammed the door to his office — both claims that Tillery denies. The investigation into this altercation — spurred by Stevens requesting financial support from the University in legal proceedings — contributed to the University’s decision to put Stevens on leave at the end of July.

In the letter from Randolph to Stevens, dated July 28, the dean wrote the investigation by an independent investigator following the confrontation with Tillery found that “some colleagues state clearly that they fear you might physically attack them or instigate an attack against them,” fueling dysfunction in the political science department.

“Now that we know (Stevens’) bullying of staff, students and faculty in her department is intentional, I expect her to be held fully accountable for the consequences of her actions,” Prof. Sara Monoson, who chairs the political science department, told The Daily in an email.

Over the summer, Tillery — the department’s associate chair — said he moved office buildings from Scott Hall with the intention of escaping Stevens’ behavior toward him. In Randolph’s letter to Stevens from Monday, he informed the professor that her office would be moved Thursday from Scott Hall to 620 Lincoln Ave., with the option to use Kresge Hall in the interim.

Randolph’s letter to Stevens at the end of July notifying her that she was being placed on leave clarifies that the dean consulted with the Office of the Provost, the University’s Behavioral Consultation Team and the University’s Faculty Wellness Program in making the decision.

Although Randolph said the University’s action was in accordance with the Faculty Handbook, art history Prof. Stephen Eisenman — who oversaw the 2015 revision of the handbook as Faculty Senate president — said it was in “direct violation.” The handbook outlines that the faculty member posing a threat to safety see a psychiatrist before being put on involuntary medical leave. However, Stevens was put on leave prior to completing the evaluation, according to her account and Randolph’s letters.

University spokesman Al Cubbage did not respond to a request for comment.

Eisenman said he recognizes the “difficult position” the dean was in, but said if a faculty member is actually an urgent threat to themselves or others, immediate involuntary medical leave is not the proper option.

“If you feel that a person — a faculty member — is a danger to themselves or others and has to be kept from campus or faculty immediately, they can call the cops, they can get a restraining order,” he said.

Email: juliajacobs2018@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @juliarebeccaj

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