CU Denies Barnett Request for AAUP Observer at Privilege and Tenure Hearing

In early November David Barnett, a philosophy professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder (CU), requested that an AAUP observer be present at his dismissal hearing before CU’s Privilege and Tenure Committee (P&T), December 4-5. In a case that has attracted local and national notice, CU has charged Barnett with retaliation for a report he submitted to CU President Bruce Benson and Chancellor Phil DiStefano that was critical of a guilty finding by the CU Office of Discrimination and Harassment against a CU graduate student.

According to the AAUP’s Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure (RIR), 5c6, “At the request of either party or the hearing committee, a representative of a responsible educational association will be permitted to attend the proceedings as an observer.” However, the Chair of the P&T committee, Thomas Napierkowski, turned down Barnett’s request, citing a CU Regents law that is in conflict with the RIR.

On November 17, the Colorado Conference, in a letter to Napierkowski that outlines numerous ways in which CU appears to have violated Barnett’s due process protections to date, requested that Napierkowski reconsider his decision:

“[T]here is no more grievous threat to academic freedom than the disregard of due process procedures in the dismissal of tenured faculty. It is the obligation of colleges and universities to adopt policies and regulations that are consistent with AAUP policies. Hypothetically, in the event of a national investigation into the practices of the University of Colorado’s administration regarding the academic freedom of faculty, it is not the laws of the institution but the standards of the AAUP to which the institution will be held. Thus a good faith adherence to AAUP policy regarding due process for faculty protects both faculty and the institution.”

On November 19 Laurie Gaspar, chair of the P&T hearing panel, denied the Colorado Conference request.

Here is the Conference letter to P&T Chair Napierkowski: