Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Linguistics Professor Who Could Not Speak

Linguistics is the study of language. You would think that someone qualified to teach linguistics would be well-equipped to express thoughts, to speak clearly, but you would be wrong.

At Northeastern Illinois University, John Boyle was not granted tenure as a professor of linguistics because his speaking was not what the school's president was looking for.
Sharon "Don't Tread On Me" Hahs

John Boyle was not a close personal friend of Sharon Hahs. He dared to use his linguistic skills in criticizing her regime, citing various examples of what he saw as poor management when it came to the linguistics department being chopped up to set the Teaching English As A Second Language curriculum up as its own department. Normally, he would be free to say what he thought, but this being a small college located on Chicago's north side, it seems that Ms. Hahs took a page from her colleagues at Chicago State University and tried to quash all that free speech that was aimed at her.

All of his fellow professors at NEIU thought Mr. Boyle deserved tenure. Everyone in the chain of command thought he'd earned it. Until the promotion landed on Ms. Hahs' desk, it looked as though Mr. Boyle and fifteen other teachers would be granted tenure and they could relax in the comfort of job security.

Alas, it was not to be for Mr. Boyle and only Mr. Boyle.

Ms. Hahs rejected his tenure application, claiming that Mr. Boyle failed his students by steering them towards a study of linguistics rather than advising them to learn how to teach English to non-native speakers. That's probably where the money is, job-wise, but a man who specialized in linguistics would be expected to be partial to his passion.

The official body that watches over university faculty took a look and determined that Mr. Boyle's rejection was a case of retaliation. His decision to speak freely was punished by Ms. Hahs, who had no legitimate reason to deny tenure. The committee believed that the linguistics faculty's vote of no confidence in Ms. Hahs may have fueled her decision to keep Mr. Boyle from achieving the career landmark.

Mr. Boyle is currently without a job, having lost his case before the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board which sided with Ms. Hahs.

He has his pride intact, however, and can bask in the glow of vindication (from the Latin, I believe).

Whether he can land another university teaching job is unknown, however. There are few if any tenure track positions around these days, and there is this blot on his record that other schools might see as a red flag that warns of a potential troublemaker. Such is the cost of free speech at the collegiate level.

No comments: