Northwestern University professor Jacqueline Stevens hasn’t been shy about activism that shines a spotlight where the university might not welcome it.
A couple of years ago, for example, she was an outspoken supporter of the undergrad who brought a sexual harassment complaint against high-profile philosophy professor Peter Ludlow—it ended his career there.
And last year she was at the forefront of a successful campaign to squelch the appointment of retired U.S. Army lieutenant general Karl Eikenberry—a career officer whose military and government connections were stronger than his academic background—as head of Northwestern’s newly expanded research center, the Buffett Institute for Global Studies.
A tenured professor and recent Guggenheim fellow, Stevens founded Northwestern’s Deportation Research Clinic and has studied the operations of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), private prisons, and “the militarization” of her own field, political science. An article she published last year in the journal Perspectives on Politics used Northwestern as an example of a private university with what she calls a “militarized Board of Trustees,” who have a complex tangle of corporate ties and interests. She continues to investigate those ties.
Her efforts have not been universally appreciated on the Northwestern campus. And now, Stevens told me by phone this week, in retaliation for her activism and criticism, people in her department and the NU administration are trying to get rid of her. She says her research funds were cut last spring, and in late July she received a letter from dean Adrian Randolph banning her from campus and from any contact with students. According to Stevens the letter charges that other faculty members feel “unsafe” around her, and orders her to see a psychiatrist of Northwestern’s choosing to determine if she’s “fit for duty.”
Stevens has posted a detailed account of her Kafka-esque predicament, in which she writes that she has “never physically threatened, much less assaulted anyone.” She’s asking people who know her—colleagues and students who can vouch for her mental fitness and behavior—to write to Dean Randolph on her behalf.
Northwestern spokesman Alan Cubbage, responding to a request for comment, e-mailed: “Out of respect for due process and to protect Professor Stevens’ privacy, Northwestern will not be making public statements on the matter.”
Read Stevens’s story in her own words here.