Saturday, November 1, 2014

Admin: We Don't Need No Stinkin' Due Process





By Professor Doom
 
     I very often hear in the news how tenure, the supposed “guaranteed job” is such a bad thing in higher education.  Tenure supposedly granted protection against loss of job, which the tenured faculty can only lose through a due process, outlined in written policy. 

    Tenured professors can be tough to fire, but they can be abused in a myriad of ways all the same.

     Don’t get me wrong, I see tenure as a serious problem in the public schools, but in higher education? Tenure is basically dead, as most college courses are now taught by minimally paid adjuncts anyway…tenured faculty, while not rare, are now uncommon, and are a dying breed.

     Even the ‘old guard’ that acquired tenure back when a good part of higher education was legitimate realize their job protection means nothing. A recent, long-running case at a school I know a little about really highlights what has happened in higher education.

      “Hammond High”

--how the locals refer to Southeastern Louisiana University, SLU, located in Hammond, Louisiana. Many less prestigious universities have names that more accurately describe them (my alma mater is called “Coppertone U.”).

      A tenured professor at SLU, while serving on a grants committee, realized that money was being assigned inappropriately. So, he filed a grievance, as per the written polices of the institution. The response from administration was, of course, bizarre, with admin saying that faculty wasn’t allowed to file grievances, despite what policy says.


 --heh, the poor guy thought admin would have to follow its own rules? They don’t need no stinkin’ rules. As far as administrators are concerned, words mean whatever they want them to mean, no more, no less. I wish I were joking.


      Eventually, Dr. Rushing was put in unpaid leave for nearly a year. No, he wasn’t abusing students, since admin doesn’t have a problem with that. No, he wasn’t refusing to teach courses, or in any way not do his job. He was put on unpaid leave because he was complaining about illegitimate practices at the institution.

     Ok, sure, tenure means you can’t be fired. But you can frivolously be put on leave without pay, and not allowed to come on campus or associate with students. Is it really hair-splitting to say that’s pretty much the same as being fired?

     “I don’t understand. I gave a test, but nobody did anything. Almost all the students passed back blank papers. Do I fail them all? What’s going on here?”

--A friend of mine started working at SLU near the turn of the century, and wrote me to ask for some teaching advice, based on what was happening to him at SLU. I didn’t have much to say, because at that time I was unaware there were whole universities operating like this. The next semester, when he was told that his job depended on passing 85% of his students, he sought work elsewhere. He’s doing fine now.

 
     Luckily, the professor had considerable savings, and was willing to fight. Fight a very long time:

This story gets worse….much worse….because it went on and on… over 10 years…as Dr Rushing will share his legal nightmare. So why go through so much trouble to deny this professor due process and freedom of speech and access to the court system?
Could it be, as Dr Rushing states, that evidence exists to prove that in January 2000 then University of Louisiana System President Bobby Jindal rejected grievances and requests for investigations sent by Dr Rushing; that Jindal returned the professor’s certified mail marked “refused”!

      Read that again: 10 years of legal battling. 10 years of wildly inappropriate, unprofessional behavior making it all but impossible to get a resolution. Seriously, refusing to accept certified mail during legal proceedings? That’s kinda ridiculous, considering all communication must be in writing.

      Have I come close to describing how *untouchable* administration is in higher education? I defy anyone to find an article detailing the well-justified firings and  “permanent leaves without pay” distributed to SLU’s administration for this sort of behavior.    Mr. Jindal is governor of Louisiana now, to give some idea of how much this scandal affected him.

    Me, looking at a document regarding about $50,000 of funds being inappropriately used: “I see the committee wrote that 2 + 3 + 2 + 4 = 5.5.  It’s actually more like 11. How did you guys get that number? I don’t see any indication you were supposed to divide by 2 or something.”

     Admin: “We were estimating.”

--I never did have success convincing admin about this, although many of my colleagues laughed long and hard over the mistake…for the first year, anyway, after which it became clear that due process would be denied no matter how politely the offended parties asked for it. Not everyone can fight for 10 years, after all. Do keep in mind these people claim ultimate responsibility over the education of our young adults.


      I’ve written before of the kangaroo court system that is used in higher education, and have been on both sides of it a few times. I’ve documented both extreme corruption, and extraordinary incompetence by these Ph.D.-holding plunderers of our future.

      Me: “I see why this procedure is being rejected. You’ve allocated resources to two different categories. The policy says categories are mutually exclusive."

      Admin: “So?”

      Me: “Mutually exclusive means you can’t put the same resources into two different categories. The policy even gives examples of violations, much like what has been done here.”

      Admin: “What do you mean?”

      Me: “Once you assign something to one category, you can’t assign it to something else. That’s why many of the numbers don’t make any sense. You’ve got a 33% overlap between these two categories here, for example.”

       Admin: “We interpreted ‘mutually exclusive’ to mean up to a 1/3 overlap, and this isn’t up for discussion.”

--- While greed and evil are certainly motivation for some administrators, I do acknowledge that sheer stupidity can explain some of their erratic behavior. The punishment I took for even trying to help was pretty extreme.


     While some say that Dr. Rushing is a success story, I disagree. Yes, he managed to overcome the brute strength and petulant pettiness of administrators…but he had to fight for 10 years, with every little basic consideration only provided after admin was legally forced to act with a modicum of decency.

     That’s what the “due process” from tenure means now: if you’re willing to fight for ten years, endure prolonged “leave without pay” and a host of other abuses, then, you too, can be a tenured professor with integrity in today’s higher education system.   

     Whoop de do. Please don’t expect tenured faculty to do much about the corruption of higher education…they don’t have the power, they don’t have the numbers. Seeing as the average age of tenured faculty is around 55, they don’t have the time for 10+ year court battles, either.

     Dr. Rushing was very, very, lucky. Most teachers in higher education aren’t paid nearly enough to be able to afford a lawyer, instead they’re paid enough to qualify for welfare. They’re in no position to afford being unpaid for a year, and -certainly not enough to afford to fight a decade-long battle for even basic rights.

     Tenure is not the problem in higher education today, not by a long shot.