“John is a huge asset to UVM” — a dean’s “awkward” words UVM’s Department of Economics Chair sought to delete from my dossier!

“John’s strength as a teacher is well known by all in the Student Affairs Division of the Dean’s Office. We are often the first folks to hear when a course is going poorly or when an instructor is perceived as weak. Conversely we are also quite likely to hear when an instructor is exceptional- and that is the case with John. Students enjoy his classes, consider him to be approachable, fair and challenging.…John is a huge asset to UVM…” — Patricia Corcoran, Associate Dean, University of Vermont’s College of Arts and Sciences

At my public hearing before the Vermont Labor Relations Board, I entered into evidence emails obtained through public records requests I made early in the grievance process. Already published here at this blog is one email showing the Chair sought to remove from my teaching dossier a letter of strong support written by Patricia Corcoran. Patricia Corcoran is an Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at UVM (now retired). The letter described me as “a huge asset to UVM” and a lecturer who is “exceptional,” one that “students enjoy”  and “consider…to be approachable, fair and challenging.” Why would the Chair find this letter a problem? She claimed it was “inappropriate” for Corcoran to have written it. My take: the chair was being contradicted by a highly respected official who many trusted as knowledgable about teachers and, I argue, the chair wanted me removed from teaching. Based on her own already written peer observations of my teaching (extremely negative), it seems clear that the Dean’s letter stood in her way, and might have been a basis for the Dean to side with his faculty standards review committee, which unanimously voted me reappointed based on the same dossier the chair reviewed.  

In one of the emails I obtained pursuant to Vermont’s Public Records Act, the Chair wrote to the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences expressing her concern about having such a strong letter of support in my dossier. She expressed how it would be “awkward” for the Dept of Economics if the vote went against me, even though it is my right to include such a letter, acknowledged by the Provost and Dean under oath! (a fact the chair lamented). The date of the email reveals that the Chair had already written her negative letters about my teaching. So this letter by Dean Corcoran contradicted what the Chair was saying about my teaching.

In a subsequent post, I will present evidence that I argue shows the Chair’s “biggest” concern about my teaching in her summary statement about my teaching was false. During the two-day hearing I argued the Chair’s pivotal (“biggest”) concern had no factual basis (aside from the chair’s words), and witnesses (the peers who apparently were the basis for the Chair’s claim) called by me were unable to demonstrate with facts or argument a basis for this key conclusion that led to my ouster. The Chair cited two faculty peers’ letters as the source of the biggest concern, but these faculty peers, called as witnesses by me, were unable to provide any evidence supporting the Chair’s biggest concern. Meanwhile,  I showed, using logic and facts, that the Chair’s concern was contradicted by the facts. In fact, I argued this proved the claim was manufactured! (the chair invented it, as a convenient trope, in my opinion) More on this later. The Dean would later reiterate this demonstrably false concern in his denial of my grievance filed initially to him (Step2).