UVM Provost grievance “review” committee sweeps ‘smoking-gun’ email and other evidence under the rug

Reading the report released by the Provost-level grievance review committee (containing one member picked by the Provost) is a lesson in feckless union support (the committee had a union representative) and the near uselessness of the entire grievance process due to the extremely narrow focus on procedural matters and deference to the administration’s side (hardly surprising). In this context, given my alleged violation of academic freedom (among contract violations, now before the Vermont Labor Relations Board), you need a smoking-gun document to win inside this citadel of cronyism. That is why I handed them one of my two smoking-gun emails obtained from one of my public records requests. Parts of it were even read to them aloud by me.

Yet the appalling content of this email written by the Chair of the Dept of Economics was swept under the rug (the Provost later described it as merely a ‘summary’ of views of my teaching, which is quite a blunt act in damage control), along with very damaging facts supplied previously by me in the reappointment process. Needless to say, their conclusion  misses the obvious conclusion anybody truly independent would have reached regarding the behavior of the Dept of Economics and Dean Falls. Unlike the College of Arts and Sciences own actually independent Faculty Standards Committee (FSC) , which reappointed me 5-0, with a strong rebuke to the Dept of Economics reappointment review process, this grievance “review” committee at the Provost level found no evidence of any violation of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). And, of course, they refused my request to interview FSC members to get their opinion.  

While not surprising, the committee’s deference to statements made by the Dean and Chair is shocking (I will release a more detailed critique soon), as is their suppression of evidence. I cannot wait to share their report with 700 petition signers, and the students who have been fighting for my reinstatement. I feel they are the real casualties here and, of course, their right to hear alternative economic viewpoints.

Despite some perfunctory minor, moot-point concerns expressed (mostly thrown in to make them appear as if they are not just rubber stamping Dean Falls’ decision to deny my grievance), the Provost level grievance review committee flat-out accepts the Dean and Chair of Economics statements uncritically. Despite having a “smoking-gun” email provided to them, showing a Chair bent on destroying me, where she states the “real reason” is “content” for “not letting me continue”  — and that I am not teaching “good economics”  — (whatever that means is not stated), the Provost level grievance review committee (which never addresses the “smoking-gun” email content) concludes there is no evidence of violation of academic freedom, one of my grievance points. Good thing I did not take the union’s advice to not provide the committee with the “smoking-gun” email. If I had, I would have no basis for arguing that the committee swept under the rug the most important document of all, an email that is appalling by all accounts.

Instead, the committee reproduces the Dean’s “evaluation” and denial of grievance “reasoning” (almost word for word) and uncritically accepts the Dean’s mere words over my hard evidence, with the most damaging facts completely ignored. In my meeting before the committee, I expressed that this would happen again, just like it happened with the Dean’s “evaluation” and denial of my grievance. This I told them as I gave them the “smoking-gun” email obtained through my public records request (cited above).

Again, this “smoking gun” email was not addressed in their report (but it is listed at the bottom of documents “reviewed” in the report). Furthermore, I asked them to look at how the letters were debunked in my rebuttal with verifiable facts, but not one word, once again, addresses my rebuttal and provided facts (which follows the same pattern identified in the Dean’s own “evaluation” and denial of my grievance).

I keep reminding myself that if a UVM review committee stated they had found evidence supporting my allegations, then some of the most senior members of the UVM community (senior full professors, a former Provost, and others in the Dept of Economics) would have their careers sullied! Not going to happen. Easier to throw a lecturer under the bus.

As is widely known around here privately, the only way to get a fair hearing in this institution (UVM) is by going (or threatening to go) to  Federal Court. This institution (UVM) is much too incestuous to expect anybody to stand up for non-tenured faculty, sadly. That is, to do the right thing. As one former Dean told me in private: “The tenured faculty have lecturers by the balls!”

-JS