Now comes my fourth argument and conclusion of law based on my 100 proposed findings of facts submitted to the Vermont Labor Relations Board (VLRB) on March 1, 2018 following a grievance hearing held February 14 and 15. UVM lawyers were out in full force (including UVM’s general counsel) to monitor their hired-gun lawyer, Ritchie Berger. Berger is known in the business as the “Terminator” (for his aggressive impeachment tactics) and he works at Dinse, Knapp and McAndrew, Burlington, Vermont.
The following conclusion of law is a natural segue from my first argument and conclusion of law posted earlier. Conclusions II and III will be posted later this weekend. The VLRB decision is expected any day now. ~JS
IV. GRIEVANT’S ACADEMIC FREEDOM RIGHTS BREACHED
A. PROVOCATIVE STATEMENTS CITED AS A BASIS FOR DENIAL OF THE GRIEVANT’S REAPPOINTMENT
B. PROVOCATIVE STATEMENTS ABOUT MATTERS OF GREAT PUBLIC CONCERN ARE PROTECTED CATEGORIES OF FREE SPEECH
C. ARTICLE 14.13.c, PURSUANT TO CBA ARTICLE 6.2, IS VIOLATED
ARTICLE 6.2 STATES:
“Freedom in research in fundamental to the search for truth, and academic freedom, in its teaching aspects, is fundamental to the protection of the rights of the faculty member in teaching and of the student to freedom in learning.”
ARTICLE 14.13 c. gives a faculty member the right to grieve a violation of Article 6.2.
The Dept. of Economics, led by Chair Sara Solnick, claimed in a summary statement to the Dean about the Grievant’s teaching that the standard model must be taught fully and fairly before attempting to criticize it, and that criticism of the standard model, or discussion of any alternative models, was not the issue they had with the Grievant’s teaching (see UVM’s Answer).
As the proposed findings of facts demonstrate in SECTION I, any claim of not teaching the standard model fully and fairly has no basis in fact, one of the biggest concerns faculty purportedly had, and one that was expressed to the Dean in support of the vote against the Grievant by the faculty members of the Department. It should be made clear that some senior faculty (Full professor Jane Knodell, Shirley Gedeon, Art Wolf, and full professor Bill Gibson) never directly witnessed the Grievant’s teaching in the 2016 review process. Of these four, only Shirley Gedeon has ever seen the Grievant teach (one visit n 2012). Therefore, these faculty relied on 6 members of the Department (most of whom are standard model trained only). One, Dr. Marc Law, is a senior Fellow at the libertarian think tank, the Fraser Institute (See UVM Exhibit 66). Only one is a non-standard model professor, Dr. Stephanie Sequino. The non peer letter writing faculty vote would largely depend on the peer letters of these faculty — letters that have become suspect, as the proposed findings of facts support.
If the Grievant was teaching the standard model fully and fairly, as has been shown in SECTION I above, then Chair and Dean claims against the Grievant’s provocative statements about the standard model have no rational basis, and become suspect. Provocative statements were cited by the Chair as a concern leading to the negative vote by faculty, but it was made clear that it was not the provocative statements themselves that was the issue. Instead, it was not teaching the standard model fully and fairly first that leads the Chair to state to the Dean the following: “the [standard model] must be presented fully and fairly before its limitations are examined.” (See UVM Exhibit 24, p.000065)
Without its premise (must present the model fully and fairly first), the Chair’s (and Dean’s) conclusion is false — that the Grievant was conducting criticism of the standard model not in line with pedagogical standards. If the contrary is true, as the proposed findings of facts show, then any concerns expressed about the Grievant’s provocative statements reveal faculty disapproval of criticism itself, which is a violation of the academic freedom of the Grievant.
The Grievant has a right to make provocative statements, especially if they followed the design of the course pursuant to a syllabus. Dr. Donna Ramirez-Harrington and Chair Sara Solnick acknowledged the the provocative statements came after presenting the standard model in three separate classes following the syllabus outline (two standard models — Heckscher-Ohlin and Supply/Demand Partial Equilibrium trade model).
The record shows that when the Chair arrived to review the Grievant’s EC143 class, the course was (at that point) in a section identified in the syllabus as going “beyond the neoclassical [standard model] perspective” and that the class she attended was designed to critique the standard model from an ecological point of view (exploring the standard model in light of “nature’s transactions costs” which in particular involved a look at carbon pollution as an externality).
As the Chair stated in her testimony when asked to point out a provocative statement made by the Grievant that was a concern, she pointed to “Every Big Mac has a piece of the Amazon Rainforest in it but” (a concept that the Chair under examination conceded was an example of an “externality” taught in economics). The Big Mac example was explained to the class as an illustration of how Globalization is an “externalizing machine” and that through “regulatory arbitrage” transnational corporations can do end-runs around national regulations and not pay the transactions costs of using and abusing nature (here the Amazon Rainforest). This was linked to inequality and its link to the demand for products producing externalities. (see Grievant Exhibit 40).
Under examination, Dr. Josh Farley, a tenured economist at UVM’s Community Development and Applied Economics (CDAE) testified that ecological models like the one presented by the Grievant were common to Dr. Farley’s classes and others in CDAE. Josh Farley testified that on two separate occasions he tried to cross-list non-standard model economics courses with the Department of Economics, including an effort in 2015 prompted by a student coalition. The coalition was seeking more diversity of courses. On both attempts, and for contradictory reasons noted by Dr. Farley, the cross listings were denied by the Department of Economics.
In UVM Exhibit 11, the Grievant is interviewed by The Cynic about teaching at UVM and concerns expressed by students about the lack of diversity of models in the Department of Economics. The reporter John Reidel presented select comments made by the Grievant during a long interview about his subjective belief that he had academic freedom (he had not been denied reappointment yet). Despite Summa’s belief that he had freedom to teach models that included Marxian theory, the author also wrote that “Summa said that the economics profession has been at war with itself, resulting in neoclassical ideas often dominating the classroom.”
Kevin Santamaria, in the same article is reported to have said that “economic students have been unhappy with the lack of topics covered within the courses offered by the department of economics.” Kevin Santamaria is quoted as saying: “There are just so many different kinds of economics and the fact that students only get exposed to one perspective, is so limiting, because not only are you being exposed to only one perspective, but that one perspective is never challenged.”
Dr. Josh Farley testified that CDAE allows cross listing of Department of Economics standard model courses for credit, but that the Department of Economics did not reciprocate with non-standard model courses allowed to be cross-listed, and thus this denies credit courses to economics majors in non-standard economics courses that challenge strongly the standard model taught at CDAE.
The Grievant was well known as a challenging heterodox lecturer, as the Chair acknowledged in her testimony (Solnick testimony 20180214-1404 at 1:00:59-1:02:16). Ecological critiques of the standard neoclassical model were part of the courses visited by Chair Solnick, one that she found to be “provocative”. Dr. Ramirez-Harrington also noted that the Grievant made provocative statements, claiming, as did the Chair, that these statements are not the problem. It is the Grievant’s alleged failure to present the standard model fully and fairly first before undertaking criticism of it that is their main concern.
The proposed findings of facts support the argument that the Department of Economics is unwilling to tolerate teachers challenging the standard model from critical ecological perspectives. The Grievant’s proposed findings of facts support the argument that models were presented fully and fairly and before criticism was undertaken. Therefore, there is no rational basis for criticizing the provocative statements made by the Grievant, even if the Chair and other peers claim these statements were not discussed enough or explained well, claims that can hardly be taken seriously given the findings of facts proposed in this document (see SECTION I).
The Grievant submits that the concern over provocative statements had more to do with dislike of a lecturer who strongly challenges conventional standard model economics, which lie at the core of curriculum in the Department of Economics. The Grievant has standard model training and Ph.D level training as a heterodox, non-standard model economist, which includes Marxian, Post-Keynesian and Neo-Ricardian economics. He also strongly emphasizes ecological concerns in all his classes (UVM Exhibit 6 and 24).
The Grievant described his philosophy in his 2016 Greensheets:
“I incorporate (where applicable) analysis of the environment impact of economic activity (e.g., the spillover costs to society) into every course I teach. The aim is to model the economy (and markets) not as an isolated domain, but one that is embedded inside society and the natural sphere.”
He adds a description of his “multi-paradigmatic:” approach:
“Through the juxtaposition of competing schools of thought in economics (instead of presenting just one) student interest in the subject is stimulated. This effort involves a strong emphasis in my course on real-work economics, exploring use [implications] of highly restrictive assumptions, and examining the internal consistency of analytical structures. It is challenging, and sometimes requires students to both learn and unlearn models.”
The denial of the Grievant’s reappointment rested partially on allegations of “provocative” statements about issues of great public concern (global warming, inequality). Yet the Grievant has a right to make provocative statements even if the statements about the standard model are disagreeable to the Chair and other standard model biased faculty. The Chair has no legitimate basis for citing provocative statements as a concern in her evaluation and summary statement to the Dean, given the proposed findings of facts. To claim that the Grievant “made provocative assertions that were not questioned or discussed,” even if it were true, cannot be a reason for denying the Grievant his reappointment (UVM Exhibit 24, pp.00066). It thus constitutes an infringement on the academic freedom rights of the Grievant, which are protected pursuant to Article 6.2 (among other CBA articles).
Article 6.2 states that:
“Academic freedom is essential to these purposes and applies to both research and teaching. Freedom in research is fundamental to the search for truth, and academic freedom, in its teaching aspects, is fundamental for the protection of the rights of the faculty member in teaching and of the student to freedom in learning.”
The 1940 AAUP Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom provides:
“Faculty are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject.”
The Grievant’s challenges to the standard model was considered not “good economics” as the proposed findings of facts show. In an email obtained through a public records request, written by the Chair to a faculty member, she states that the Grievant’s student evaluations are “acceptable”, and then excuses poorer-rated faculty who “are not considered a problem because they have good peer observations and are teaching good economics.” (emphasis added; UVM Exhibit 51).
The use of “good” economics belies any Chair claims to ideological impartiality and reveals her intent when criticizing the Grievant’s “provocative” heterodox, non-standard model statements—the Grievant is not teaching a version of economics that is acceptable to her and some fellow peers who have defined for themselves what constitutes good economics. The Grievant’s strong challenges to the standard model, by deduction, represent bad economics for the Chair, and thus exposes her standard model ideological bias.