UVM’s privacy intrusion partially halted by Vermont Labor Relations Board

UVM admits on the record to “authorizing” searching and reading a former lecturer’s UVM emails, and in doing so implicitly admits to reading emails of UVM and non-UVM students and faculty, UVM staff,  journalists and lawyers (which is arguably a violation of attorney-client privilege).      

The following press release was sent out today from Rise Up Filming, LLC (full disclaimer — it is my film company). As is made abundantly clear in the press release (below), if you are party to any dispute involving UVM (directly or indirectly), it can lead to UVM seizing your emails without you knowing it.

This has happened to me and many students and faculty who communicated with me using UVM email accounts. Since every email sent or received by me has at least one other party involved on the other end, in my case it means that students, staff, faculty, journalists, and lawyers have had their emails snooped into by UVM lawyers in an effort to essentially find dirt to discredit my wrongful denial of reappointment grievance. How do I know this? This information came directly from the mouths of UVM lawyers (stated on the record) before the Vermont Labor Relations Board (in fact, I have my own audio recording of their revelation that UVM has “authorized” searching and reading my UVM emails).

During oral arguments before the Vermont Labor Relations Board on January 4, 2018, UVM lawyers told the Board (and me) that UVM had authorized searching and reading my UVM emails. The hearing was audio recorded by the Board. UVM does not want the UVM community to know this, so please read the press release below and then get yourself a secure email server.

During my oral arguments before the Board, meanwhile, I managed to defeat the UVM lawyers looking to have me hand over all my non-UVM emails (gmail, hotmail), plus all my private text messages, including inside Facebook Messenger. Yes, they wanted to read private email “chains” and texts related to my grievance. But arguments made by UVM lawyers were dead wrong, as the Board denied their motion to compel these private records, partially based on contradictions in their own arguments I highlighted in opposition to UVM’s motion.

At least for now, therefore, we have some safe space for communicating without fear of snooping by UVM. But not if you are using UVM emails.


PS,  Some BackgroundBecause I made a claim that my academic freedom was violated pursuant to UVM’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which is based on the factual record currently inside my dossier and two emails obtained through a public records request, UVM tried to argue that I must give up my private emails. The Board did not buy this assertion, and shot it down, dubbing it a “fishing expedition”.  My earlier public records request, just mentioned  produced two damaging internal UVM emails sent by the Chair of the Department of Economics, which undermines the position of UVM (these emails were reviewed by the Provost at the Step 3 grievance level, but swept under the rug). In one of them, the Chair discusses trying to remove a strong support letter from Associate CAS Dean Patricia Corcoran, lamenting the fact she could not get rid of it. This in an email sent to members of the Department of Economics before they even had reviewed by dossier and teaching records! In the second email obtained, the Chair excuses poorly rated teachers in the department because they are teaching “good” economics. This follows her acknowledgement that “nobody” in the department had an issue with my student evaluations, and that I met expectations in this area, and was even getting “better.”  So the poorly rated teachers are acceptable because they teach  economics in a way acceptable to the Chair. Clearly my ecological critiques of the standard model (after fully and fairly teaching it and testing students on it) and inclusion of classical competition (including Marxian) models (as opposed to exclusively and only teaching the heavily worshipped neoclassical and Keynesian models) were just too much for the Chair and other neoclassical members (and even so-called progressives) of the department to accept from an interloper lecturer, especially since I was popular and very accessible to students. Lacking any material facts, the Chair and two others described me as not teaching the standard model “fully and fairly,” which was cited as a “serious” concern leading to my ouster. Yet the factual record shows these faculty members intentionally (or possibly unintentionally) conflated provocative statements I made with the idea of not teaching fully and fairly the core curriculum’s neoclassical model, a model I have taught since 1989. I don’t want to give away too much of my key arguments to UVM’s lawyers (they are eager followers of this blog, haha). But let me just say that the evidence does not exist to support the neoclassical faculty’s key claim, as I will demonstrate at my February 14 and 15 hearing before the Vermont Labor Relations Board. Hope you can attend — it is a public hearing and it will be filmed, possibly even live-streamed. Meanwhile, see the press release below for more on UVM’s motion to compel release of private emails and texts.



Burlington, VT, January 26, 2018 — After several months of written and oral arguments before the Vermont Labor Relations Board, UVM’s motion to compel written discovery and force a former UVM economics lecturer to release grievance-related private emails has been ordered denied. The Vermont Labor Relations Board issued the denial, calling UVM’s move a “fishing expedition.”

“While my wrongful denial of reappointment grievance is still to be heard by the Board,“ says the former UVM lecturer John Summa, “the Board’s decision to deny UVM’s motion is a big victory for our privacy rights.”

Summa argued that there is no factual basis for UVM’s motion to compel release of private emails, and that the emails UVM want are irrelevant to his wrongful denial claim, which must be evaluated on the basis of the factual record related to his teaching and the procedures used to evaluate the former lecturer.

The Board’s decision, however, has not prevented UVM from reading student and faculty emails on UVM servers sent to and from the former lecturer. The Board’s order only applies to non-UVM emails and texts, including those sent privately on social media, like Facebook Messenger.

According to on-the-record oral arguments made January 4, 2018 in front of the Vermont Labor Relations Board by UVM lawyers, UVM has already “authorized” searching and reading UVM emails of the popular and maverick lecturer, which includes emails from hundreds of students and faculty who communicated with Summa about his grievance and other matters over the eight years he was teaching at UVM.

“UVM claims it has the right to read our emails because they own the servers on which these emails reside,” Summa notes. “Students and faculty therefore have no right to privacy if they are communicating with their UVM emails, and anything written can be used against you in a dispute with the University,” Summa adds.

Meanwhile, in response to a recent VT public records request by a New York-based journalist, UVM has refused to hand over a Provost order authorizing internal searching and reading of the former lecturer’s emails, which includes reading emails sent to and from his former students and colleagues, citing exemptions allowed under state law. The document requested by the journalist is currently under appeal.

The full hearing of Summa’s grievance will take place February 14 and 15 at the Vermont Labor Relations Board in Montpelier, VT. Appearing to testify among others will be UVM Provost David Rosowsky, on February 14 at 10 a.m. The event is a public hearing and will be filmed by Summa for a documentary he is making about his grievance, based partly on his assertion that his academic freedom was violated.

Facts in support of Summa’s claim include a favorable and unanimous vote by UVM’s Faculty Standards Committee (FSC) in favor of his reappointment. This decision followed a full and impartial review by the FSC of the Department of Economics evaluation process. The FSC concluded that the former lecturer “met the standard for reappointment.”

Rise Up Filming, LLC is a Vermont-based company founded by John Summa in 2013. John Summa, who was denied reappointment in early 2017 after 8 years of full-time teaching at UVM in the Department of Economics, is a veteran teacher, journalist, author, and award-winning filmmaker. He is a member of the Union for Radical Political Economics (URPE) and has written for Dollars & SenseInvestopedia.com (now owned by Forbes), Extra!Multinational MonitorToward Freedom, among other publications. He has written four books on quantitative finance topics, which are published by John Wiley & Sons. He resides in Burlington, Vermont with his wife and two children.

John Summa can be reached at 802-846-7509 or by sending an email to info@riseupfilming.com.

# # #