High Court’s Decision In Favor of UVM Leaves Lecturers With No Protection Against Retaliation by Tenured Faculty

The April 3, 2019 decision by the Supreme Court of Vermont to side with the University of Vermont (UVM) and UVM’s department of economics following my appeal for wrongful denial of reappointment only confirms what many already know — non-tenured lecturers at UVM have no protection against prejudicial treatment and retaliation from motivated faculty, backed by officials. In my case, I was “targeted” (the word used by a former dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at UVM) because I “pushed the buttons” of colleagues.

The same dean wrote that if UVM faculty “like” you, they will “pass” you, but if they don’t like you, for whatever reason, they “scrutinize” you — and they don’t reappoint you. When the Faculty Standards Committee (FSC) reviewed my teaching record, they unofficially concluded that UVM’s Department of Economics Chair was “out to get” me (a whistleblower from the committee came forward to tell me this — which was entered into evidence). The same FSC voted unanimously to reappoint me (5-0), stating that I “met the standard for reappointment.” Yet UVM ignored its own advisory committee and kicked me out (please excuse the hyperbole).

For the record, I was well known for sounding the alarm about how out of touch the mainstream economics profession has become — and UVM’s core curriculum — particularly given pressing problems in today’s world related to serial financial instability, climate change (aka, global warming), and growing economic inequality. The standard model, still exclusively taught to UVM students in its core curriculum, and which I have taught exceptionally well for over 30 years, I argued was enabling these problems — and I showed the students how and why it was doing so. Evidence in the record shows, for example, that my ecological critiques and alternative ecological models (like the “invisible foot” of markets, for example) were not welcome in UVM’s Department of Economics, a department that evidence shows actively sought to prevent alternative ecological economics from being taught alongside the standard model.

I will be writing a full analysis of the high court’s decision soon, and issues related to media coverage of it. Meanwhile, I have a book in the works about teaching economics, the crisis of the profession and what happened to me at UVM. The working title is: Exile on College Street: How Sounding the Alarm about the Failure of Mainstream Economics Got Me Fired and Why it Matters to All of Us (Publisher to be announced soon). A film is being made about the same story.

For now, see the press release below for more details about the court’s decision, which was released by RiseUpFilming.com.

Burlington, VT, April 9, 2019 — The Vermont Supreme Court has affirmed a 2017 Vermont Labor Relations Board decision dismissing a grievance for wrongful denial of reappointment brought by former UVM lecturer of economics, John Summa. 

The former lecturer, and award-winning filmmaker, had this to say upon hearing the news: [VTdigger.org’s report on the decision excluded the following prepared statements sent to them]

“The Court’s decision only confirms what many already know, that a non-tenured lecturer at UVM has no protection whatsoever from vindictive and prejudicial treatment by faculty with a retaliatory motive,” says Summa. “I am the third maverick (all members of the Union for Radical Political Economics) economist to be kicked out of the Department of Economics on flimsy grounds, so there is clearly a trend here,” Summa adds.

The Court wrote that there was “virtually no evidence” of a violation of the lecturer’s academic freedom, sidestepping the evidence and arguments filed in Dr. Summa’s briefs showing unsubstantiated claims by the Chair and proven false statements by faculty about his teaching.

“Fortunately I defeated UVM’s motion to ban cameras from the two-day Labor Board hearings, which allowed me to preserve the evidence about my wrongful removal from teaching,” says Summa. “The video footage is pretty damming and will be cut into a feature documentary about my case,” Summa adds. 

Evidence that came to light after the Vermont Labor Relations Board hearings held in February 2017 include memos from the former Provost that contradict his own sworn testimony, and statements made by the Chair. Additionally, Dr. Summa has an email written by a former Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences in which the Dean writes that “clearly” the faculty “targeted” him because he “pushed their buttons”.

The former Dean concluded that Dr. Summa received a “prejudicial” review, which is the same conclusion UVM’s Faculty Standards Committee (FSC) reached after it reviewed the facts. According to a whistleblower on the FSC, the entire committee believes the Chair was “out to get” Dr. Summa. Many UVM students also saw through the machinations of the Chair and some of her colleagues. They signed a petition demanding Dr. Summa’s reappointment, but this was ignored by UVM. 

“When hundreds of students, a former Dean, and the Faculty Standards Committee at UVM all reach the same conclusion, essentially that I was railroaded out of teaching, and the Court fails to find any fault on the part of UVM, it suddenly became clear to me why the Center for Public Integrity gave Vermont a failing grade when it reviewed the state’s judicial system,” says Summa.  

The former lecturer can be reached at 802-846-7509 or by sending an email to info@riseupfilming.com. Learn more about Dr. Summa’s case at his blog deadendeconomics.com

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