Thursday, November 1, 2012

Response to the Anonymous Letter

Is this the way President Watson’s supporters respond? Rather than engaging the substantive issues raised in the Bill of Particulars from the Senate and Union, they try to change the conversation to one about the character of Phil Beverly?.

Much of the introductory material consists only of a rehash of personal grievances and a recycling of the contents of the scurrilous and anonymous flier distributed on campus during a Senate meeting last year. The use of evidence like this hardly does credit to the writer of this anti-Beverly screed. Otherwise, the letter is a subjective statement of personal belief, underpinned by several complete lies and/or partial truths.

The claim that “seven to ten members of the Senate shouted-down anyone who even quietly raised concern about these allegations . . .” is an outright lie. No such occurrence ever took place.

Similarly, the claim that the president expressed to Dr. Beverly his disappointment at how “he (Dr. Beverly) is constantly at odds with him rather than engaging in a sincere, shared-governance effort,” is a complete fabrication. The subsequent commentary about the president claiming that Beverly supported his candidacy is true, however, the remainder of that paragraph represents a lie by omission. Dr. Beverly took offense at this outright lie by the president and left the meeting after telling the president that if he wanted to lie about him, “he should do it behind my back.”

The entire commentary about the DAC process is subjective. The writer evidently feels that her interpretation is the only proper way to think about that incident. Simply put, the entire process was a violation of the contract, something the administration obviously realizes since they have abandoned their attempt to impose DACs on the university’s departments. I would suggest that the anonymous writer familiarize herself with both the contract and Board policies before making any claims that the entire process was “silliness.”

The writer takes pains to point out the “correct” way for faculty to think. Her critical thinking disquisition leads to a number of generalizations about how faculty have unfairly criticized Wayne Watson. The allegations include the following: “They have made public and private statements suggesting that he is mentally shallow; that he wants to hire only blacks; that he is an autocrat; that the Board of Trustees had no right to hire him; that he hates shared governance; that he hires cronies; that he is arrogant to a fault and never listens.” The first allegation is essentially true–this is simply a subjective belief that is every bit as valid as the anonymous writer’s succession of subjective assertions. As to the second, I have been personally told by at least two administrators that Watson told them to send him candidates from a specific racial demographic. I am not aware of this allegation being made in any kind of public forum, and I have no recollection of it ever appearing on the faculty blog. In my estimation, Watson’s autocratic tendencies have been on display for three years now, if the anonymous writer is still unconvinced, so be it. Watson’s lack of commitment, or even understanding of shared governance is undeniable. In a recent department meeting, he made clear he feels that it is an “unattainable” goal. His behavior in this regard has matched his rhetoric, as both Senate and UPI bill of particulars have documented. As for the final allegation, that is derived from numerous conversations with administrative and other personnel who have described him in those ways. Indeed, in his recent “listening tour,” he spoke excessively (nearly thirty-five minutes in our meeting). Nonetheless, nothing in the bill or particulars is specifically related to his unwillingness to listen.

As for the hiring in Criminal Justice, I can state unequivocally that there was no faculty involvement in the search process, which clearly contravenes the university’s own policies. The president claims that he instructed the provost to ensure “faculty involvement,” in the process but took that to mean faculty participation in the interviews. University policy requires that only unit A faculty be involved in faculty searches. In the Criminal Justice search, only the Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, an Associate Dean of the same College, and the Department Chair were on the search committee. This is indisputable. The search, which included the applications of 119 candidates, took only four days–beginning on August 10 and ending on August 13, so those candidates could hardly have been vetted by anyone, let alone the Criminal Justice Faculty. Finally, the anonymous writer accuses Beverly and others of “smearing these new faculty members’ reputation.” I would ask the writer to provide evidence of this claim. The bill of particulars only makes reference to their lack of qualifications based on the preferred qualifications for the job. Again, this is indisputable. Neither Lewis Myers nor Andre Grant have any publication record, a criterion for the position. In addition, Andre Grant has no teaching experience (a fact confirmed by at least one top administrator), another minimum qualification. How are those smears? This commentary by the anonymous author is disingenuous at best.

Now we get to the threat of litigation. To that, I can only say this: If anyone feels they have grounds to sue, let them do that. Otherwise, discontinue making this entirely predictable and ham-handed threat.

This entire letter is unfortunate. It is unfortunate that the writer did not feel safe enough to identify her (or himself). In fact, during the most recent faculty senate meeting, one senator expressed his objections to the no confidence motion quite forcefully and eloquently. He was treated with respect, although many disagreed with his arguments. This kind of anonymous communication does little but cloud the important issues we are attempting to discuss. In fact, this is not an affirmative defense of Wayne Watson. Rather, it is an attempt to defend Wayne Watson by attacking Phil Beverly. This mix of lies, half-truths, odious conjecture and subjective analysis does not mitigate the substantive issues raised in the two bill of particulars. I would invite the writer to share her/his objections to the points raised in those two documents.

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