Monday, January 21, 2013

Response to the Human Resources Investigation

As one of the authors of the investigative report on the August Criminal Justice hiring, I find the investigative report by Renee Mitchell a truly disappointing misrepresentation of the events surrounding that search. Since the Senate investigation dealt with only one of the three allegations she was charged to look into, my response will deal only with that allegation.

The October 5, 2012, charge from Dr. Napoleon Moses asked Renee Mitchell to “Determine if institutional faculty hiring procedures were followed with particular emphasis placed on whether faculty representation was present on the Search Committees for each faculty member hired.”

The response to that charge should have been short and straightforward: no on both counts. Here is what the investigative finding should have been: 1) The August Criminal Justice hiring contravened institutional faculty hiring procedures. The Search committee included only administrators (the Criminal Justice Department Chair, the Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and an Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences), a clear violation of university procedures. 2) Of the three new faculty hired subsequent to the search, only one non-tenured faculty member examined the file of one successful candidate: Lewis Myers. At the time the search commenced on August 9, this faculty member had the responsibility for the pre-semester advising of hundreds of students. This faculty member did not recommend that Lewis Myers be hired. In fact, of the 119 applicants for the position(s), Criminal Justice faculty vetted only 14 prior to interviews commencing. Neither of the department’s tenured faculty saw any of the files, and no faculty, tenured or otherwise, participated in the interviews for any of the three candidates who were subsequently hired.

Ignoring these already established facts, Renee Mitchell's report reads like this: “Allegation #1 is unfounded. While faculty members did not participate in all of the interviews, an opportunity did exist.” However, by the time one of the tenured members of the department discovered that interviews were being conducted, several had already occurred. The Department Chair did not officially notify the faculty of the interview schedule until the evening of August 14, at which point five interviews had already taken place. Eventually, one tenured faculty member interviewed three candidates and the non-tenured faculty member interviewed one. Instead of a faculty-driven process, the search unfolded with three administrators on the search committee vetting the applicant files, determining the list of candidates for on-campus interviews, doing the majority of the interviews and determining the final candidates to present to the administration for a hiring decision. As I have pointed out before, University policy clearly vests in the department faculty the responsibility for reviewing applicant files, determining the best candidates for interview, conducting the interviews and formulating a list of potential hires. I have to ask how anyone could conclude that a faculty hiring process that almost totally excludes faculty conforms to University policy.

The troubling conclusions of this report are underpinned by some questionable assertions. The report indicates that “CJ Faculty Member #1 (Dr. Thomson) provided three (3) names: two (2) names from the search under question; and one (1) name previously recommended from prior search. Of the two names recommended from the search under question, one (1) candidate was hired” This is untrue. Dr. Thomson’s top three recommendations included no one who was hired. He had not interviewed April Bernard because her interview occurred before he arrived on campus on August 14. Neither he nor anyone else from the Criminal Justice faculty interviewed Lewis Myers or Andre Grant. In addition, Dr. Thomson made his recommendations more than one hour after the Department Chair requested contact information for three persons subsequently hired, an indication that the decision had already been made.

The report also indicates that “the Dean was also aware that two (2) faculty members were assigned to the search committee for the criminal justice hires. This official records from Human Resources render this assertion false. In fact, the three members of the search committee included only administrators.

I will not again go into the Board of Trustees policies that define who is and who is not an administrator, that information is available on the internet for anyone who wishes to peruse it. Suffice to say, administrators are not faculty and a search committee composed exclusively of administrators simply does not include faculty participation. Of course, an investigation conducted by an individual who serves at the pleasure of the president might be expected to contort itself to creatively interpret those policies and reach conclusions about the administration’s activities than differ from those articulated by the earlier investigators.

While this Human Resources report will undoubtedly provide ammunition for those individuals who think the opposition to this president is misguided, it also provides a useful insight into how this administration responds to faculty concerns. Simply put, the administration hijacked this search, violated university policy and created unnecessary uproar. This cynical and self-serving administrative whitewash does not change those facts.

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