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Issues, events, & breaking news from ICES & Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor
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U of Louisville provost who hired notorious ed school dean Robert Felner steps down. Is John Deasy next U of L college of education connection to “graduate” to federal prison?
Shirley Willihnganz, the University of Louisville provost who hired “notorious ed school dean” Robert Felner has stepped down from her $342,694 a year position and will return to the faculty after a sabbatical.
Willihnganz told the Louisville Courier-Journal that the “Felner episode” was the biggest regret of her 13 years as a top administrator at U of L.
Willihnganz hired Felner as dean of the U of L College of Education and Human Development in 2003. Felner’s deanship has been described by some as a “reign of terror” because of his abusive treatment of staff, faculty, students and alumni.
Despite dozens of grievances filed against Felner and a faculty vote of no-confidence, Willihnganz and her boss, university president James Ramsey, were dismissive of complaints and vigorously defended him. Ultimately, Willihnganz was “forced to apologize” to the faculty, saying “mostly what I think I want to say is people have been hurt and something very bad happened, and as provost I feel like I am ultimately responsible for that.”
In addition to his well documented abusive behavior, Felner was also engaged in criminal activity while working for the U of L and under Willihnganz’s supervision.
In 2010, Felner was sentenced 63 months in federal prison for a scheme that bilked $2.3 million of US Department of Education money from U of L and the University of Rhode Island.
On June 20, 2008, Federal investigators (Secret Service and US Postal Inspection Service) raided Felner’s office at the U of L College of Education and Human Development (and his new office at the University of Wisconsin, Parkside, where he was in the process of taking over as campus president) to seize documents and a computer.
Read more about the Felner saga and his journey from “high performer” (Willihnganz’s description) to infamous ex-con here.
Courier-Journal reporter Andrew Wolfson asked me to comment on Willihnganz response to Felner. The statement below was quoted, in part, in the C-J story.
Of course it’s hard to disagree that the hiring of Robert Felner as dean of CEHD was, in hind sight, a disastrous decision by the U of L administration and Dr. Willihnganz in particular, but it was not entirely unpredictable. As chair of the largest department in CEHD at the time, I vigorously opposed Felner’s hire and called for the administration to resist the “old boy” network within the college that backed him. The provost’s office failed to do its due diligence in the hiring, despite a plethora of signs that Felner was not a good choice for the university. At the time, I was aware that other universities had considered Felner for deanships, but excluded him based upon thorough investigations of his career. The fact that President Ramsey and Dr. Willihnganz remained in office after defending Felner’s abusive leadership style, and ultimately criminal behavior, says much about the lack of accountability for decision making at the U of L. The damage done to the university’s reputation has been significant and is not merely the result of Felner’s felonious activities and generally abusive treatment of staff and faculty, but can also be laid in some measure at the feet of Dr. Willihnganz and President Ramsey.
The Courier-Journal reports modest positive accomplishments during on Willihnganz’s years a provost, including increased graduate rates and slight improvements in the U of L’s standing in university reputational rankings.
But, these accomplishments pale in comparison to the Felner episode and a long series shameful debacles that have tarnished the reputation of Kentucky’s second largest research university. The C-J reports that,
Under [Willihnganz’s] watch … university employees have stole, misspent or mishandled at least $7.6 million in schemes at the health science campus, the law school, the business school and the athletic department’s ticket office.
Willihnganz also was criticized for approving about $1 million in buyouts for former high-ranking employees, some of which included agreements not to disparage the university or its leaders.
As the chief academic officer of the U of L, Willihnganz allowed the university to bestow a PhD degree on one of Felner’s associates, John Deasy, after enrolling in the CEHD doctoral program for a total of four months and apparently never actually taking any courses.
As reported in the education newspaper Substance,
John Deasy earned his PhD directly under Felner, in a period of four months, earning nine UL credit hours.
Prior to coming to UL, Deasy had awarded Felner’s research company, the National Center on Public Education and Social Policy, a $375,000 grant from the Santa Monica district where Deasy was head.
Before he came to UL, Felner had been dean at the University of Rhode Island’s College of Education from 1996-2003. Deasy studied there in the same period, while Deasy was also a Rhode Island school superintendent.
According to a highly placed source, formerly at UL, Deasy’s dissertation’s title page carries the date, “May, 2003,” while it is signed off, “April 9, 2004.” He entered the program in January, 2004.
A UL investigation of the Deasy PhD did not condemn the practice. James Ramsey, UL president, who had turned a blind eye to Felner’s notorious corruption (the faculty gave Felner a “no confidence vote” in 2006, but he served at least two more years at UL with Ramsey’s full support), gave his nod to the “blue ribbon” investigation.
Deasy is apparently cut from the same cloth as his mentor, having recently resigned as superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, under a cloud of allegations regarding ethics violations in relation to a $1 billion contract to supply iPads to LAUSD students.
In the end, it can be argued that the mistakes made by the U of L administration in hiring and protecting Felner, allowed Deasy to obtain a questionable PhD, which surely helped him land the high-paying job as superintendent of the second largest school district in the United States.
As LAUSD’s “Deasy episode” unfolds in a federal jury investigation, it could be that Willihnganz’s legacy will include the “graduation” of two federal convicts from the U of L College of Education and Human Development.
Adult Basic Education is a Basic Right is a collaboratively authored by researchers and educators in the adult education field in British Columbia. Our aim to gather and share information about how ABE tuition cuts and adult education policy in BC effects people, programs, depending inequity and socio-economic participation.
Read Lynn Horvat’s paper: “Re-Framing the Conversation: Respecting Adult Basic Education in British Columbia”
From The Tyee:
The University of Northern British Columbia’s faculty association made history Jan. 15 when it became the first faculty union at a B.C. research university to take a strike vote. The vote passed with 84.8 per cent in favour of a strike, giving faculty members 90 days to take strike action.
The university, located in Prince George, has been bargaining with the faculty association for eight months, the last three with help from British Columbia Labour Board-appointed mediator Trevor Sones.
About 70 per cent of bargaining issues at UNBC have been settled, but faculty association president Jacqueline Holler says a major impasse is faculty salaries, which are as much as 24 per cent lower than salaries at similar-sized Canadian universities.
“What the employer has offered in terms of compensation does absolutely nothing to address the situation,” said Holler. Neither she nor UNBC would disclose specifics of offers on the bargaining table.
Holler said another reason faculty deserves higher pay is the university’s frequent ranking by Maclean’s magazine as one of the top three primarily undergraduate universities in Canada.
But UNBC says there are a number of factors affecting salary negotiations: Government requirements for wages to stay within fixed financial parametres; an overall decline in enrollment; an increase in the number of B.C. universities; and increased government support for trades training.
“I’m not citing those [factors] as the most important, only to suggest that there’s a number of factors that are all at play,” said Rob van Adrichem, UNBC’s vice president of external communications. “And it all affects this situation.”
Unionized last April
The vote comes after UNBC’s faculty association, representing close to 500 full and part-time instructors, became a union last April. The faculty associations at Simon Fraser University and University of Victoria unionized around the same time.
There are six research universities in British Columbia. They include UNBC, Simon Fraser University, University of Victoria, Thompson Rivers University, Royal Roads University, and the University of British Columbia.
The faculty association at the University of British Columbia became the first B.C. research university to unionize in the 1980s. In exchange for the university’s support the union gave up their right to strike. Almost 20 years later Royal Roads University’s faculty association officially became a union. Faculty at Thompson Rivers University is also unionized.
With the exception of Alberta, where law prevents university faculty associations from becoming unions, there are only four non-unionized public university faculty associations in Canada. They are at McGill, Waterloo, University of Toronto, and McMaster.
Salary disputes were the common denominator between Simon Fraser, University of Victoria, and UNBC faculty associations’ decision to unionize, says Michael Conlon, executive director of the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of British Columbia, an umbrella organization for research university faculty associations.
“I think it’s fair to say that salary increases at all the research universities in B.C. have not kept up” with the rest of Canada, Conlon said.
Attracting highly educated academics is a good reason to increase salaries, says Conlon, adding competition for “internationally renowned-faculty” is stiff both nationally and internationally.
“As B.C.’s pay scale falls farther and farther behind, I think it will be a challenge to recruit and retain the best researchers, the best teachers, and the best faculty,” he said. “I think that’s a challenge for the entire province in ensuring we’ve got a competitive and excellent system of post-secondary education.”
The faculty’s previous contract expired last June, four months after arbitrator Vince Ready released a final decision on a 2012-2014 contract, which included two retroactive pay raises of 2.5 per cent.
Ready agreed with the faculty association that salaries were low compared to other similar-sized universities, and said UNBC did have the money to raise the pay of faculty members.
Bargaining continues this weekend
But while the wage increase helped, Holler says it didn’t fix UNBC’s “broken” salary structure and was negated by similar wage increases at other B.C. universities.
Holler said living in the north is more expensive than southern B.C., a factor not taken into account when deciding faculty wages.
“In most fields if you work in the north you actually get paid a little more because they understand that it’s hard to attract people,” she said.
The faculty association still hopes to reach an agreement through bargaining, and has yet to meet to discuss strike options. UNBC undergraduate classes end April 17, two days after the strike deadline.
UNBC’s van Adrichem says the strike vote itself doesn’t have an impact on the bargaining process. “The university has been and is very keen to negotiate an agreement,” he said.
Both sides are scheduled to return to the bargaining table on Jan. 30 until Feb. 1. [Tyee]
Emma-Kate Symons, Quartz, January 7, 2014– The world is rallying around satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the French people today, after masked assassins – uttering the prayer “God is Great” and invoking vengeance for the prophet Mohammed – massacred 12 in central Paris.
But the global solidarity with the heroic cartoonists, writers and editors of this struggling weekly publication, targeted and murdered by terrorists during their weekly news conference, and victims of a fire-bomb attack on their office and years of death threats from Islamists, comes far too late.
Charlie Hebdo, which has published on and off since 1969, is proudly anti-organised religion and congenitally politically incorrect.
On a shoestring budget it has been fighting the good fight for freedom of thought and expression and a secular public space for years when many were ambivalent.
For its courage it has run into frequent trouble with local and international Islamofascists, having been forced to move its headquarters several times following threats and a fire bombing, notably after it published an edition in 2011 called “Charia Hebdo”.
Its editors had also annoyed and irritated political leaders in its native France, in Britain, and the United States.
When it bravely republished the infamous Danish cartoons mocking the prophet Mohammed in 2006, even as fundamentalist leaders incited demonstrators to violence around the world, it earned a notorious rebuke from president Jacques Chirac who condemned its “overt provocation“.
As I reported from Paris at the time, then Charlie Hebdo publisher Philippe Val hit back at Chirac, saying he was “shocked” the French head of state would accuse the magazine of inflaming passions.
It is not a provocation. The provocation began well before – the fire was sparked on September 11 in New York, and in the attacks on London and on Madrid.
When there were the attacks on Madrid, on London, did we see the Arab street demonstrating because some assassins had committed horrible crimes in the name of Mohammed? We cannot leave it to religious groups to dictate the laws of freedom of expression.
Some in the Bush administration, wary of violence across the Islamic world, joined in the chorus calling for limits on press freedom. The British foreign secretary Jack Straw deplored newspapers’ “insensitivity and lack of respect”. The elite media in these two countries was also far from unanimous in its support.
Even in Paris over the past week, leading figures in the French fourth estate have been condemning the novelist Michel Houellebecq for allegedly bringing extreme right wing ideas into literature with the publication of his incendiary novel Submission.
The book depicts a France in 2022 governed by an Islamist political party. But Houllebecq is now part of this drama having been featured on the cover of this week’s edition of Charlie Hebdo. So what do editors like Laurent Joffrin at Libération newspaper now have to say? Should the novelist, like the editorial staff at Charlie Hebdo, have held their tongues and their pens?
Horribly, the scene at Charlie Hebdo is worthy of an excerpt from a novel by Houllebecq, and eerily echoes his reading of the Koran: “The obvious conclusion is that the jihadists are bad Muslims … an honest reading will conclude that a holy war of aggression is not generally sanctioned, prayer alone is valid.”
But this is not fiction and it is too easy to dismiss the role of religion and, yes, jihadi prayer in this horror.
France has Europe’s largest Muslim population, rising support for the anti-Islam extreme right, a growing problem with homegrown terrorism, fuelled by hundreds who have fought alongside Islamic State and al-Qaeda in Syria and elsewhere, and also the strongest commitment to the secular separation of church and state of almost any Western democracy.
It has a huge job on its hands trying to manage all its internal conflicts, and the sheer shock and fury this attack has created. This is a tipping point akin to the violence that followed the publication of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses in 1988.
Beyond the immediate political fallout, the “greatest” to emerge from this crime expressly motivated by religious fanaticism are not God, the “avenged” prophet, or Islamist extremism – even if the death cult we associate with IS and Al Qaeda has come to the heart of the city of lights, and the Enlightenment, for centuries a refuge for intellectuals, writers, and artists.
Despite the murderers’ prayers invoking God and Allah, the heroes in this horror are the creative minds of this noble publication. Atheistic agitators, they fought literally to the death for freedom of thought and expression, the liberty to offend, and the right to be iconoclasts.
Their fidelity to the fundamental values of democracy, even as many around the world and in France found their editorial line too “provocative” or “offensive”, will long endure after these killers are brought to justice.
They died as they lived: standing up for their principles, the principles the French first fought for in the 1789 Revolution. Their only “weapons” were their illustrating pens and their words.
The martyred editor-in-chief and beloved illustrator “Charb” said it best in 2012, after years of attacks against his magazine:
I am not afraid of reprisals. I don’t have kids, I don’t have a wife, I don’t have a car, I don’t have credit. This may sound a bit pompous but I would prefer to die standing than to live on my knees.
Read More: Quartz
#Dalhousie students, staff & faculty rally against admin mishandling of dentistry students misogynistic Facebook group
Jennifer Gosnell, DalGazette, January 6, 2014–“Hey hey, ho ho, misogyny has go to go,” roared a crowd of about 200 people gathered at a rally yesterday afternoon outside Dalhousie’s Henry Hicks Building.
The rally targeted Dalhousie administration’s reaction to a misogynistic Facebook group made up of male dentistry students.
The rally came right after the announcement that Dalhousie University has suspended the clinical privileges of thirteen men in their fourth year of Dal’s Doctor of Dental Surgery program.
These men were suspended as Dalhousie’s ongoing response to complaints against the men’s posts in a Facebook group called the Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen where some of them posted comments about female classmates that included discussions of sexual violence.
The protestors rallied together against a lack of action on Dalhousie’s part and a lack of justice on the part of victims of the posts and survivors of sexual assault.
Jennifer Nowoselski, Dalhousie Student Union Vice President (Internal), spoke of her experiences witnessing harassment on campus.
“I cannot tell you how many students across various faculties come to the Union with complaints of discrimination on a regular basis,” said Nowoselski. “I am enraged.”
“No options to address sexist comments? No options to address sexual harassment? No options to address sexist treatment of women students? Out of justified fear, individuals cannot demand action to make them feel safe on this campus. There is no safe internal process available to our members,” Nowoselski said.
She turned her questions to the Henry Hicks building itself, which hosts university president Richard Florizone’s office.
“Through a media storm, voiced concerns through students and community members, a community-organized rally, petitions, a formal complaint from faculty, threats of losing funding, concern from the government, and with the entire country watching, you created a task force?” Nowoselski asked.
Board members of South House, a student-funded sexual and gender resource centre in Halifax, spoke at the rally. They voiced issues of concern about underfunding for their volunteer-driven services that are often turned to for support by people who have experienced sexual violence.
Various survivors of sexual violence took to the megaphone to discuss the impact of their experiences.
One survivor said she was sexually assaulted by her dentist.
Others shared stories of going to Dalhousie’s offices to report their abuse and being met with blame or disbelief.
Read More: DalGazette
#Dalhousie profs complaint on misogynistic dentistry students’ #Facebook posts #highered #dalhousiehateswomen
CTV, January 5, 2015–Four Dalhousie professors have gone public with a formal complaint they submitted to the university last month, which called for male dentistry students linked to a sexually explicit Facebook discussion to be suspended before classes resume on Monday.
One of the professors, Francoise Baylis, said they decided to go public because they haven’t yet been assured that the complaint has been properly submitted and whether it will be addressed.
“Students have to go back to school tomorrow morning, and in our view, the university has an obligation to provide all students with a safe and supportive learning environment,” Baylis, who teaches at Dalhousie’s medical school, told CTV Atlantic.
“Our view is that it’s important to have at least addressed the complaint prior to the students coming back.”
The formal complaint from Dec. 21 calls for the university to hand out suspensions to all fourth-year students who were allegedly involved in offensive posts discussing female students in the Faculty of Dentistry. The complaint is co-signed by Baylis and fellow Dalhousie professors Jocelyn Downie, Brian Noble and Jacqueline Warwick.
“The purpose of the Complaint was to trigger an interim suspension prior to the start of classes on Monday, January 5, 2015,” the professors said in a statement emailed to CTVNews.ca on Sunday.
The complaint cites a number of posts allegedly made by fourth-year students in the Facebook group called “Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen.”
One poster reportedly joked about using chloroform to render a woman unconscious. Another asked members which female students they would like to have “hate sex” with. A third post showed a photo of a woman in a bikini with the caption: “bang until stress is relieved or unconscious (girl).”
The formal complaint matches these allegations up to violations under the school’s Code of Student Conduct. It says offending students should be suspended because they “pose a threat of disruption or interference with the operations of the University and the activities of its members.”
Baylis said the formal process was engaged because some of the affected female students either did not consent to, or were not approached about the informal “restorative justice” approach the university decided to take.
On Dec. 17, university president Richard Florizone said administrators were looking into informal complaints by women who were subjects of the offensive posts. He also left the door open to a formal complaint process if the affected women chose to pursue it.
“I ask for our communities to give our students and university administrators the time to complete their work through the restorative justice process and forge meaningful, responsible outcomes,” Florizone said in a statement.
“Our overall response must also address cultures of sexism, misogyny and sexualized violence,” he added.
Baylis said the offensive Facebook posts require both an individual and a “systemic” response.
“All of us believe that we’re at a very unique cultural moment in time where we’re actually able to name the problem publicly, to call this misogyny, to talk about gendered violence,” she said.
Read more: CTV
Statement from faculty members who brought a complaint under Dalhousie University’s Code of
Student Conduct re: the “Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen”
We are at a distinct cultural moment in which real change with respect to misogyny and gendered violence is possible.
Events involving the “Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen” create a complex situation demanding thoughtful, sensitive responses from a variety of perspectives using a variety of procedural tools.
We ground our engagement with this situation in commitments to:
- acknowledging that the problem of misogyny and gendered violence exists on Dalhousie campuses and campuses across the country;
- doing the work required to make our campuses safe and supportive learning environments for all members of our community and with particular concern for women and members of other vulnerable groups;
- ensuring due process;
- pursuing an integrated approach involving both systemic and specific responses.
President Florizone has committed to responding to the specific incident within the Faculty of Dentistry and to seeking strategies for meaningful long-term change. Our formal Complaint is an effort to contribute constructively to the comprehensive response required.
CBC News, January 6, 2015–A group of fourth-year female students from Dalhousie University’s faculty of dentistry have written an open letter to the president of the school, saying they feel pressured to accept the restorative justice process to resolve the Facebook scandal that has rocked the school.
In a two-page letter addressed to Richard Florizone and disclosed to CBC News on Tuesday, the four unnamed students say they are not willing to accept the university’s response to the Facebook page called the Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen.
The page was created by some male students in the fourth-year dentistry class and contained misogynistic and sexually explicit posts, including a poll about having “hate” sex with female students and comments about drugging women.
- Dalhousie suspends 13 dentistry students from clinic amid Facebook scandal
- Dalhousie dentistry student calls restorative justice plan ‘shocking’
- Dalhousie won’t release names of dentistry Facebook scandal participants
The women say in their letter that they “do not wish for the sexual harassment and discrimination perpetrated by members of our class to be dealt with through this restorative justice process.”
“The university is pressuring us into this process, silencing our views, isolating us from our peers, and discouraging us from choosing to proceed formally,” says the letter.
“This has perpetuated our experience of discrimination. This approach falls far below what we expected from you, and what we believe we deserve.”
The women also say they are concerned about their future at the school.
‘We have serious concerns’
“Telling us that we can either participate in restorative justice or file a formal complaint is presenting us with a false choice. We have serious concerns about the impact of filing formal complaints on our chances of academic success at the faculty of dentistry, and believe that doing so would jeopardize our futures,” they wrote.
“The reason we have not filed formal complaints is also the reason we have not signed our names to this letter.”
Read Letter: Open Letter to President Richard Florizone
… We are writing this open letter to inform you that, after considering the information that was presented in that meeting, we do not wish for the sexual harassment and discrimination perpetrated by members of our class to be dealt with through this restorative justice process or under the Sexual Harassment Policy. We feel that the University is pressuring us into this process, silencing our views, isolating us from our peers, and discouraging us from choosing to proceed formally. This has perpetuated our experience of discrimination. This approach falls far below what we expected from you, and what we believe we deserve….
Read More: CBC