Monday, October 28, 2019

The Intimidation Game: Bullying and Retaliation at the University of Tulsa

Jacob Howland

Since April, I’ve witnessed the ongoing destruction of the University of Tulsa (TU) by a cadre of wealthy and powerful people affiliated with the billionaire George Kaiser.

Kaiser is the controlling shareholder of the Bank of Oklahoma Financial (BOKF), which handles much of TU’s business and is the corporate trustee of its $1.2 billion endowment. Frederic Dorwart, the chairman of TU’s board of trustees, is BOKF’s general counsel and president of the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF). TU President Gerard Clancy sits on BOKF’s board; Steven Bradshaw, BOKF’s CEO, sits on TU’s board of trustees. TU trustee Chester Cadieux III sits on the boards of both BOKF and GKFF. TU provost Janet Levit is the wife of Ken Levit, the CEO of GKFF, which will eventually be the primary shareholder of BOKF. (I tried to make sense of these ethically bewildering entanglements in an article I wrote for The Nation.)

After Dorwart and Levit took office in the spring of 2018, the administration pushed through True Commitment, a restructuring plan that eliminated 40 percent of the university’s academic programs, dissolved all academic departments, and raised teaching loads. They did so in secret, using seriously flawed data fed to a handpicked committee whose members were required to sign blanket non-disclosure agreements. (I reported on these matters in City Journal.) Since then, the administration has engaged in a pattern of bullying and intimidation that has recently reached a crisis point.

Scott Holmstrom, the president of the faculty senate, and Jennifer Airey, the vice president, have spoken on multiple occasions to Concerned Faculty of TU (CFTU) about having to endure ill-tempered rants by Clancy and members of the board. The two met with the board of trustees on September 16 and 17, during which they were treated in a manner that Airey described as “brutal” and Holmstrom as “unprofessional.”

In those meetings, the board proposed that faculty be given access to the university’s instructional budget and have 30 days to suggest alternative cuts to academic programs, amounting to the same millions in savings as True Commitment was projected to produce.

Many faculty regarded the board’s offer as a transparent attempt to delay a planned vote of no confidence in the administration. Almost all acknowledged that the time limit of 30 days is impossibly restrictive.

According to Airey, Levit told her and Holmstrom that the faculty needed either to accept True Commitment or come up with their own proposals for academic cuts; otherwise, the trustees were prepared to fire 10 percent of the faculty outright.

They could only do that, however, by declaring a fiscal emergency, and there’s been no indication that such an emergency is imminent. Indeed, Clancy stated on April 12 that the university is “on solid financial ground,” and as recently as August 28 he publicly referred to our endowment as evidence that TU is “a strong university.”

Levit announced the board’s offer at a faculty senate meeting on September 19. Clancy then tried to win support for the offer by asserting that he and Levit overcame a 2 percent chance of success—that was the spuriously exact figure he cited—when they managed to convince the Higher Learning Commission, TU’s accreditors, not to place us on probation in 2018. He has maintained that True Commitment will “allow us to remain in good standing with the Higher Learning Commission,” but he’s refused to release the HLC site visit report on which this claim rests.

Clancy couldn’t resist blaming faculty for making trouble. He said that administrators have suffered because they’ve had to spend precious time dealing with faculty opposition and because the uproar generated by True Commitment has affected their health.

He justified withholding essential financial data (including administrative expenses) on the ground that “a few faculty have a track record of spreading sensitive data and misinformation to the media.” He’s said this more than once, most recently denouncing “inflammatory rumors” in the Chronicle of Higher Education, but has never offered any evidence to back up his claims.

Clancy and Levit also ignored senators who insisted that they stop retaliating against faculty who oppose True Commitment. I am one of those faculty members.

On August 30, I was notified by my college dean that I had violated the TU Code of Ethical Conduct by “sending unsolicited electronic communications through Blackboard to promote a third-party website.” I’d used Blackboard, an online platform hosted by the university, to direct alumni to, a website that offers an overview of the academic disaster.

Then on September 4, I was informed of another alleged ethics violation, concerning a post I’d made on April 16 to a Facebook group established as a focal point of resistance to True Commitment. My post was in response to the university’s offer of non-confidential counseling to students upset by the elimination of academic programs. I’d written: “Non-confidential counseling? DO NOT TRUST THEM!” (Non-confidential counseling, of course, is just that; one proceeds at one’s own risk.) The complainant asserted that my post “resulted in harm to students” because it “negatively impacted students’ perceptions of the counseling center as a resource.”

The university then hired Karen Glickstein, a lawyer at Jackson Lewis, a 900-attorney firm specializing in “workplace law representation to management,” to drive down from Kansas City to interview me about the complaint. Glickstein wanted to meet immediately; I suspect the university was hoping I would not be accompanied by counsel. Luckily, I had retained my own lawyer after I was temporarily unable to send or receive emails on my TU account in April and a computer unaccountably disappeared from my office in May.

While Glickstein claimed that she would merely be trying to ascertain the facts pertaining to the complaint, that was not my impression of the interview. She produced no evidence that any student failed to get counseling or suffered any harm whatsoever because of my statement. Nor did she explain what part of the Code of Ethics I might have violated.

Instead, she grilled me for over an hour, repeatedly attempting to get me to incriminate myself. For example, she asked me whether it ever occurred to me that my statement might cause harm to students. My lawyer ultimately stated for the record her concern that the real motivation of the investigation was retaliatory.

The university’s general counsel told me to notify her “if you feel that you have been subject to any retaliatory acts for participating in this [investigatory] process.” Although I believed that the process itself was retaliatory, I saw no point in lodging a complaint. That’s because the Code of Ethical Conduct concludes: “The authority to grant exception to one or more of these policies and procedures is vested with the President of The University of Tulsa or his/her delegated representative(s).”

The administration’s punching down against opponents goes beyond faculty. It extends to the very students they are ostensibly so eager to protect that they will spend tens of thousands of dollars on lawyer’s fees to do so, even in the face of alleged financial exigency.

On September 9, two undergraduate journalists published a detailed and compelling article about the administration’s attempt to avoid a vote on their violation of the faculty senate constitution. They later received an email from Mona Chamberlin, TU’s executive director of marketing and communications. Chamberlin wrote:

It’s also been brought to my attention that Professor Jacob Howland recently referred to you and [name withheld] as being on his “team” following an article in last week’s Collegian. Futhermore [sic], it seems that [name withheld] agreed with that assessment. This activity raises [a] concern for me. We would like to work with Collegian reporters and editors the same way we work with other reputable media outlets, but we need reassurance that the paper and its staff practice sincere, objective journalism.

The Collegian article, it turns out, had been posted to Facebook. Seeing the post, I’d congratulated the reporters on a “superb article that any newspaper would be proud to publish,” and I’d added that “we are proud to have you on our team.” Pleased with the compliment, one of them had “liked” my comment. That’s all it took for Chamberlin to impugn the integrity of two of the university’s best young journalists.

The administration’s record of intimidating faculty, bullying students, and retaliating against whistleblowers raises serious concerns.

Dorwart, Clancy, and Levit treat faculty like employees to be managed, monitored, and wherever possible replaced by younger, cheaper, more vulnerable and compliant ones. Yet there can be no doubt that they are inept at their jobs. Clancy, in particular, is cynically sowing chaos. His latest email blast angrily maligns CFTU as a “faceless” group that “has attacked…our university.”

What is so disturbing about all of this is the way supposedly liberal academics can turn into intimidating bullies once they’ve adopted transformational plans like True Commitment. No commitment should be higher than to decency and respect.

I suspect that there is only one person who can stop Clancy and his allies from further damaging the university. That man is George Kaiser, who may one day decide that he’s simply had enough of their incompetence.


Protesters Successfully Silence Former ICE Chief at University Event on Immigration

Tom Homan, the former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was shouted off stage at an immigration policy event by students opposed to President Donald Trump’s immigration agenda Wednesday.

Homan was scheduled to speak at the University of Pennsylvania as one of several speakers to discuss immigration enforcement under the Obama and Trump administrations. However, the former ICE chief was never able to participate because numerous protesters shouted him out, forcing him to leave the event.

“The ones who want to shout down meaningful discussion will remain ignorant,” Homan said Thursday, discussing the incident during an appearance on “Fox & Friends First.” “They stood outside the building with their signs and didn’t allow anybody to speak.”

Homan said that he had “enforced the laws of this country” for over 30 years under six different presidents, but hadn’t seen this level of protest until now. The former ICE chief also noted that the Obama administration deported illegal aliens at a higher rate than the Trump administration, but “we never heard of that” back then, he said.

“The sad part is, half the audience—I was watching the reaction on their faces—they were as disgusted I was. They were there to ask pointed questions. This is a serious issue,” Homan continued, noting the number of women who are raped and children who die trying to reach the border. “This is a big issue for this country, and it deserves conversation and debate.”

The incident didn’t appear to be that serious for the longtime immigration agent. At the sight of one protester’s misspelled sign, he said he couldn’t help but laugh.

“At one point I did chuckle because I looked over to the window and there were people out there holding signs. One young man, really upset, yelling and screaming, had a sign: ‘Abolish ICE’ and he misspelled ‘Abolish.’ So I’m thinking, he should probably spend more time in the classroom and less time protesting. I’m sure his family is paying a lot of money for his education,” Homan said.

The protest against Homan was expected. Before he was slated to speak, over 400 University of Pennsylvania students and alumni signed a petition demanding the school cancel the event.

“Under Homan, ICE continued to be a violent organization responsible for terrorizing immigrant communities, for the separation of immigrant families, and for the persistent violation of the human rights of immigrants and their loved ones,” one segment of the petition read. “Consequently, inviting Homan as a guest speaker contradicts Penn’s claim of being a sanctuary campus that is committed to ensuring the well-being and safety of all of its students.”

Students not only demanded the event be canceled, but also called on the university to no longer allow former or current ICE or Custom and Border Protection personnel to speak on campus, and to form an “immigrant support fund” for illegal alien students.

This is not the first time university students have refused to allow immigration officials speak on campus. Kevin McAleenan, the acting director of the Department of Homeland Security, was heckled off stage earlier this month when trying to give a speech at Georgetown University.


Sydney university abolishing its chair in Australian literature

Literature has an important role in enriching people's lives. I greatly enjoyed my own literary studies of long ago. And formal literary studies have an undoubted role in introducing people to works they might not otherwise come to know. So this decision seems like a step in the wrong direction to me. I personally think that taxpayer-funded education should primarily be vocationally focused but it would be a bleak system that did not also have some role for personal development.

So what's behind this decision? It's pretty clearly a part of the Leftist attack on patriotism. The Left want us all to become undifferentiated internationalists. It's only a slight revision of the old aim to create a "New Soviet Man". The corrupt United Nations is the great multicolored hope of the Left. Mr Trump strikes at their very heart

There is a lot of distinctively Australian literature and I think a lot of it is pretty good -- Patrick White and Kath Walker excepted. It introduces us to times and places in Australia that we would not usually come to know about otherwise.

Publisher Michael Heyward has launched an attack on the University of Sydney, describing the sandstone institution's decision to cut off funding for its Australian literature chair as a "shocking betrayal of readers and writers" that "reveals a contempt for books"

The university recently said it had withdrawn internal funding for the chair; the oldest and most prestigious of its type in AUstralia, while it searched for external funding for the role.

The move, which follows the retirement of the university's fourth professor of Australian literature, Robert Dixon, shocked many as the chair was the nation's first dedicated professorship of Australian literature when it was set up 57 years ago.

Heyward, managing director of Melbourne publishing house Text Publishing, said withdrawal of university funds from the historically important role was a case of Sydney joining the "philistine ranks" of other universities, whose Australian literature offerings had traditionally been "paltry".

"In the sorry history of the teaching of Australian literature in our universities, Sydney has been the outlier since 1962 when its chair was founded by public subscription," he said "Now it has joined the philistine ranks of its fellow institutions.

"Not even the Australian National University has a chair in Australian literature. What kind of country can't bear to teach its own literature? What kind of university has no curiosity about the writers who have shaped our imaginations, and have informed how we think?"

Heyward, whose company publishes local and international authors as well Australian classics, said "our universities are increasingly cut off from Australia's dynamic literary life, from our festivals and from our bookstores and from the readers who keep them alive".

Elizabeth Webby, a former professor of Australian literature at Sydney University, called the defunding of the role "very disappointing", warning that if external funding wasn't found and the chair was abandoned, it would leave just one Ozlit chair for academics nationwide, at the University of Western Australia.

"The only (full-time) chair that actually involves an academic doing courses in Australian literature is at UWA, which is government-funded," she said, The UWA chair was established after The Australian exposed how, in 2006, there was just one full-time Australian literature chair still operating -- the Sydney role now under threat

The University of Melbourne has had an externally funded professorship of Australian literature since 2015, reserved for authors rather than academics.

Paul Giles, Sydney University's Challis Professor of English, said the withdrawal of university funds from the chair was caused, in part, by falling student enrolments in Ozlit subjects and fewer research grants going to the humanities. He said the university still employed three fUll-time Ozlit specialists and two part-time lecturers, but admitted that the university had yet to begin its search for external funds

From "The Weekend Australian" of 26/10/2019

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