Harris-Stowe State University must pay a former full-time education instructor $4.85 million in damages related to her racial bias claims, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. A St. Louis circuit court ruled that the historically black university discriminated against Beverly Wilkins, who is white, when it fired her in 2010.
Wilkins said one administrator in particular, Latisha Smith, a former dean and department head, failed to follow a reduction in force policy in pegging her for termination over several other black faculty members. The lawsuit alleges that Smith purged the department of all white faculty members, except one protected by tenure, and that she covered up her bias by deleting incriminating emails. Smith blamed budget cuts for Wilkins’s termination, but continued to hire additional faculty members -- including two to cover Wilkins’s classes, who together were paid more than her salary -- Michael Meyers, her lawyer, told the Dispatch.
Ronald Norwood, chairman of the Harris-Stowe State University Board of Regents, called the ruling “regrettable” in a statement, and said the university was dedicated to moving forward after key leadership changes.
Part-time instructors at St. Louis Community College voted 188-15 this weekend to unionize and to be represented by the Service Employees International Union, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The SEIU is attempting to organize multiple colleges in the St. Louis area.
The administration, unlike those at many other colleges where adjuncts are being organized into unions, endorsed collective bargaining. Jeff Pittman, chancellor, said it was in the “best interests of our students” for adjuncts to have a union. “I think it’s a positive anytime you can better work with a group and share ideas and insights,” he said.
University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross has come under fire from faculty and a high-profile administrator for his changing stance on how the system should address tenure in light of recent changes to its legal status in the state. Faculty members and Chancellor Rebecca Blank of the University of Wisconsin at Madison have criticized Cross’s recent directive that new tenure polices can’t be written at the campus level, saying that the guidance contradicts Cross’s earlier assurances that tenure as it’s known would be preserved at the campus level -- even though the Wisconsin state Legislature changed the law to make it easier to fire tenured faculty members.
“We were assured by Ray and others that Madison could write policies, which would be reviewed by the [system Board of Regents] for approval,” Blank wrote to John Behling, a regent who chairs a newly formed task force charged with reviewing the system’s tenure policies, in reference to Cross’s memo. “Those voices that have argued for more extreme policies (and have argued that the [board] is less than trustworthy on these issues) will be strongly reinforced, and those of us who have been trying to shepherd this in a responsible way toward resolution are likely to lose effectiveness.”
Cross’s memo -- as well as a draft version of a systemwide tenure policy saying professors could be fired for “underperforming” -- also angered faculty meetings at a faculty meeting late last month, according to the Wisconsin State-Journal. (Blank’s emailed letter was obtained by The Capital Times.) On Friday, the American Federation of Teachers in Wisconsin called for Cross to step down over his handling of the tenure issue, among others, saying “we no longer have confidence in his leadership.”
John Lucas, a spokesman for Madison, said Blank had since met with Cross to discuss her concerns. “Chancellor Blank is satisfied that UW Madison will have the opportunity to adopt its own language in [Madison’s] faculty policies and procedures, once a broad system policy is enacted,” Lucas added. “This is consistent with how other issues are managed between the system and individual campuses.”
Blank reiterated that message in a statement released late Friday, and said she expected the Madison Faculty Senate to pass a draft tenure policy today that will be sent to the system's tenure task force as a suggested campus policy. Once a broad system policy is adopted, she said, Madison will have the opportunity to finalize its specific terms. Behling said in a statement that he was glad Blank clarified her statement and that she and Cross are now “on the same page.”
Non-tenure-track instructors at the University of Chicago have petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to vote on whether to form a collective bargaining unit affiliated with Service Employees International Union, they announced Thursday. SEIU adjunct union drives also are under way at the University of Washington, the University of Southern California and Duke University. A spokesman for Chicago said the university had no immediate comment.
Bernie Sanders has been drawing large crowds of college students to his campaign events. On Wednesday, he officially announced a group of faculty supporters, including many prominent figures of the academic left. Higher Ed for Bernie will be organizing a series of campus events. An initial statement from the group calls for a bolstering of public higher education and renewed efforts to make higher education a tool for promoting social equality. Signatories include Cornel West of Union Theological Seminary, Frances Fox Piven of the City University of New York Graduate Center, Adolph Reed Jr. of the University of Pennsylvania, Walter Benn Michaels of the University of Illinois at Chicago and Jeffrey J. Williams of Carnegie Mellon University.