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Coach's Exit vs. Whistle-Blower's Exit

November 3, 2010

The State University of New York at Binghamton announced last week that it had agreed to a $1.2 million settlement that will lead to the departure of its suspended men's basketball coach, Kevin Broadus. Under Broadus, the basketball program achieved athletic success but found itself in the middle of a controversy over the admission of academically unprepared athletes and numerous arrests of players.

One of those who blew the whistle on the basketball program, however, faces a future much less financially secure than Broadus does. Sally Dear, an adjunct since 1998 and a key source for a New York Times article last year on the scandal, received a letter Monday telling her not to expect a renewal of her teaching duties for the next semester. She currently teaches two courses and is paid $5,000 for each one. In the Times article, which angered many supporters of the Binghamton athletic program, Dear was quoted about how basketball players arrived late, left early, and disrupted class in other ways. She noted that one athlete told her, when asked about text messaging in class, that he was dealing with a message from a coach.

Dear said that her letter of non-renewal cited departmental needs and the tight budget situation at SUNY, but she noted that her courses this semester (and many other semesters) have waiting lists. Further, she said that there was something fundamentally unjust about how she is being treated, compared to the university's response to its former coach. "They can buy him out for $1.2 million, but they can't afford an adjunct?" she asked.

While Dear acknowledged that SUNY is facing deep budget cuts, she noted that she has been teaching at the university since 1998, that adjuncts are being rehired to teach subjects she can teach, and that she took a public stand on what became a major scandal. "I know I am being retaliated against for whistle-blowing," she said, adding that she plans to fight to get new teaching assignments from the university.

Binghamton's interim president, C. Peter Magrath, called Dear's claim "balderdash."

He noted that much of the money provided to Broadus resulted directly from a contract he had with the university, and that most of the other money will go to his lawyers. And he stressed that Dear remains free to apply for any adjunct jobs that open up -- and that the letter only stated the lack of a current plan to rehire her. Many adjuncts have received such letters, he said, and some in the past have been rehired.

Magrath also questioned the idea that Dear should be considered a key whistle-blower. Of the scandal, which broke before he was appointed, he said that "I don't think it was a consequence of any one individual informing the world that something was wrong in River City. That is not the case. The stuff that happened happened and it came out, and there were a lot of people concerned about it." He said it would be "a mistake to attribute [the public debate about basketball] to one individual."

But does Binghamton have any obligation to someone who did speak out? Magrath said that Dear is an adjunct, working on semester-to-semester contracts, so "no, there is nothing to be obligated to."

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