Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Welcome to the Forum - A SAFE PLACE to express your opinion


WHO WE ARE.
We are UA students, staff, faculty and administrators who are concerned about abuses of power at the UA. This is not a political blog. It is an academic forum for presenting facts and expressing legitimate opinions – facts and opinions that the UA administration finds objectionable and has therefore stifled and suppressed.
Many facts and opinions about reorganizing the UA have not been reported in the media – or have been misrepresented when they were reported.
Some of these facts and legitimate opinions have been so seriously distasteful to the University’s executive administrators – President Shelton and Provost Hay – that they have fired the people who expressed them. Deans, department heads, and even senior adminitrators who are among the most respected people on this campus have been fired, for disagreeing. We need a place to talk about that.
A place where we can speak openly, without fear of reprisals, and therefore anonymously for those who prefer not to sign their postings.

CONFIDENTIALITY AND SECURITY. You can post comments to this forum in complete confidentiality. All postings to this site are protected by three levels of security:
1) This is NOT A UA Website. Our site is hosted by Google, and uses the anonymous "Blogger" interface created by Google in the public interest. "Since Blogger was launched in 1999," according to Google, "blogs have reshaped the web, impacted politics, shaken up journalism, and enabled millions of people to have a voice and connect with others."
2) Anonymous Postings. Anyone wishing to remain anonymous may sign with a pseudonym. Or simply sign as "A reader." But impersonations are NOT permitted; any comment signed with someone else's name will be discarded. This is a serious site, and we follow the rules (see below).
3) Non-traceable postings. Since you will be posting to one of Google's "Blogger" websites, NO ONE, including the forum team facilitating this site, will know your e-mail address. So you can send your comments from anywhere.
If you worry about the possibility of UA e-mail accounts being administratively monitored and would feel more comfortable posting your comments to the forum without using UA e-mail, go ahead and log in to this forum - UA Defender - using Gmail or Yahoo or AOL. And rest assured that NOBODY from the UA can monitor off-campus e-mail.

RULES . The following principles will govern postings to this site: respect, accuracy, civility. First Amendment protections carry with them responsibilities, chief among which, as regards internet anonymity, are the obligations
• to say nothing libelous, expressly defamatory, or gratuitously insulting; comments that are "below-the-belt" or "over-the-top" will not be posted;
• to stick to the point (excessively long postings may be shortened by the forum team);
• to stick to the facts (and document them if contestable); and
• to make clear the difference between facts and opinions.
Example: It is a fact that on May 20, 2009 President Shelton sent an e-mail to Dr. Juan Garcia summarily dismissing him from his position as Vice President for Instruction. It is the opinion of many of us on campus that this dismissal was hasty, recriminatory, demeaning and unjust. But, get this: How many University employees can you imagine would feel comfortable, would feel protected in their rights – on this campus in the present conditions—stating such an opinion in a signed letter to the Wildcat?

THE RIGHT TO DISAGREE. And yet, the right to disagree with your superiors without fear of reprisals is a fundamental right guaranteed to everyone in the University of Arizona community:
7.01.01 Statement on Professional Conduct. The following "Statement on Professional Conduct" was adopted by the Faculty Senate on January 4, 1971. Although the statement refers most often to faculty members, its principles also apply to administrative and professional personnel.
Membership in the academic community imposes on students, faculty members, administrators, and regents an obligation to respect the dignity of others, to acknowledge their right to express differing opinions, and to foster and defend intellectual honesty, freedom of inquiry and instruction, and free expression on and off the campus. [University Handbook for Appointed Personnel, University of Arizona, 2000.]


PROTECTION AGAINST REPRISALS. Still, in spite of “sunshine laws” and First Amendment protections and the UHAP Manual that applies EVEN to “administrators and regents,” some among us still have reason to fear further reprisals and dismissals, disguised under the cover of “program reorganization” and the like. That’s why we need a safe place to talk about serious issues. And be heard. By the media, the Regents, the Legislature...

MORATORIUM ON CLOSURES & DISMISSALS. We therefore appeal to the Arizona Board of Regents and to the Arizona Legislature, for a moratorium on administrative program closures and negative personnel actions at the UA (dismissals, demotions, reassignments, etc.) until such time as the complaints currently filed, and the investigations currently underway with regard to recent firings (2008-2009), have been resolved, either at higher administrative levels (e.g., ABOR), or in the courts, as the case may be.

OUR FOUR MAIN AREAS OF CONCERN. Until such time as the moratorium protection has been put in place and announced in the media, this forum will publish postings --anonymous or signed-- on the following 4 topics which have emerged as the areas of greatest concern:
1. FIRINGS. Dismissals, demotions, reassignments without just cause. How they occurred and why they were felt to have been unjust.
2. PROGRAM CLOSURES AND DEFUNDINGS without due regard for legitimate input from faculty, staff, and students (and others affected, where applicable). How and why they were felt to have been unjust.
3. ADMINISTRATIVE INFRINGEMENT AND USURPATIONS in matters of academic policy and planning. These include abolitions or “hostile takeovers” of faculty committees that have expressed reservations or disagreement with administrative initiatives, or where input from faculty, staff, and students was felt to have been unduly curtailed or disregarded.
4. MOTIONS OF CENSURE and VOTES OF NO CONFIDENCE. A rubric for those who wish to express support for motions of censure or votes of no-confidence against the President and/or the Provost, and for those who disagree and wish to argue for alternative forms of redress and relief.

ARIZONA’S FIRST UNIVERSITY.
Arizona’s First University is our University. All of us. Students, staff, faculty, community, the citizens of the State of Arizona. It does not “belong” to the executive administration. Many of us feel that they have forgotten that they work for us, not the opposite.

[original posting date August 21,2009; successive re-postings reflect updates.]

9 comments:

  1. I agree that the Juan Garcia affair shows bad judgment by the President. Garcia was fired for "the wording and tone" of an e-mail he sent to the Provost. But when Shelton appointed Juan Garcia Vice President of Instruction (2/2008), Shelton's own wording and tone were different: "Juan Garcia has a distinguished record of leadership and academic accomplishment, and I am pleased that he has accepted this new position. I am sure that his efforts will ultimately enhance the academic experience for thousands of UA students." A year later, Garcia's distinguished record of leadership and his efforts on behalf of UA students got him fired. Fired for doing his job. Putting undergraduate education first - not cost-cutting schemes that will further weaken and degrade undergraduate education at the UA, like the the "cattle car courses" planned for Centennial Hall and described in the Arizona Daily Star.
    http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/business/295796.php

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  2. Great to have our own blog! Some of the posts on places like the Desert Lamp are from people who are just speculating. I've been on committees with Juan Garcia. He is not a hot-headed radical. He is soft-spoken and articulate, patient, calm, respectful and judicious. In addition to Shelton's recognition of Garcia's "distinguished record of leadership and academic accomplishment (quoted in the previous comment), Juan Garcia is, more importantly, a man of conscience, integrity, and dedication. He knows how to listen and does listen; but he is not afraid to defend undergraduate education against ill-conceived schemes for saving money by compromising quality. For daring to disagree, he was fired. For opposing bogus "efficiencies" like spending $300,000 to turn Centennial Hall into a three-ring circus in a plan that will probably backfire. As the Star article pointed out, "That's really not doing students any kind of service. Even the smallest of the three courses--at 700 students--is still bigger than lectures offered at ... ASU and UT-Austin. ASU's largest lecture this fall will hold nearly 470 students, while UT-Austin's largest lecture last spring had fewer than 450 students. Both universities have more than 50,000 students, compared with UA's 38,000." UA students deserve better.

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  3. Juan Garcia has been a member of the UA faculty for 28 years, since 1981. Meredith Hay has been here for a year and a half (Feb. 2008) and Robert Shelton 3 years (July 2006). Juan Garcia represents the very best of what this University is capable of, in administrative leadership on behalf of undergraduate education. To see him treated like that, summarily fired for doing his job, is unbelievable. What explains this autocratic contempt for a man *doing his job*, a man who was *appointed to that job* because of his "distinguished record of leadership and academic accomplishment"? Note the word *academic* accomplishment. Because academics is what this is all about. Juan Garcia was fired for defending academic quality against bad *academic* policies. Fired for insisting--which was his right, and his duty--that *academic* planning is in the domain of *instruction* and not in the domain of administrative cost-containment. He is right. If you leave *academic* reorganization solely in the hands of panic-stricken cost-cutters (assistant and associate deans on a mission to cut and slash), they'll wreck it.

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  4. Aren't you exaggerating a little? After all, didn't the Administration consult with every unit affected by reorganization plans, which were then approved by the faculty before being implemented?

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  5. Consult? They don't consult, they notify.
    They make a big show of so-called "consulting." In Progress Reports and Bulletins and stories they feed the newspapers, they tell you how transparent and inclusive they've been. Those of us who have been to those meetings know the truth – they don't consult, they notify.
    Administrators are very determined people, that's why they're where they are. Here's how it works (not always, but in the worst cases): First they decide what they’re going to do. After they've decided what's going to happen, they say "OK, now we have to have meetings with some of the people involved so that later we can say we consulted."
    And if you do go to those meetings where they "consult," you're told what's going to happen. If you question it, or object to it, they may nod their heads (which doesn't mean "yes" – it means "yeah, right; but go ahead, I'm not listening"), or they take notes, or they may respond with something like "Thank you for sharing." Then you read in the papers something like "the faculty was consulted and gave its full support to the plan" – which may be an outright lie, but that's how it works.

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  6. Vernon (at UA computer center)August 28, 2009 at 2:56 PM

    You are correct about the confidentiality and security issues. Posts to a blog are totally untraceable. But you shouldn't worry. This site has one of the highest levels of civic discourse I've seen in public-opinion blogs. So as long as you continue that way, and post nothing defamatory, malicious, unethical or false, there's not a court in America that would order Google to take down your site. Because that's what it would take, a court order, and Google expressly says that "pursuant to Section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act, we do not remove allegedly defamatory material from U.S. domains. The only exception to this rule is if the material has been found to be defamatory by a court, as evidenced by a court order."
    http://www.google.com/support/blogger/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=60835

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  7. Check the decision theory literature for the suboptimal "Decide, Announce, Defend" model.

    It doesn't work well.

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  8. I agree with most of the comments, the work place has turned very toxic over the last year.
    I work in FM and see on a daily basis the use of threats of job loss to keep everyone in line. a story that has been covered up by Al and Chris is the loss of a master keyset that had access to over 85% of campus last year. you would think that they would have asked an outside agency to investigate and notify building monitors of the security breach. not these guys, the word of the day has always been coverup, coverup and fire anyone who leaks the info. another issue is the total amount of missing equipment we have in our department. it goes into the millions if you average over a 4 year period. again the people incharge are very good at passing the blame and terminating anyone who speaks out.

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  9. We thank the Facilities Management employee for the preceding comment.

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