Friday, February 02, 2007

Law Stuffs - Suspensions

Following up on my recent post, there's another rule set come down from on high as a result of the problems at Flagship U a few years back. Basically, the rule is that if one of us is arrested or charged with a crime, the Provost can suspend that person without pay, and that suspension can continue even if the person isn't convicted of that charge.

The powers that be sent the first version of the rule down to campuses a while back for our response. In addition to our general dislike of the whole idea, many of us really surprised that we were supposed to notify the provost when we were committing the crime. I try to imagine the scene, some random faculty member about to, say, light a joint at home, some Saturday morning at 1am, calling the provost to make sure he's informed. Yeah, right. Well, that and the Fifth Amendment thing, you know the part about
nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor
be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.
Yep, so we sent it back to the system lawyers, reviling the whole thing, but suggesting that they try to make it legal nonetheless.

The rule set's been back and forth a number of times now, and seems on the verge of taking force. They've limited it to crimes that negatively impact the university or one's ability to do one's job, or that happened at the university. So, someone could try to evade taxes or something, but wouldn't automatically be suspended, perhaps. (Except that you KNOW if the provost wanted to suspend the person, he'd argue that evading taxes took money from the university or got the university negative publicity.)

And they've managed to get put in place a rule that if the person is unsuspended, the system has to pay back-salary.

One of the parts that seems to remain is that the provost can suspend someone, and maintain that, even if the person has been tried and not found guilty of whatever. The PtB answer that in the case of a serious crime (fraud, embezzlement, because it's all about the money), a criminal might plead down the case, and so plead guilty of something not serious enough to warrant firing, even though the university wants to suspend and then fire the person. Still, this area seems like something that could be abused, doesn't it? And it seems like being punished despite not being found guilty of whatever. Something about due process seems off there.

How far do we trust our Provosts? Would a provost stand up for a worker (this isn't only about faculty, of course) in the face of a negative publicity report? In the face of a board of trustee member asking questions? Alas, I have doubts.

When I was a graduate student, it never really occurred to me that universities and university systems really dealt with these problems. Sure, there were rumors of the university president there having an attack helicopter on call, and a secret escape route should his offices be attacked by evil liberals, but I never thought faculty members had to worry about this sort of thing. Gosh, was I an innocent!


  1. Hmm...

    Well at BigU it is written into the tenure code that faculty are entitled to due process. Not that this stops the administration from violating due process on a regular basis.

    And no, the provost is not your friend if you are a faculty member. (S)he is usually more concerned with keeping the faculty at bay, the president happy, the Regents out of trouble and the taxpayers satisfied. (Assuming you are at a state university.)

  2. Don't you people have a union? Join the AAUP & force the system to prove it is acting legally.