Letter to the Editor: An open letter to USNH Trustees Chairman Edward Dupont
July 6, 2011
I appreciate your many contributions to the institutions that make up the University System of New Hampshire, including the University of New Hampshire where I teach. However, I need to vigorously disagree with the statement you released concerning Professor Edward Larkin.
We can all agree, as you stated, that protecting the interests of our students should be first and foremost. Let us examine the Larkin case in that light. Is Professor Larkin currently a danger to our students?
Do you truly believe that? Do you have evidence to support that claim?
Apparently the NH criminal justice system does not agree, since it did not incarcerate him, nor convict him of a felony, but rather fined him and mandated psychiatric evaluation and counseling. Apparently the UNH Professional Standards Committee did not agree, since they recommended that Professor Larkin be allowed to return to the faculty after a one-semester unpaid leave of absence. Apparently the arbitrator in this case did not agree, since he in essence agreed with the decision of the Professional Standards Committee.
Once safety has been assessed, then we need to consider if removing Professor Larkin is truly in the best interests of the UNH students.
Prior to the incident in July 2009, Professor Larkin was highly respected by both faculty and students at UNH, with twenty-three years of strong service to the university as a teacher, scholar and administrator. I believe he is capable of returning to that level of service, and re-earning the trust and respect of his students and colleagues.
Being a leader of a public institution requires moral leadership, particularly during difficult times. I believe you have failed in this regard. Instead of cowering from public opinion, or even pandering to it, you might have attempted, early on, to shape it and educate it. To help the public understand the reasoning behind the decisions of the court, and to assure all that safety was paramount but, if Professor Larkin was determined not to be a risk, he would be allowed to return to his duties.
Instead, by joining the clamor against Professor Larkin, you have now damaged all the faculty, particularly when you denounce the faculty union, which you well know was not defending Professor Larkin, but was defending a process, a process for termination whose origin and key provision, review by an independent panel, long predate the advent of collective bargaining at UNH.
Philip J. Hatcher