Letter to the Editor: Open Letter To Ed Dupont, Chair, USNH Board Of Trustees
July 20, 2011
Dear Mr. Dupont:
I have read your recent remarks to the press concerning the arbitrator’s decision in the Larkin dismissal case. Based on several press accounts that I have read over the last two or three years, it seems that this is yet another arbitration case that the UNH administration has managed to lose. Your own comments, and those elsewhere, e.g. in newspaper editorials, blame the arbitrator and the faculty Association for the outcome of this matter. I believe that these criticisms are grossly misdirected for the following reasons:
- Arbitrators are independent and impartial individuals who reach their decisions based on the facts of a case - or in this case on definitions and precedents, legal and otherwise. In this case a crucial issue was the meaning of the phrase “moral delinquency of a grave order.”
- A major function of the faculty Association at UNH is to ensure that the terms of the collective bargaining agreement – all of whose articles were jointly and voluntarily agreed by both USNH and UNH-AAUP - are scrupulously followed – nothing more and nothing less.
- The language about “moral delinquency of a grave order” in relation to dismissal for cause was taken directly from the UNH Faculty Handbook, which was published in 1984, years before the advent of collective bargaining at UNH. Therefore, adoption and approval by the university of this language long antedated the faculty contract at the university. This language was not dreamed up by the faculty union, and, what’s more, it was repeatedly agreed to by the University System Board of Trustees in each and every successive UNH faculty contract since 1993.
- An arbitrator was brought into the Larkin case because the jointly-agreed faculty contract intrinsically provides for this in contested cases of dismissal for just cause. Once again, this procedure was repeatedly agreed to by USNH’s trustees.
- The resolution of the Larkin case was based on an arbitrator’s overall assessment of the case, which involved extensive written briefs and a formal hearing. If you have read the arbitrator’s report, you will know that the arbitrator did not feel able to accept hearsay or what he called “double hearsay” in evidence. Do you blame him for that?
- On the basis of his evaluation of what he heard and what he read, the arbitrator endorsed a set of recommendations made long ago, in mid- 2010, by the UNH Faculty Senate Professional Standards Committee (PSC). (I would note that had the university accepted these PSC recommendations in 2010, it would have saved the university a year ‘s worth of Professor Larkin’s salary). These PSC recommendations entail a financial penalty to Professor Larkin of considerable severity, amounting to approximately 80 -90 times greater than what he paid as his fine in regard to his Class B misdemeanor conviction. It is furthermore important to understand that prior to the dismissal case’s going to arbitration, the university had declined to entertain at least two alternative proposed settlements, neither of which the UNH administration showed any interest in pursuing. One of these proposals to the university involved Professor Larkin’s relinquishing of his teaching and being assigned alternative duties.
- On the basis of the testimony of the university’s witnesses, it seems extremely difficult for anyone plausibly to conclude that the UNH‘s case was well-prepared, or that the university’s witnesses had been well prepared by colleagues or by the university’s legal counsel.
- Statements by the UNH president have emphasized his concern about presumptive public-relations problems for the university that would hypothetically affect fundraising and student enrollment. If a UNH faculty member’s continuance at UNH is henceforth to be governed heavily by his or her potential negative effect on fundraising and student enrollment, e.g. because of someone’s holding an unpopular or controversial position, it is indeed a sad day for academic freedom at UNH.
- If you really wish fully to understand why this case went to arbitration , I suggest that you explore the proceedings that took place earlier in the dismissal process. In my view the UNH administration has nobody to blame but themselves for their loss of this arbitration. Furthermore, if you have been paying attention, you will know that the UNH administration is batting .000 in its several most recent arbitrations. What does that tell you? You decide.
Professor of Plant Biochemistry, UNH
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