Monday, December 09, 2002

Stryker speaks

Laurinda Stryker, one of the plaintiffs in the anti-Semitism case, has written a farewell letter in the campus newspaper (requires free registration).

About two years ago, I spoke out against anti-Semitism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination and then immediately began to be denigrated by my chair and by my dean, despite previous praise from them. I tried to resolve things in a low-key manner and use the mechanisms available to me on campus. ...
Note the cloaking device (this conjures up images of Star Trek, but never mind) that Stryker uses. Her actions are solely because she "spoke out" and someone took revenge.
Only when it became clear that some administrators were intent upon terminating my employment at SCSU by means of illegally noncontractual (and, to my mind, unethical) actions did I hire an attorney. ...
Note that Zmora already had a lawyer and EEOC complaint underway; Stryker filed on April 2, 2001 according to this WaPo article. So the time from her speaking out to taking the lawyer was probably not all that long. After the EEOC report came out in February this year -- which our president unprecedentedly asked for himself, and which he thought he was going to use to address the issue -- the suit is filed a week later. The EEOC report becomes part of the plaintiffs' case.
I continue to have difficulty accepting what has occurred. I was summoned to a settlement conference in July. At that conference, I was made the so-called "offer I couldn't refuse." Either I had to accept the settlement proposal or be fired, effective the next day and have to hire another lawyer and then file yet another lawsuit for wrongful dismissal. This was how the "offer" was presented to me by the state university system and SCSU.

So I signed.
So the question you have to ask here is, why? We have so many people wanting to use the university's agreement to settle as a confession of guilt. Why would she sign rather than allow herself to be fired and sue the living crap out of the university? If it really was wrongful termination, wouldn't she win much more than the $80,000 she took away from this settlement? Could it be... from the WaPo article,
officials are urging she not be retained on the faculty and are investigating her over what she called a bogus charge of academic fraud. She said that when she applied to be put on the tenure track two years ago, she told officials she had a scholarly article coming out in an academic journal. But, she said, she was unable to finish the piece because her mother became seriously ill.
The discussion on campus was always around this being a book under contract rather than an article in review that didn't end up getting done, but that falls under the category of rumor. Still, for her to sign this settlement, she must have thought they had something that could cause her to lose a wrongful termination case, right?

Now, if you're answering me with "that's unfair, she's not admitted anything," well, you're right ... but isn't that what everyone is doing assuming SCSU is anti-Semitic because we settled?
My scheduled courses for this semester were oversubscribed; I've taught some of the students who had registered for them since they were freshmen and I was looking forward to seeing them through their senior year and celebrating their graduation with them. I wanted more than anything to return to the classroom.

Instead, I was told that I must submit a letter of resignation which would be effective August 2003 and not teach at all during this academic year. Beyond that -- unbelievably to me -- I was to vacate my office before the beginning of the semester, months prior to receiving a written offer of settlement. Again, if I didn't do so I would be fired immediately.
"Oh hi, Laurinda, so nice to see you here. Thanks ever so much for dragging our university through the mud, shall we go to lunch at the faculty club?" Did she really think it wise to stay around?
I'm now on paid study leave, which costs the university not only my salary, but salaries for those who are teaching "my" classes.
Which wasn't an issue when she took leave in 2001 because of stress and left four classes for her colleagues to teach?

This then is where we end with Prof. Stryker. She really was committed to studying the Holocaust, and she and I have spoken at length about the Armenian genocide, so it was with some sadness that I found her embroiled in this controversy. And I think her letter, while not forthcoming about the complicating issue of her resume, will end up serving her well with her supporters at SCSU. For those of us who dispute the settlement, we should recognize that her part in this is actually a sideshow from the main issues raised by Zmora. It's to him that we turn next. Stay with us, please, as we lay out more of this case.