Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Who let the cat out of the bag? 

I find this FOX 9 report that I'm told ran last night remarkable. A Cities TV station uses an investigative reporter for days to find one SCSU faculty member who has a second job and doesn't keep regular office hours.
Now more than ever you expect to get your money's worth� Like being able to find a professor in his office when he's supposed to be there.

..."We usually don't see him past eleven o�clock."

So where's he going? And what's his explanation for being there?

"Do you think taxpayers and students are getting a value for that?"
Nice attempt to smear an entire campus on the basis of one fellow.

As the reporter pointed out, there's nothing that prohibits faculty from having second jobs. I consult to governments on monetary policy; there have been times when I've taken unpaid days of leave to go to countries abroad. I arrange for my classes to be covered, and email covers most of students' out-of-class questions. (Like asking for extra credit for a dead cat.) And the professor is in the health field; looking at his schedule, it appears he specializes in emergency response. (I don't know him.) His classes are always stacked in the morning, so that he's done teaching by 10:00 or 10:30 each day, except for a night class.
Thursday, March 31st: He's supposed to be in the office from 11 to 12:30 but he leaves campus at 10:27 and misses his scheduled office time.
But according to his staff page, he's supposed to be in his office 9:30-11. Did he announce to his students he would miss that day, or have to leave early? The article doesn't say. The reporter is too busy playing gotcha, tailing him to the funeral home (ten minutes away).

It doesn't take an investigative reporter to let people know that faculty often need to adjust their schedules for office hours. It is not unusual for meetings to be called by administrators and to have them tell faculty it's OK to reschedule their office hours. And it's highly unusual for a department office to have the daily schedule -- including any off-campus activities or any one-time meetings -- of its entire department. The reporter shows a galling lack of context in this article.

But this isn't the most egregious part. That comes at the end:
After this meeting we tried one more time to give [the prof] an opportunity to explain his actions. We called him on the phone and he told us he "is meeting all his contractual" commitments with the University. We've learned this isn't the first time his work has been called into question.

Last fall [s/he] was issued an oral reprimand by St. Cloud State. The University says it had to do with [s/he] assigning work to lab assistants that wasn't academically relevant but that's all it will tell us. St. Cloud State says the specifics of the reprimand are private information.

Because of our story, the University has now launched its own investigation of [the prof].
An oral reprimand is the lowest form of discipline within our faculty contract (Article 24). It's given by an immediate supervisor -- which would be his dean -- and placed in his personnel file. The only other people who are supposed to have record of this is his union representative and perhaps the dean's supervisor, the provost. Which leads to the question: Who gave this information to the news station??? Who decided to validate the story by offering the information about the reprimand? And isn't it a violation of the faculty member's privacy rights to reveal an oral reprimand in an unrelated case? The administrator says it can't tell the specifics of the reprimand but reveals an accusation that he was making students work for him? Again, no context. What inspired leadership led to this PR gaffe?

Inquiring minds want to know.