THE UNIVERSITY OF LETHBRIDGE:

Examples of protecting administration at the expense of students and faculty


1. Student vs Administration

According to the account of the student, the class was told by administration that the form students were being forced to sign had been run by a lawyer. Administration denies that this was said. They claim that they explicitly told the class that the form had, in fact, not been run by a third party.

Here we have two different stories of the same incident. How might we determine what actually happened? Given that both the student and administration agree that the comment in question was made to a class, one would think that students from that class might be contacted to glean their recollections about the incident.

How did the university handle the situation? The “investigation” commissioned by the President avoided the matter completely. The Board, on the other hand, took another approach. The student was told in her meeting with the Board Chair and Vice-Chair that there are various ways things get heard, and that she only thought she heard what she claims to have been said by the Dean’s office to her class. Why is the Board Chair and Vice-Chair taking the administrator’s memory as the correct one and dismissing the student’s memory as flawed? This seems to reflect a pro-administration bias, particularly when the Board Chair and Vice-Chair reached that conclusion without interviews with other students in the class—a simple and necessary investigative procedure.

So, what are we dealing with here? Is the word of administration worth ten points and that of a student worth only one—or zero? In a university, we pride ourselves on going where the evidence leads. It is disheartening to see the administration of a university using a different standard by which to reach their conclusions and protect their interests. Why not simply interview members of the class? Do they have nothing to add to an investigation of this matter?


2. “Personal Allegations”

Another tactic used by administrators to protect their own interests  (rather than the institution’s interest), is to turn criticism of administrative conduct into “personal allegations” against a particular administrator. I had criticized the Dean’s office for forcing students to sign a document to remain in a class they had almost completed and I pointed out serious inadequacies in a report from the investigation that the President had commissioned. The President’s response was to charge that I had made “very serious allegations” against a member of the Dean’s staff, whom he then named.

What were these very serious allegations? The only comment that I had made about the individual in question is the following: “Dr. Hosgood states: ‘Dr. XXXXX* was instructed by the Dean to advise students that such use of the class e-mail list was inappropriate, as it necessarily included students who were not in disagreement with the new agreement and who were happy with the opportunity to complete their course work.” Is this a “very serious allegation” against anybody?

The ironic thing is that it is the President himself who revealed that Dr. XXXXX was the principal person behind the activities that I had criticized in the Dean’s office.

These are not personal allegations I have made, but the President’s accusations against me are “very serious allegations.” Why such a double standard? Or is there a standard at all when it comes to protecting the administration?


3. Allegations against students by administration

The President’s quick defence of an administrator, even though that administrator was not personally attacked, stands in sharp contrast to the action the President took to defend students when much more serious allegations were made against students by that very administrator. The administrator has made the following comments about students in the class in question: they were “openly belligerent,”  “aggressive and physically threatening’, “seemed intent to make trouble,” and “predisposed to take offense.” These are very serious allegations. These allegations have been made known to a wide circle, at the request of the administrator. Did the President take action to inform these students that such serious allegations had been made against them? And, if not (as seems to be the case), why the double standard? Do only administrators need protection? Do only administrators get protection?


— Tom Robinson
Professor

The University of Lethbridge



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EXAMINING ADMINISTRATIVE PRACTICE IN PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS