EXAMINING ADMINISTRATIVE PRACTICE IN PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS

 

Email correspondence between Robinson and President Cade




EMAIL #1

    From:       Cade

    Subject:     student withdrawals

    Date:     December 23, 2005 11:37:42 AM MST (CA)

    To:       Robinson


Tom:  I've looked into the matter we spoke about.  The consent form is not the way I would have dealt with students staying in the course, there did need to be some way to ensure that students who continued in the course knew the changed terms of the way the course would be offered.


I do believe, however, that the students who opted to drop the course should have received a full refund.  I am proceeding to refund the remainder of their tuition for that course to them.  The refunds will be processed early in January.


Thanks.


If the student you spoke with would like to see me, please ask her to contact me early in the new year.


Bill




EMAIL #2

    From:       Robinson

    Subject:     Re: student withdrawals

    Date:     December 23, 2005 12:15:35 PM MST (CA)

    To:       Cade


Bill,


Thanks for looking into the matter and taking steps to resolve the issues. I am sure the students who dropped will appreciate the refund. The other matter relates to those who stayed in the course. I think that the student who spoke with me was more concerned about how the matter was handled (forced to sign a contract to continue; ordered to cease discussing the matter on the class list, and treated in a less than a professional way. I will inform the student that she should approach you about the matter further, if she wishes.


Thanks, again, and have a merry Christmas.


Tom




EMAIL #3


    From:       Cade

    Subject:     Re: student withdrawals

    Date:     December 23, 2005 2:09:19 PM MST (CA)

    To:       Robinson


Tom:  There is obviously more to this situation than I thought.  So rather than take any action now, I am going to hold off on refunding the rest of the tuition to those who dropped.  I would like to talk with the student or students in question before I take any further action.


Would you please have the student contact me?


Thanks.


Bill




EMAIL #4


    From:      Robinson

    Subject:     Re: student withdrawals

    Date:     December 23, 2005 6:37:03 PM MST (CA)

    To:       Cade


Bill,


I'll do that.


Tom




EMAIL #5


    From:       Robinson

    Subject:     Student appointment

    Date:     January 9, 2006 9:23:13 AM MST (CA)

    To:       Cade


Bill,


I learned over the weekend that Chris Hosgood is to be present when the student we discussed has an appointment with you on Thursday. This has made the student quite puzzled and somewhat uncomfortable, given that her concern is with the conduct of the Dean's office and the fact that, as an English major, it is likely that she will not remain anonymous, particularly with people in the Dean's office from the English Department.


I would hope this student could see you alone at first. If you both decide that other steps or meetings are necessary, that decision can be made after that.


Thanks for considering this.


Tom




EMAIL #6


    From:       Cade

    Subject:     Re: Student appointment

    Date:     January 9, 2006 1:54:46 PM MST (CA)

    To:       Robinson


Tom:


This matter has to be handled at the Dean's office initially as we discussed briefly when you brought the matter to me.  Chris was not involved in anyway with the resolution of how the course was offered and he is usually the starting point for students who have an issue with a course or grades.


The problem I have with becoming involved in any substantive way at this stage is that I have to remain neutral in case the matter comes to me from the Dean's office or from the VP Academic.


I have complete confidence in Dr. Hosgood's ability to handle the matter.


My intention was to meet with the student and Chris, the ask her to outline the general issues and then explain how we would go about looking into the matter further.  Issues of confidentiality could also be touched on if the student is worried about this. I was then going to suggest that the student and Chris meet independently to go over more detailed aspects of the case.



Bill




EMAIL #7


    From:       Robinson

    Subject:     Re: Student appointment

    Date:     January 10, 2006 4:35:08 AM MST (CA)

    To:       Cade


Bill,


I, too, have confidence in Hosgood. That is not the point. The student's concern is with the Dean's office. That she is being asked to give her story to a member of the Dean's office seems to her, quite reasonably so, that the office is investigating itself. Of course she has concerns.


When I came to you, you were initially hesitant to speak about the matter because you thought it was about another matter and you had concerns that the case might come to you later. Understandably, you did not want to be compromised.


You had not heard of this particular case until I raised it with you because the student had not approached anyone in the administration. You told me in e-mails after our meeting that you would meet with the student if she wished, and this is what I communicated to the student. I detected no hesitation on your part to meet with her then. She is obviously concerned that she cannot simply meet with you privately about the matter.


For your reference, your two e-mails of Dec 23 stated:

(1) If the student you spoke with would like to see me, please ask her to contact me early in the new year.

(2)  I would like to talk with the student or students in question before I take any further action.

Would you please have the student contact me?


I think the matter is a simple one. The student was concerned (and insulted, I think) about how the matter was handled. I brought the matter to your attention because of her frustration and my sense that this was not a matter for more formal processes.


Tom




EMAIL #8



    From:       Cade

    Subject:     Re: Student appointment

    Date:     January 10, 2006 7:07:33 AM MST (CA)

    To:       Robinson


Thanks Tom.  You are, of course, correct in your description of events etc.  But things change and this matter became much more complicated than I had initially thought.  I came to the conclusion that it was not appropriate for me to deal with the issues at this stage.  It seems likely that I might have to become involved if the complaint is considered at the Faculty level and thus I have decided not to be involved at this stage.  As a courtesy to you and the student I suggested she come see me.  I plan to explain this to the student if we meet.


Chris has not been involved in the matter at all and. If the student wants the matter looked into then she will need to work with Chris at this stage of the matter.  The matter can be kept confidential at this stage if that is what the student wants. It is always possible I will get involved later.  This complaint, like others, has to be handled in ways that we have established.


When we met on this issue we both acknowledge that every issue can be appealed.  If I get involved at this stage then the next level of appeal is the Board.  I do not think it would be appropriate for a student complaint to reach the Board so directly.


I appreciate your concern for the student and for the academic integrity of our courses.  I think my course of action is also in the interest of the student and academic integrity.


Bill




EMAIL #9


    From:       Robinson

    Subject:     Re: Student appointment

    Date:     January 10, 2006 8:03:01 AM MST (CA)

    To:       Cade


Bill,


Thanks for the clarification. I didn't want a situation to become uncomfortable for the student, but I do understand your concern that you not get involved at this stage. I think the matter can be handled easily and quickly.


Tom




EMAIL #10


    From:       Cade

    Subject:     Your recent letter

    Date:     February 21, 2006 12:54:38 PM MST (CA)

    To:       Robinson

    Cc:       Nicol, Hosgood


Tom:


Thank you for your recent letter dealing with a number of issues regarding a course in the Department of English.  I certainly appreciate your concern for our students and I value your opinion that the University has not acted properly. There is, however, little the University can do at this stage in the absence of a formal complaint by the students.  I explained this to the student who met with me and Chris Hosgood.  If the students in the class want the University to take additional action beyond the review conducted by Dr. Hosgood, then we need to receive a written and signed complaint.


Bill




EMAIL #11



    From:       Robinson

    Subject:     Re: Your recent letter

    Date:     February 22, 2006 9:07:22 AM MST (CA)

    To:       Cade

    Cc:       student [name and address removed]*


Bill,


I have spoken to the student and she will make the matter formal. I am disappointed that the matter was not settled in a low-key manner, and I disagree with your assessment that there was nothing the University could do without a signed, formal appeal. We routinely correct mistakes and oversights and fix problems without being forced to do so by formal process. Indeed, most of the disputes within the University are resolved without a formal appeal.


If it is the case that there is unwillingness on the part of the administration to recognize that students were unnecessarily put in an uncomfortable situation by a forced contract, then we are indeed at a profoundly serious level of disagreement. I am embarrassed as a faculty member to have had students forced into such a situation and I am doubly embarrassed that the University is unable to simply correct the situation in a reasonable, simple, non-confrontational manner.


Since the matter is not one of grade appeal. would you advise the student about the formal process you expect? Given that the student has already brought the matter to your attention and that you had Dr. Hosgood review the matter, one might assume that a formal process has, indeed, already started. If it is the opinion of the administration that Dr. Hosgood's review is an adequate response to this matter, then the seriousness of this situation has not been grasped by the University. That is truly unfortunate for all of us.


And let me say again that I expect that there will be no negative consequences for the student who initially expressed concern about the matter.


I am attaching a copy of Dr. Hosgood's review below. I assume you have read the report.


Tom

   



EMAIL #12


    From:       Cade

    Subject:     English course

    Date:     February 22, 2006 10:58:13 AM MST (CA)

    To:       Robinson

    Cc:       O’Shea, Nicol, Hosgood


Tom:  


The University tried to settle the matter in an informal fashion.  This attempt led to Dr. Hosgood's report.  Your information that the student is not satisfied with the outcome of this informal process is unfortunate if correct. 


As you clearly pointed out in your letter, this is a complicated matter.  Also, you make some very serious allegations in your letter about the behavior of a member of the Dean's staff, Dr. XXXXX.*   Any resolution of the matter along the lines recommended in your letter would amount to an acceptance by the University of your account of the administrator's behavior even though your account is based largely on second hand information.  The solution you recommend would be most unfair to Dr. XXXXX.*


I will contact the student and advise her on how to proceed if that is her decision.


In the meantime, you provided a copy of your letter to Dean Nicol and Associate Dean Hosgood.  In the spirit of fairness, I think it should be provided to Dr. XXXXX.*  I am therefore requesting your permission to provide a copy of your letter to Dr. XXXXX.*


Bill




EMAIL #13


    From:       Robinson

    Subject:     Re: English course

    Date:     February 22, 2006 12:12:00 PM MST (CA)

    To:       Cade

    Cc:       student [name and address removed]*


Bill,


Please do provide a copy of my letter to Dr. XXXXX.* I did not intend to leave Dr. XXXXX* out of the loop. From the information that I have, it was the Dean's office (and not specifically Dr. XXXXX*) that determined the action. 


Further, if you reread my letter, you will note that I am careful not to make allegations but to state that if it is the case that such an action or comment was made, then the following conclusions would seem to follow. I stand by my comments.


Finally, I am not asking the university to admit any formal wrongdoing. Your concern that my solution is "most unfair to Dr. XXXXX*" is puzzling. I have attempted not to single out Dr. XXXXX* or anyone else. I have asked for a resolution of the matter and I have suggested (but not demanded) a particular solution.  I find it surprising that you think that Dr. Hosgood's report adequately answered the student's concerns. Dr. Hosgood' report is simply that, a report—not a resolution.


The following seem to be agreed upon facts: (1) students were forced to sign a contract in order to continue in a course in which they had already invested about two months of work and for which they had already paid fees; (2) students who would not sign a contract were forced to withdraw from the course, and they lost half their tuition by withdrawing; (3) students who tried to discuss the matter using the class list were ordered to cease. Surely the university can see how such actions put the students in an unusual and unnecessary situation.


I wished only to have a simple matter solved simply. The "circling of the wagons" that I sense on the part of the administration is an outcome I did not expect but it is an outcome that I was assured by others would be the response. Again, disappointing.


I will continue to provide whatever assistance I can to bring about a resolution of the matter that is fair to everyone. The facts as I understand them (which largely are confirmed by the Dean's office) place me on the side of the students.


Tom




EMAIL #14


    From:       Cade

    Subject:     English Course Dispute

    Date:     February 22, 2006 2:24:50 PM MST (CA)

    To:       Royer

    Cc:       Robinson, Zaugg


Terry:


I am writing to inform you of a matter involving a third year course in English that was initially brought to my attention in a meeting before Christmas and in a subsequent letter by Dr. Tom Robinson who had spoken to one of the students in the course.  Tom has brought the matter to my attention in his role as a faculty member, but he is also a Board member and, I believe, this requires that I keep you informed.


Very briefly, the English professor fell ill some weeks into the course and was unable to teach.  The Dean's office worked with the Department to put on the rest of the course.  The grading scheme also had to be changed for the course.  The students were given the option of continuing in the course provided they signed an agreement acknowledging that the course, including the grading, was changed or they could drop the course.  Some students dropped and received a partial refund.  There are also allegations involving the conduct of the Assistant Dean who handled the matter.


I met with one student referred to me by Dr. Robinson.  Associate Dean Chris Hosgood also attended the meeting and met later with the student to discuss the matter in more detail.  In an email to the student Dr. Hosgood concludes that the University did everything possible to ensure students received the course.


I informed the student when we first met that if she was not satisfied with Dr. Hosgood's review of the matter then she would need to provide a written complaint for the University to investigate the matter further.  Dr. Robinson has informed me that the student is not satisfied and will complain formally.  If this happens, I will refer the matter to the VP Academic for investigation since the complaint is against the Dean's actions.


In my view this is a proper procedure to handle student complaints and certainly the way we have handled student complaints in the past.


Bill




EMAIL #15


From:       Robinson

    Subject:     Re: English Course Dispute

    Date:     February 23, 2006 7:09:53 AM MST (CA)

    To:       Cade


Bill,


Since you have brought the matter to the Board's attention, I am asking that our full correspondence on the matter be provided for the Board. It is probably better, once having raised the matter, to provide all relevant materials.


I will also bring the matter to the attention of the Faculty Association, since I am a member of that group too, and this seems to be your sense of proper procedure in matters such as this.


It is also probably necessary for the student to inform the Students' Union.


It is unfortunate that a simple matter could not have been handled more simply. I am disappointed.


Tom




EMAIL #16


    From:       Cade

    Subject:     Re: English Course Dispute

    Date:     February 23, 2006 7:35:29 AM MST (CA)

    To:       Royer

    Cc:       Robinson, Zaugg


Terry:  Tom has requested that I provide you with the full documentation on the case in the English course.  We will put together a package and ship it off to you.


Bill




EMAIL #17


    From:       Cade

    Subject:     Re: English Course Dispute

    Date:     February 23, 2006 7:41:03 AM MST (CA)

    To:       Robinson

    Cc:       Zaugg


Tom:


My reasoning with respect to the Board is that they have a due diligence responsibility,  you are a member and I report to them.  I will remove any reference to the student's name in the material I send to protect her privacy.


Bill




EMAIL #18


    From:       Cade

    Subject:     Informing the Board

    Date:     February 28, 2006 2:37:07 PM MST (CA)

    To:       administrator [name and address removed],* Robinson

    Cc:       Nicol, O’Shea, Zaugg, Hosgood


Dear XXXXX*, Tom and others:


I appreciate the exchange of viewpoints here and, of course, there might still be a complaint from a student(s) who was actually in the course.


I do want to emphasize one thing at this stage and that has to do with my decision to inform my immediate supervisor of the situation.  More specifically,  my actions or lack  thereof have been heavily criticized by a Board member.  In this circumstance I am obligated to inform my Chair that one of his Board members has found my behavior unacceptable.  I have not asked the Board to intervene or to evaluate any of the correspondence and I don't intend to do so.  It is my responsibility to ensure that any criticism of me by a Board member is made know to the Board Chair.  As you know, I have fulfilled this responsibility.


Bill




EMAIL #19


    From:      Robinson

    Subject:     identification of the student

    Date:     March 7, 2006 8:40:39 AM MST (CA)

    To:       Cade

    Cc:       student [name and address removed]*


Bill,


In my review of the correspondence regarding the matter I brought to your attention involving an English class, I noticed that the name of the student was revealed to the Dean in the correspondence. In your e-mail to me of February 22, 2006 (10:58:13 AM), you included a copy of my e-mail, in which I had copied Dr. Hosgood's letter to the student. But you also copied your reply to me to a number of others (O'Shea, Nicol, Hosgood). By doing so, you have identified the student (at least by first name, which easily identifies the student, unfortunately) to the Dean.** I had stressed repeatedly that it was important to not reveal the name of the student at this time.


I realize that this was not intentional on your part. It could have happened to any of us, no matter how diligent. But the reality is that the student's identity has been revealed. This is a serious matter. Given how the initial incident was handled by the Dean's office and given how members of the administration (yourself included) have chosen to spin my criticism of the actions of the administration into "personal allegations," I have no grounds upon which to think that the same will not be done with concerns that this student has expressed.


I am advising the student to take whatever action is necessary to insure that the expression of concern and disagreement with the actions of administration is not thrown back at her as "personal allegations," as it has been done in my case. This is the climate that the administration's response to this matter has fostered, and I will take whatever steps necessary to insure that dissent by students or professors can be made against administrative procedures without litigious threats from the administration.


This matter is now serious.


Tom




EMAIL #20


    From:       Robinson

    Subject:     Re: meeting

    Date:     March 29, 2006 9:18:21 AM MST (CA)

    To:       Cade


Bill,


Terry Royer asked me to meet with you in the interest of resolving the disagreement we have. If you think such a meeting would be helpful, I would be happy to meet sometime.


Tom




EMAIL #21


    From:       Cade

    Subject:     Re: meeting

    Date:     March 29, 2006 10:01:51 AM MST (CA)

    To:       Robinson


Sounds ok to me.  It will have to be today, however, since we are off tomorrow for Japan.  Are you free at noon?  I'll ask Debbie to contact you.


Bill




EMAIL #22


    From:       Robinson

    Subject:     Re: meeting

    Date:     March 29, 2006 10:23:24 AM MST (CA)

    To:       Cade


Bill,


Sure. Noon sounds fine.


Tom



NOTE: The emails above include only the original new email message, not the copies of previous emails. All such emails are here, however, and the conversation can be followed easily by reading from the first email to the last. The names of the sender and recipients have been used in place of their email addresses: O’Shea (V.P Academic). Nicol (Dean of Arts and Science), Hosgood (Associate Dean of Arts and Science), Zaugg (Secretary to the Board of Governors

  1. *My dispute is with the conduct of the University of Lethbridge President and with senior members of the Board of Governors. I have, therefore, deleted the names of junior players in these matters, except for Dr. Chris Hosgood, who was commissioned to investigate the matter. He was not otherwise involved in the matter. The student’s name has also been deleted from the email above.

  2. ** Copies of previous emails between Robinson and Cade were included in Cade’s email to others. This email correspondence had been between Robinson and Cade. Cade chose to widen the circle and copy the emails to others, thereby exposing the identity of the student whose name he had promised to keep confidential.




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