Jennifer Morlok resigns over retaliation, calls out President Schill

Update: The Chronicle’s report is here:

… In a written statement to The Chronicle, Oregon’s vice president for student life, Robin Holmes, said that the university “was committed to providing Ms. Morlok with a supportive work environment,” but that she had chosen not to accept offers of “alternative workplace scenarios.” Ms. Holmes went on to write that the university was “fundamentally opposed to anything that can be construed as workplace retaliation against those who air critical views or opinions.”

UO is fundamentally opposed to retaliation? Come on, retaliation has been part of the Oregon Way for years. Joe Wade ($600K), Jean Stockard ($600K), James Cleavenger ($750K so far), etc., etc.

Thanks to the UO Senate and the UAUO faculty union we do now have an academic freedom policy that says the administration can’t retaliate on the basis of speech criticizing the administration, but Randy Geller, Doug Park, Scott Coltrane, Mike Gottfredson, Doug Blandy, and Tim Gleason fought that for years, and it’s still to be seen if our new administration will enforce it.

I wonder who wrote that statement for Robin Holmes? Jennifer Winters and Rita Radostitz again, as with Holmes’s basketball rape allegations op-ed for the RG? Those emails are from the Presidential Archives release. Speaking of retaliation, Doug Park and Doug Blandy tried to use that release to fire me, and UO did use it to fire Archivist James Fox.

11/2/2015: Ms Morlok was Jane Doe’s counselor at UO. Her decision to fight General Counsel Doug Park’s efforts to get her client’s counseling records has led or will lead to improvements in state and federal law and UO policy. UO needs more people like her. She’s a hero.

But the UO administration has treated her like a pariah. She took it for a year, at great personal cost. Now she has resigned, after a year of retaliation from UO. It’s heartbreaking. We can’t afford to lose people like this.

As for people we can afford to lose – Doug Park, Sam Hill, Shelley Kerr, Robin Holmes – the people who made the decision to get Jane Doe’s records, and who led UO into more than a year of expensive national embarrassment? (Legal costs and Jane Doe settlement alone ~$1.6M). They are still here, still making decisions, still collecting their paychecks, still due for their next raises.

The final straw?

I was cautiously hopeful when President Schill stated, “I will not tolerate the victimization of any member of our community. Period.” (President Michael Schill 2015)   But then President Schill stated, “I do not believe any of our coaches, administrators, or other University personnel acted wrongfully, nor do I believe that any one of them failed to live up to the high moral standards that we value and that they embody in their work every day.” Mr. Schill did not speak to me or my colleague about our concerns and it appeared that there was no consideration on his part that wrong may have occurred and that ethics may have been violated. I am thankful that the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners looks at all the evidence and does not carry blind loyalty and PR concerns as does a University. Mr. Schill, your statement claiming no wrong doing without even speaking to the ones who brought the concern up in the first place deflated hope by many that accountability and consequences would come to those who did wrong in leadership positions- causing harm along the way.

Her letter in full:

November 1st, 2015

Dear President Schill, UCTC Colleagues and Others Whom This Concerns,

This letter is to inform you that, effective immediately, I resign from the position of Case Manager/Senior Staff Therapist and External Resource Coordinator with the University of Oregon Counseling and Testing Center (UCTC).

After a year of retaliation because I spoke up for a client of mine, with regard to the unethical actions of my superiors, I can no longer manage the emotional strain and professional toll I have paid for speaking the truth. I have had to seek my own therapeutic support along this tough journey, and it is recommended that I take care of my own psychological and physical well-being.

I was hoping change would occur where I would no longer have to endure retaliation. However, even after the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners issued a notice of proposed disciplinary action finding that the Director of the Counseling Center had engaged in unethical behavior with regard to disclosing confidential client files, the University has taken no supportive actions to make sure I am safe and treated with the full professional support I need in order to do my job. The direct lack of concern for my client’s well-being by leadership at both the Counseling Center and elsewhere in the University has been astonishing to say the least.

With all this considered, I am no longer able to continue to pay the price for others’ wrong actions.  I am no longer willing to be treated as though I am an enemy of the very counseling services I enjoyed providing to students- or an enemy of the very University I received my degree from- where I had hoped my two sons would attend. It is wrong to treat employees who share problems with the system as though they are the problem. It takes more loyalty to speak up to the University and one’s superiors about a wrong they may be doing than it does to participate in the wrong behavior that ultimately will hurt the University as a whole. As George Orwell stated, “In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

As a clinician and a member of the Interpersonal Violence Team and the Mandated Risk Assessment Team, I have truly enjoyed the opportunity I have had to assist students in connecting to services and resources in their time of need.  Being able to accomplish this in numbers above the national average has been a fantastic accomplishment and a deep enjoyment for me. 

I am disheartened that, because of the ill treatment I have endured after speaking up regarding confidential records being disclosed unethically by the Director of the UCTC (as evidenced by the September notice by the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners) I am forced to resign.  I am sad to have to leave a job I have otherwise greatly enjoyed, where I was able to support students in their own struggles.  Working with students has been a pleasure and an honor for me.  The positive feedback from students has kept me going through the difficult times and will continue to be an inspiration to me.

I am not able to sit any longer and be the token of other’s revenge. I am disgusted and disappointed that such behavior exists at my beloved alma mater, but in particular at the Counseling Center itself. The Counseling Center is supposed to represent a safe place for students to come and it is supposed to be a place supporting the mental health of the clients coming in for services. It should never be about the loyalty to the “business” of the University, or to commit unethical behavior with supervisors utilizing their positions of power to evade proper accountability and consequences. I am still in shock that a State regulatory board, which fully investigated and found unethical behavior to have happened by leadership at the Counseling Center, is more likely to enact consequences than the very place of higher education where the wrongful behavior occurred.  I was cautiously hopeful when President Schill stated, “I will not tolerate the victimization of any member of our community. Period.” (President Michael Schill 2015)   But then President Schill stated, “I do not believe any of our coaches, administrators, or other University personnel acted wrongfully, nor do I believe that any one of them failed to live up to the high moral standards that we value and that they embody in their work every day.” Mr. Schill did not speak to me or my colleague about our concerns and it appeared that there was no consideration on his part that wrong may have occurred and that ethics may have been violated. I am thankful that the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners looks at all the evidence and does not carry blind loyalty and PR concerns as does a University. Mr. Schill, your statement claiming no wrong doing without even speaking to the ones who brought the concern up in the first place deflated hope by many that accountability and consequences would come to those who did wrong in leadership positions- causing harm along the way. After all, if the President of the University is confident these leaders have done no wrong then why would they be worried about consequences and why should they stop retaliating against myself or my colleague? A system of no accountability is certainly not going to learn from its mistakes and it perpetuates a cycle of the same unethical and problematic leaders repeating harmful history. As Abraham Lincoln stated, “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”

I have offered my assistance to help make positive changes on our campus but I have been removed from the ability to do so, having duties taken away from me. I have been “sidelined.” At the very moment that a concerned employee (whistleblower) can help fix the problem the leadership does everything in its power to make sure the whistleblower does not have the chance to be a part of any positive change. Despite this, I continue to believe that speaking up makes change for the better possible. Even while being sidelined, advocating for better policies on confidentiality for our students seems to have had an affect toward better care for students nationwide. It is accurate that the truth will set one free and I choose to stay with the truth. As Malcolm X stated, “I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it’s for or against.”

I am encouraged that strong policies are being enacted to further protect students’ confidential records by our legislators. This has been the force needed to make sure Universities are honoring the difference of when a student actually becomes a patient/client with rights to appropriate medical treatment following State standards and ethics. It is important for the University and federal government to adopt the strongest confidentiality policies possible so the line between student and patient does not get blurred.  Although I am disappointed in the dishonorable treatment of myself and my colleague who also spoke up, I am encouraged by the greater change that is happening on campuses nationwide from those courageous enough to disclose the problems that are occurring.

I wish the best to the University and its students and to those I leave behind who are trying to stand for moral and ethical leadership. I have been honored to be a part of positive change for our campus and our students.  I am sad to leave but I hope that those who come after me will take a stand for better treatment of whistleblowers at the University of Oregon and campuses nationwide as well as for students who are seeking clinical treatment services during very vulnerable times in their lives. They – not us — are our priority.  I will continue to stand for, and promote, positive changes on campuses and in our community. I hope you will also.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best: “Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”

With Kindest Regards, Jennifer Morlok

I like the quotes. Our history is full of people who fought for justice and truth, and paid the price. We return their sacrifice with fame and honors. Their words inspire others to fight, and they also console them, when they get stomped on.

Ms Morlok has already filed a tort-claim notice against UO. More here.

Just this spring UO Human Resources gave Jennifer Morlok and Karen Stokes its highest award for their actions in reporting Doug Park’s counseling records seizure.

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10 Responses to Jennifer Morlok resigns over retaliation, calls out President Schill

  1. Angel says:

    Thank you for continuing to mention the people we can afford to lose Park, Hill, Kerr, Holmes. These are the same people whose names continue to come up any time there is another lawsuit and/or unprofessional behavior. If we can see it – why can’t the President.

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  2. Dog says:

    Always admire persons of principle – ultimately the UO seems to sledgehammer the principles out of all of us …. as we practice zero accountability and prioritize expediency

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  3. Payroll Guy says:

    More good publicity for the UO. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/university-of-oregon-retaliation_5637a998e4b0c66bae5d324b

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  4. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    I wonder — is Michael Schill having second thoughts yet?

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  5. Publius says:

    I suspect Schill really didn’t know what he was getting into. He was probably told that all the U of O’s problems were due to a few faculty malcontents, that there were no real scandals here, etc. He will now be spending his time dealing with the Austin lawsuit, the pending Morlok action, and God knows what else is looming–while counseling everyone to “put the past behind them”.

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    • Max Powers says:

      A friend of mine told me “I don’t know anyone in their right mind who would want to work at the University of Oregon right now” He was speaking of coming in to executive leadership.

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      • uomatters says:

        And yet Schill has already made several good hires.

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        • Sun Tzu says:

          You are getting soft very quickly UOMATTERS or you are playing nice with the admin due to your Senate position. Yes, Schill has made several new hires but there is absolutely no evidence they are better than their predecessors. Let’s revisit this next year if they (and we) are still around…

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      • anonec says:

        I agree that no administrator who would want to coast to retirement (Gottfredson) or come up with fancy pet projects would come to UO anymore.

        But if you like challenges and want an early role in a new leadership (new President, GC, 5 dean searches), you should think twice (pay is even well above the market rate). Once the current searches are filled – Schill may move up on the chart and take a look at Coltrane and Moffit.

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  6. SaveUofO says:

    There is a laundry list of administrators here at UofO that need to go. I cannot recall a period where there were so many lawsuits filed against this school. Retaliation seems to be the theme this year. Schill cannot be blind to this and must take action.

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