University tried to silence faculty blogger with sex harassment allegations

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has the story, here:

CHICAGO, March 20, 2015—A former high-level administrator at Chicago State University alleged in a statement filed yesterday in federal court that Chicago State President Wayne Watson pressured her to file a false sexual harassment complaint against Professor Philip Beverly, an outspoken faculty critic of Watson’s administration.

According to the declaration of former Chicago State Vice President for Enrollment Management LaShondra Peebles, Watson was determined to silence Beverly by shutting down the blog, CSU Faculty Voice, which Beverly had founded. Contributors routinely posted documents that supported their allegations of mismanagement by the administration.

The Chicago Tribune report is here:

The president of Chicago State University tried to pressure a high-level administrator to file false claims of sexual harassment against an outspoken professor to help the college try to silence him, according to court documents filed Thursday as part of an ongoing lawsuit. In a sworn statement, LaShondra Peebles, the college’s former interim vice president of enrollment and student affairs, said before she was fired that President Wayne Watson pushed her to accuse Phillip Beverly of sexual harassment, though Peebles said she was never harassed.

Beverly contributes to the blog CSU Faculty Voice, which has been critical of Watson and his policies. Beverly and professor Robert Bionaz have sued the university in federal court for allegedly attempting to shut down their blog.

From Ms Peebles’s statement to the court:

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 7.20.10 PM

This sort of thing would never happen at UO, right? Right?

Speaking of UO Interim GC Doug Park, there’s still no news on the search to replace him with a competent general counsel.

Applications were due Feb 5 for full consideration, campus interviews were supposed to take place in March, and a permanent replacement for Park is supposed to be in the job in April. We hope.

Park’s fingerprints are all over UO’s redoubled efforts to hide public records, and the decisions to sue the survivor of the alleged basketball gang rape, and persuade Counseling Center Director Shelly Kerr to give her confidential counseling records to the GC, so they could scan them into the office’s digital archives. (Interim Provost Frances Bronet made Park give the originals back, it’s not clear what happened to the digital copies.)

I had to make a public records request and threaten a petition to the DA, just to find out who was on the search committee for a new GC. Eventually Coltrane posted this:

The committee includes:

Priscilla Southwell, Department head and Professor of Political Science
Meg Reeves, General Counsel at Oregon State University
Brad Shelton, Interim Vice President for Research and Innovation
David Schuman, Professor of Law
Angela Wilhelms, Secretary of the University

I’m guessing the real hiring committee “includes” a few more names, but whatever. What’s taking so long?

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13 Responses to University tried to silence faculty blogger with sex harassment allegations

  1. Michigan Duck says:

    “What’s taking so long?”

    Perhaps all the good candidates wouldn’t touch that job with a 20 ft. legal brief when they could have other jobs? Again, I think UO has gotten past the point where they are going to lure good people to Eugene. The mess is so widespread and well-known, good people are going to look elsewhere. The only candidates left vying for admin jobs will be the people that don’t have good chances at other research universities.

  2. cynic says:

    Michigan Duck may be correct, but the right person will be inspired by the challenge of Dodge City and the chance for legendary status. That kind of challenge just might inspire someone really good. We can only hope and then respond accordingly when s/he arrives.

  3. Why am I getting a feeling of Déjà vu?

    You at least have to have a sense of humor about such things…

  4. Robert Bionaz says:

    I follow your blog with interest. Perhaps we should have a contest to determine which university has the worst general counsel. Here’s my case for ours: 1) CSU almost never responds to FOIA requests, forcing me to appeal constantly to the Illinois Public Access Counselor; 2) Patrick Cage, our General Counsel, does not know anything about applicable AG opinions bearing on FOIA requests; 3) (this is my trump card) Patrick Cage is not really familiar with the English language. He doesn’t know the difference between “advice” and “advise” or “tenants” and “tenets.” Is your GC similarly illiterate?

  5. uomatters says:

    Dear Professor Bionaz –

    While I know that your GC has sued your excellent blog http://csufacultyvoice.blogspot.com/ once or twice, I do not believe that your statement that the CSU General Counsel is worse than the UO GC is supported by the empirical evidence. I will respond to your claims point by point:

    1) and 2) on FOIA requests: UO’s public records behavior is so notoriously bad that I’m able to fund my web-hosting fees by selling “redacted” t-shirts and coffee cups to bemused journalists and disgusted UO Alumni: https://uomatters.com/university-of-nike

    3) You’ve got a point with the spelling problem. Did this guy pass the bar exam?

    But in support of my claim that UO’s current interim GC Doug Park is the worst, I’ll point out that he has accused me of harassment just for ccing him on a few emails about overdue public records requests https://uomatters.com/2014/09/interim-gc-doug-park-says-its-harassment-to-cc-him-on-a-public-records-request.html He even made a point of ccing my Dean and Department Chair on his accusation. Maybe that’s harassment too? In any case they ignored him.

    Furthermore, UO’s General Counsel’s Office has history on its side. The previous GC, Randy Geller, “resigned” right in the middle of a gang rape allegation investigation that he’d apparently botched. And he’d been promoted to GC only after the Attorney General found that his boss and previous GC Melinda Grier had provided “deficient legal representation” over a football coach’s contract, which cost UO millions to fix. Then Geller appointed Grier as “General Counsel Emeritus” and accused the AG of conducting a sham investigation. He did write a nice apology for that though, with no spelling errors: http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/steve_duin/index.ssf/2012/08/melinda_grier_back_as_general.html

    I know I’ve got a personal stake in this, so perhaps we can convince the AAUP to run a nationwide contest for worst university GC, with some neutral referees from FIRE?

    • just different says:

      Boy, this is going to be tough. Maybe we need different categories, such as Corruption, Incompetence, Overreaching/Bullying, etc.

    • Robert Bionaz says:

      I admit that your guy has impressive credentials. In response to points 1 and 2: I almost never even get response from the university any more. In fact, they did not even bother to respond to 16 of the last 22 FOIA requests I filed. I am continuously appealing to the Public Access Counselor. In my case, even a heavily redacted document would be an improvement. As far as point 2, I concede that one, what a great idea!

      In terms of harassment charges, I was subjected to a legal affairs “investigation” under a newly-minted “cyberbullying” policy for a face-to-fact conversation I had with the president’s press lackey.

      I think our general counsel’s incompetence, stupidity and laziness might be a unique combination. He’s quite fond of foul-mouthed criticisms of undergraduate students, although I concede that he’s not yet had the opportunity to botch something as serious as a gang rape.

      Cage’s deficient language skills are even more impressive when you realize that in an earlier letter he demonstrated an ignorance of the difference between “tenants” and “tenets.”

      I think a neutral observer is the only way to resolve this impasse, but I acknowledge that your candidate will be tough to beat.

      • Anas Clypeata says:

        Does not know the difference between “continuously” and “continually”….

        How’s life in your glass house?

        • Andy Stahl says:

          Although not decisive, it would be a vote in favor of CSU’s GC as worst if Robert Bionaz is “continuously appealing” public records grievances. That would mean that his appeals overlap with no break in time in which the GC is in compliance with the law. Plausible and, if so, grammatically quite proper.

  6. Robert Bionaz says:

    Sorry about the mistake. You’re right, of course, thanks so much for your correction.

    • uomatters says:

      I wouldn’t concede so quickly. This dispute reminds me of when the feds made Montana institute a 55 MPH energy conservation speed limit. It’s a big state, everyone hated this, but without it federal highway money would end.

      So one state senator pointed out that there would, in theory, be no limit to the number of tickets that could be issued even for one brief instance of speeding. Therefore the law must restrict the number of tickets to some finite number per time period.

      The legislature thought this was a great idea. A $5 ticket, no record for your insurance, and only one ticket per *day*. If you got stopped again, you just showed the trooper your receipt, and drove on.

  7. Robert Bionaz says:

    The issue is not important. I’ll take the blame for sloppy writing or poor editing in this case. I do not, however, post anonymously and therefore take responsibility for my own words.

    • Fishwrapper says:

      A rare man of virtue in a sea of chickenshits. (I’m with the latter column, myself…)