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Klinger and Rudnick’s statements raise questions about UO’s treatment of archivists

Last updated on 03/31/2015

As might be expected, the Society of American Archivists has compiled a thorough bibliography of news stories about the UO archives release, here.

I’m still waiting to see if UO Library Dean Adriene Lim will waive the $210.63 public records fee and show what she and external reviewers had said about UO’s archives and records management processes and resources, many months before I even thought to ask for copies of UO’s Presidential Archives. My guess is that the reviews show questions about whether resources were adequate to do the jobs state law requires. Of course JH had no problem finding money for Bean and his boys.

Meanwhile, Tobin Klinger’s press release and Sharon Rudnick’s version of Amanda Walkup’s investigation report have raised many new questions about how UO dealt with its archivists in the wake of the release of UO’s Presidential Archives. The faculty union has released a statement about Kira Homo, here:

A recent story in the Register Guard, based on a press release from the University of Oregon, stated that two university library archivists were “out of their jobs” because of the role that they played in a recent release of records from the presidential archive.

This is not true.

Kira Homo worked in Special Collections at the University of Oregon as the electronic records archivist. She is also the Secretary of United Academics. She officially ended her employment at the University on March 1, 2015, for personal reasons. Because the university’s information strongly implied that Kira was fired for reasons related to the records release, Kira has asked us to post the following information:

In the fall 2014 term, Kira began graduate study toward a doctoral degree while continuing to work full-time at the university library. As anyone who has worked through graduate school understands, there comes a point when the demands of study and work come to loggerheads. Kira has struggled with these demands for the last several months and decided, in the end, to pursue her studies full-time. The fracas surrounding the records release made this decision easier to make.

Any implication that she left the University because of her role in the records release, that she was fired, or that she was forced to resign is false.

United Academics does not represent James Fox, as he held an administrative office and therefore was not in the bargaining unit. We have no knowledge of his situation outside of what we read in the papers. Most of the information on his situation seems to originate with the university administration, and in light of its description of Kira Homo’s departure, we encourage everyone to approach its press releases with skepticism.

The blog of the Society of American Archivists has this statement:

News media indicate that two members of the University of Oregon library archives staff, James Fox and Kira Homo, who previously had been put on administrative leave “will not be returning to their positions.” See background here:

SAA has no information beyond what is in the media. We have not yet heard from University Librarian Adriene Lim, who indicated that she would be in contact with SAA following the investigation. …

And the Register Guard has published several letters strongly opposing Library Dean Adriene Lim’s decision not to renew the contract of Archives Director James Fox:

James Fox was treated shamefully

I appreciated The Register-Guard’s decision to make the firing of two University of Oregon archivists the lead story on the March 26 front page. Reporter Diane Dietz did well to note that the news was released during spring break, and to put the university’s “outline” of what transpired in quotation marks.

The university spokesman referred to the archivists as “employees,” suggesting by that term that they’re lowly members of the UO staff. Such is certainly not the case, as the article clearly indicated in describing their responsibilities.

Dietz also did well to point out that James Fox was director of special collections for 15 years and an associate professor of history, whose position in the library unfortunately didn’t grant him the tenure that protects other members of the faculty.

Fox was no mere “employee,” but a distinguished scholarly librarian who devoted himself to the demanding task of supervising the collection of rare books and manuscripts that form a vital part of the UO library. He labored far beyond the call of duty to raise money and add to the collection.

The shameful treatment of a highly respected librarian will certainly give the UO a bad odor in library circles across the country. I can’t help wondering what sort of person will want to apply to fill his position.


Director’s dismissal was unjustified

The dismissal of James Fox, head of the University of Oregon library’s special collections, brings to mind the saying that the captain always goes down with his ship (“2 UO library archivists cast off,” March 26).

Over Fox’s 15-year tenure and through his untiring efforts, the UO library has gained numerous collections of historical and academic significance.

To think that the director should be able to oversee the handling of each document in a department that processes hundreds of document requests by professional archivists is absurd.

The capricious act by the university administration was wholly unjustified and perhaps an attempt to cover up the unsatisfactory state of UO records.

That was reported in a study made by university librarians who recommended, among other things, that presidential papers not be held by the library.



Treatment of archivist was despotic

The University of Oregon’s unceremonious “casting off” of archivist James Fox adds to an atmosphere of intimidation and malaise across campus, echoed elsewhere in our company town (“2 UO library archivists cast off,” March 26).

If a long-term employee with a stellar record of loyalty and service can get the ax for a subordinate’s mistake, anyone’s vulnerable.

During months of administrative leave, while nonuniversity lawyers determined his fate, Fox was allowed on campus only when accompanied by a library staff member, and was denied access to his workplace computer and phone.

Such despotic methods are consonant with what amounts to executive privilege for UO presidents — surely unwarranted in a tax-exempt institution.

Whatever those files may contain, history tells us eventually it will all come to light.

Meanwhile, the university has lost the trust and confidence of potential donors to its special collections, and the services of a genius archivist.


3/27/2015: What did Tobin Klinger tell reporters, and when did he tell it?

I don’t know. Let’s find out:

Subject: public records request, Klinger communications on archivists
Date: March 27, 2015 at 3:30:59 PM PDT
Cc: Tobin Klinger <[email protected]>
To: Lisa Thornton <[email protected]>

Dear Ms Thornton –

This is a public records request for copies of any emails, texts, tweets, andor documents sent by UO spokesperson Tobin Klinger to reporters, from March 20th to the present, giving information on the investigation of the UO Presidential Archives release and the employment status of the UO archivists.

I’m ccing Mr. Klinger, as he should be able to easily provide these, but if not I ask for a fee waiver on the basis of public interest, as demonstrated by the fact that a UO spokesperson sent them to reporters.

What I do know is here, including Sharon Rudnick’s version of the archives investigation, which UO had said would be independently done by Hershner Hunter – not overseen by a colleague of the same Randy Geller who wrote the memo advocating the dissolution of the UO Senate that is at the heart of the controversy.


  1. Anonymous2 03/28/2015

    This seems like a waste of people’s time and energy.

  2. uomatters Post author | 03/28/2015

    Nice try Tobin, but all you have to do is forward me a few emails.

    • Anonymous2 03/28/2015

      Tobin has a job to do and you’re wasting his (and others’) time and energy.

      I’m not Tobin; I don’t even work for the UO in any capacity.

      • Ben 03/28/2015

        Maybe if Johnson Hall wasn’t so corrupt with its cowardly violations of public records law and intent, there would be fewer inquiries. Clean the corruption = less need to check up on them.

        Next you’re going to complain the IRS wastes time auditing tax cheating repeat offenders. Only difference those cheaters have a better track record.

      • Anonymous UO Alum 03/30/2015

        Tobin’s job is that of a paid liar for the Administration.

        • uomatters Post author | 03/30/2015

          And he’s so bad at it.

  3. decision made 03/31/2015

    perhaps the additional scrutiny and workload associated with all of this nonsense (not the blogging but the witch hunt investigation done with extreme prejudice) made long delayed decision easy to make. At some point, people may decide the harassment from JH is just not worth it and walk away. Almost sounds like a recurring theme here.

    • gonna go far, kid 03/31/2015

      No, couldn’t be the blogging.

  4. Robert Smith 03/31/2015

    I have a fairly simple and serious question Prof Harbaugh: If the archivists did nothing wrong, and you did nothing wrong, why did you so quickly return all of the materials you say were appropriately given to you?

    Anyone who reads this blog knows you’re not a exactly a big fan of the University’s administration so we know you didn’t do it out of the kindness of your heart. If there weren’t materials in those files that you know you shouldn’t have had, why give everything back without public explanation? And considering your attitude about the University hiding behind its lawyers, please don’t use your lawyers advice as an excuse.

    • uomatters Post author | 03/31/2015

      I gave them back on advice of my lawyers, who convinced me that while I could probably win this one in court, it would take a while and there were more productive fights to come. And Doug Park bought me a new thumb drive, which was nice.

      • just different 03/31/2015

        So you decided to give them the simple and not unreasonable thing they wanted rather than get mired in a senseless and expensive legal battle just because you thought you would win in court.

        Sounds like an example Doug Park would do well to emulate.

      • Anonymous 03/31/2015

        One question I had about this part– these are digital files we’re talking about, right?
        Like, you were asked to “return” a digital file (or set of files) and then the admin let everyone know the problem was solved?

        Are these the people who really wouldn’t download a car?

      • Thom Aquinas 03/31/2015

        Yeah really, why did you return the materials?? Or more importantly, why did you return them unredacted and without a hefty fee? For once the tables were turned Dr. Harbaugh, wasn’t that a public records request from JH to you????

        • uomatters Post author | 03/31/2015

          A fee. Now why didn’t I think of that?

          I wonder if it’s too late for me to ask Hubin if he’ll give me credit towards the $210.63 that Dean Lim wants for the emails and reviews of UO records management?

  5. Ben 03/31/2015

    Good question, though the lawyer rationale is BS. A private citizen is entitled to hide behind his lawyer; a public institution is not. Apples and oranges to compare the two. Why ruin a good question with poor rationale?

    (Though Prof. Harbaugh… that is still a good question. I hope you are willing and legally able to address it.)

    • Ben 03/31/2015

      And now I see your answer, made before I hit “post.” Thanks!

  6. Anonymous 03/31/2015

    I’m sad that we didn’t get to give James a grand farewell for all the great work he has done over the last 15 years. He has cultivated many wonderful relationships for special collections, his contributions should be celebrated. One poor decision should not erase the past decade and a half. He deserves more. I hope we do not “just let it go”.

  7. Observer 03/31/2015

    What’s happened to James Fox is outrageous. He has been a longtime advocate for scholarship and scholarly resources at the UO, and acted with the utmost integrity. Whatever can possibly be the justification for firing him? I can only hope that now he’s retained an excellent lawyer. I have lost all respect for this institution.

  8. Robert Smith 03/31/2015

    So much for UOMatters belief in transparency, clearly you don’t like to include comments here that don’t fit your neat highly personalized little narratives in this case about poor old James Fox, champion of the people.

    I actually don’t understand it, he’s an administrator who didn’t do his job administering his staff, right up your alley. I’m surprised UO Matters hasn’t published his salary, pictures of his house, or made a request for his travel reimbursements (two words: steelhead fishing). The answer to “Observer”s question above is simple, he was an administrator who was terrible at administrating, for years, and (thanks to Prof Harbaugh) it finally caught up with him.

    • uomatters Post author | 03/31/2015

      Dear “Mr. Smith”: You come on my blog, anonymously insult me and attack a steelhead fisherman, and you’re pissed because I put you in the spam folder? Unless you’ve got proof he was using bait, and are willing to use your real name, go away.

  9. Observer 03/31/2015

    What is your evidence that James Fox was terrible at administrating? Having worked with him for years, I did not see any evidence that he was inadequate at his job.

    As for publishing people’s salaries, all UO salaries are publicly available on the UO website. If that’s a terrible offense, it’s the state’s terrible offense, not Harbaugh’s.

  10. Anonymous 04/02/2015

    What I can’t figure out is, were these files released to you under a documented, established procedure, like any other electronic file the library might have for scholarly or personal use?

    If they were, than Mr. Fox and Ms. Homo have a heck of a lawsuit on their hands. At least Kira resigned and has union representation.

    • uomatters Post author | 04/02/2015


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