The California State University, Stanislaus Academic Senate voted Tuesday to formally censure Interim Provost Herman Lujan for “intemperate remarks” made in a Nov. 4 letter to the editor, published in the Turlock Journal.
By a vote of 38-5, the Academic Senate found that Lujan “Falsely report(ed) or misled the public about faculty workload and Winter Term,” in his letter.
“In that document, I referred to the facts as I understood them and spoke them,” Lujan said prior to the vote. “I spoke them as an opinion and not as (CSU Stanislaus) policy.
“The piece appeared in the opinion section (of the Journal),” he continued. “I am entitled to my opinion, but more than that I am entitled not to be muzzled because some disagree with the content of what I said.”
Some faculty members, including those in the department of Psychology as represented by Professor Stephen Black, agreed that Lujan’s letter to the editor merely represented a personal opinion. As such, Black believed Lujan’s letter was protected under free speech guidelines, and that the Academic Senate would be best off responding with “more speech” rather than a censure.
Sam Regaldo, professor of History, argued that as Lujan signed his university title to the letter, his words could not be interpreted solely as a personal opinion
“As is the case often, you have a title to identify who you are,” Lujan said. “In the case of this, the title was there. I was not speaking for the University.”
John Sarraillé, professor of Computer Science, disagreed. Sarraillé cited Lujan’s past experience as provost and president at various universities, and made clear that Lujan ought to have known the image he would send by penning the letter.
“I think he knew exactly what he was doing when he wrote that article and I think it was an attack — not only an attack, but a libelous attack — on the faculty,” Sarraillé said. “… It deserves our censure.”
Per senate guidelines, a censure is formal rebuke or reprimand. It does not disallow Lujan from speaking in any way, nor does it restrict his speech in the future; the censure merely chastises the interim provost for sullying the reputation of the faculty through making what the Academic Senate believes are misleading or counterfactual statements.
Professor Ann Strohm, representing a majority of the Sociology Department, also opposed the censure, however. While she and her department did not disagree that Lujan made false statements that made professors appear underworked and overpaid, Strohm feared the censure could make faculty appear to be “petty,” or “whiners.” Strohm also related concerns that the censure might detract attention from the vote of no confidence in President Hamid Shirvani, which was accepted Friday.
Elaine Peterson, professor of Economics, went as far as to move to table discussion on the censure at one point, due to her department’s reluctance to censure Lujan without a clear pattern of mistakes to point toward. However, the vast majority of Academic Senators — by nearly an 8 to 1 ratio — believed that censure was an appropriate response to Lujan’s “misleading” letter to the editor.
In that letter, Lujan claimed that, “Less than 5 percent of faculty teaches a Winter Term course,” when the recent Academic Calendar Advisory Committee report, as commissioned by Shirvani, found that one-third of tenure-track faculty participated in Winter Term.
Lujan also wrote that, “95 percent of faculty receives 10 months of pay for only seven months of instructional work.” The same ACAC report notes that faculty are contracted to teach a certain amount of units each year, regardless of how many terms there are, and that the cancellation of Winter Term would not change faculty workload.
Betsy Eudey, professor of Gender Studies, noted that it was Lujan’s job to investigate labor concerns, and that if the interim provost truly believed faculty members were not meeting their contract requirements that he should pursue action. As his beliefs came out in a newspaper letter to the editor rather than a formal investigation, Eudey believed the statements did not show a “belief in our lack of work, but an intent to inflame.”
Additionally, the Academic Senate report takes issue with Lujan’s claim that all classes currently taught during Winter Term — which is to be canceled beginning in the 2010-2011 school year — would still be taught during the replacement inter-session. They note that duplication of the current Winter Term schedule for the new inter-session would violate faculty contracts, while adding new courses, as Lujan proposed, would require working an overload.
Lujan also wrote the change from a Winter Term to an inter-session would “facilitate student progress toward graduation.” The Academic Senate argued that fewer inter-session courses will be offered, and even fewer students will take those courses because they cannot afford to pay the higher costs associated with self-support. They believe this will lead to a decline in graduation rates and an increase in time to graduation.
Lujan’s claim that the Winter Term would “enhance students’ education” also drew the ire of Academic Senators. The senate report cites unnamed students as saying the 12 class-day self-support intersession, which will replace the 20 class-day Winter Term, will cost students more and will “diminish, not enhance, their ‘education.’” Students would be left with the options of either paying more for inter-session courses, taking more classes in the fall or spring, or keeping their current course loads and delaying graduation
Robert Silverman, professor of Computer Science, took issue with the reduction to a 12-day term from his professional point of view, noting that his traditional Winter Term class on Computer Security and Cryptography would require covering too much information in too little time.
“I think their minds would explode and I would be held accountable for that,” Silverman said.
Lujan also stated in the letter than the shift to a self-support inter-session would help the majority of students from losing out on financial aid, when the senate found that no more than 40 percent of students would be affected.
Shortly before the vote, Lujan admitted he had since learned some things contained in the letter were incorrect, but stopped short of apologizing for his letter.
“I did convey the facts as I knew them,” Lujan said. “I’ve learned some things in the meantime.
“I perhaps could have found some better-crafted language to use, but I wrote it, I stand by it, and I leave to you the judgment.”
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Update: The above text has been edited from its original form. The quote spoken by John Sarraillé, professor of Computer Science, was incorrectly attributed to John Garcia, professor of Social Work in the initial release. We apologize for this error.