Stillman College Censured Over Faculty Member Dismissal

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by Michelle D. Anderson

Delegates attending the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) annual meeting last weekend voted to place Stillman College on its censure list after the organization concluded that the college violated the organization’s rules on academic freedom and tenure.

The June 14 censure stems from the April 2008 dismissal of Ekow Hayford, a terminated business professor at the Tuscaloosa, Ala.–based historically Black college. A detailed account of the events and the AAUP’s findings were summarized in “Academic Freedom and Tenure: Stillman College,” released by an AAUP investigating committee in the spring.

During its 95th annual meeting, which was held in Washington, D.C., the AAUP, a national advocacy organization for college professors, also placed North Idaho College, Nicholls State University (La.), and Cedarville University (Ohio) on its censure list while voting to remove the University of New Haven from the list. The organization also began taking preliminary steps to remove Tulane University from the list.  

The four institutions have undergone censure because of improper, unfair, or unexplained termination or dismissal of tenure and non-tenure professors. AAUP censures schools to inform the academic community that a particular college or university administration abandoned principles of academic freedom and tenure as defined by the AAUP and the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

The eight-page report concluded that the Stillman administration dismissed the AAUP’s “basic requisites of academic due process” by not providing Hayford with a list of charges and by not giving him the opportunity to defend himself before a group of faculty peers.

A draft of the report was sent to Stillman administrators before its publication. The college responded by saying the AAUP’s account contained unsupported claims and assumptions. Walvid D. King Sr., associate vice president for advancement at Stillman, told Diverse that the entire situation was just causing “unnecessary havoc.”

“We really did not need this type of distraction,” King said. “It’s been drawn out too long, and we really just want it to go away.”

According to the official statement submitted by Stillman College, the college was “completely and maliciously misrepresented,” and only two facts were contained in the AAUP report. The statement said the two facts were that a faculty member “wantonly violated a published policy” and that the AAUP voted to place the college on its list of censured administrations.

“The entire matter has the substance and legitimacy one would find in a hearing and sentencing in North Korea,” the Stillman statement said.

The investigating committee’s report focused on Hayford’s termination, which stems from allegations that Hayford violated a faculty handbook policy against “malicious gossip or public verbal abuse.”

During the 2006-07 academic year, Hayford questioned the president, Dr. Ernest McNealey, in faculty meetings about administrative practices. Hayford’s criticisms eventually became public when the local newspaper, the Tuscaloosa News, picked up the story in November 2007.

In January 2008, the administration fined Hayford for missing the college’s spring institute, course registration and the first two days of the spring 2008 semester. According to a college policy, faculty members who fail to use appropriate protocol for absences can be fined, resulting in a reduced paycheck.

Hayford said he had been absent because of family matters and later submitted a complaint saying that he did follow proper protocol by notifying his department chair and dean. Later, the faculty committee, chaired by Professor Dabney Gray, concluded that Hayford did not follow proper protocol and that the administration’s decision to reduce his paycheck by nearly $800 was fair and “in accord with standard [procedures].”

On March 13, 2008, Stillman’s vice president of academic affairs, Dr. Charlotte Carter, informed Hayford that he was suspended with pay and barred from the campus while campus officials investigated him over allegations that he had engaged in “malicious gossip or public verbal abuse” during the previous academic year.

While Hayford has said the suspension was the result of local news coverage, Regina Walker, Stillman’s assistant to the vice president, responded by saying that the suspension had nothing to do with Hayford’s decision to speak to local reporters. Stillman College dismissed Hayford in April 2008 claiming that he had spread malicious gossip about the Stillman administration under McNealey, according to news reports. Hayford had taught at the school for 28 years and received tenure in 1987.



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