Published in full with the permission of Bob Kreiser.
VIA FACSIMILE (404-880-6315)
April 27, 2009
Dr. Carlton E. Brown
Clark Atlanta University
223 James P. Brawley Drive, S.W.
Atlanta, Georgia 30314
Dear President Brown:
Thank you for your letter dated April 7, responding to mine of March 6 and 31, concerning the drastic actions taken by the Clark Atlanta University administration on February 6 to dismiss around twenty-five percent of CAU’s full-time faculty and ban them, effective immediately, from any further presence on campus.
You have stated that these actions were taken in a manner that preserved the integrity of the university’s academic programs and that no courses or programs were discontinued. If such was indeed the intention, we are completely at a loss to understand why you considered it necessary to remove so many existing instructors a third of the way into the spring semester without any transition or opportunity for them to communicate with those who were assigned to take over their classes. It is unprecedented in our experience. That all of these changes occurred at the same time in hundreds of courses must have occasioned a massive disruption to the educational process. As we proceed with our responsibilities in examining the problems at CAU, we would welcome any information you can now provide us to explain the process that was followed.
When we first encountered the term “enrollment emergency” in connection with the situa-tion at CAU, we assumed that the university must have experienced a sudden precipitous decline in student enrollment. From the information we have seen, however, it appears that the actual drop in enrollment was from approximately 4300 in the fall semester to 4100 in the spring. We would welcome an explanation of how a relatively small drop in enrollment of some 200 students justified the declaration of an enrollment emergency and necessitated taking actions in mid-semester that might have been taken prior to the commencement of the spring semester or that might have waited until the semester’s conclusion.
April 27, 2009
You state that the CAU administration, out of concern with the university’s “surviving and maintaining its financial stability,” was forced “to act immediately and decisively to avoid a declaration of financial exigency.” Given the university’s apparently straitened financial
circumstances and your indication that the university had a desperate immediate need to save money, we find it difficult to understand the administration’s contention that the institution is not in an exigent condition, as defined in the university’s own regulations (Section 184.108.40.206). However you may care to label CAU’s condition, it remains our position that the procedural standards set forth in Regulation 4c of our Recommended Institutional Regulations (a copy was enclosed with my March 6 letter) should have been followed.
The administration has stated that members of the faculty did not participate in specific personnel decisions, that these were made by a five-member committee consisting of four deans and the associate vice president for academic affairs. We were struck by the fact that three out of these five, like you yourself, assumed administrative positions at CAU only within the last year or two. That a body with such a paucity of experience at the university was entrusted to decide who should stay and who should go is worrisome indeed. Our worry with respect to the soundness of the decisions is increased by the criteria that were reportedly used in reaching these decisions. First among the listed criteria is faculty productivity, which was assessed by the committee of administrators in significant part on the basis of student evaluations of teacher effectiveness. In doing so, and thus in determining which faculty members should be released largely on the basis of their perceived relative merit, the administration effectively dismissed each of these professors without having demonstrated cause. In short, the actions taken against them, carried out without affordance of academic due process, were tantamount to summary dismissals.
We have been gathering information regarding specific cases of dismissed CAU faculty members who have consulted with us. Suffice it for now to refer to two examples of our concern. The first example comes from the psychology department, where the uproar that greeted the action to dismiss Professor Bass seems to have been so intense that it resulted in his reinstatement and the dismissal of the other full-time department member, who had not originally been designated for abrupt release. The second example comes from the sociol-ogy department, where the administration dismissed the one faculty member qualified to teach courses in criminal justice and assigned his courses to adjunct sociology faculty and other full-time sociologists without a criminal-justice background or experience. These two examples, among others, lead us to skepticism about the administration’s statements, doubt-less meant to be reassuring, that the quality of instruction at the university is not suffering as a result of the massive dismissals.
Your letter is silent on other significant issues raised in my March 6 letter, particularly deficiencies in the available appeals process.
April 27, 2009
* * * * *
We regret to say that your recent letter and the documents that your office has sent to sup-plement that letter do not allay our concerns. As I wrote on March 6, “the mass termination
of faculty appointments at CAU [is] grossly at odds with generally accepted principles of academic due process.” We have a meeting of our senior staff scheduled for next week to consider whether to proceed with a formal investigation and a potential published report. I hope that you can provide us by next Monday with the explanations I have invited earlier in this letter and with any significant news on where matters currently stand. The additional information would be helpful to have for our discussion.
B. Robert Kreiser
cc: Ms. Juanita Powell Baranco, Chair, Board of Trustees
Dr. Marcus W. Shute, Vice President for Research and Sponsored Programs
Dr. Jeffrey Phillips, Associate Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Dr. Shirley Williams-Kirksey, Dean, School of Arts and Sciences
Ms. Valerie Vinson, Director of Human Resources
Professor Diane Plummer, Chair, Faculty Assembly
Professor Hugh Hudson, Executive Secretary, Georgia Conference AAUP