Vice Chancellor William Plater of Indiana University Purdue University Indianpolis has a problem.
His problem is that he misinformed all of Indiana about the basic facts of the William Bradford case, in a letter to the editor of The Indianapolis Star on July 3, 2005. He erroneously stated that Bradford—a patriotic Chiricahua Apache Indian with a stellar teaching, service and publication record—was "not yet eligible" for tenure at IU Indy-Law, the law school of IUPUI, and that was why he wasn’t being allowed to apply for it. In reality, however, Plater was punishing William Bradford for publicly criticizing the Vice Chancellor’s friend Professor Florence Roisman. Roisman in turn was angry at Bradford for refusing to sign her petition in favor of the traitor and false Indian Ward Churchill. In Plater’s letter to The Star, Plater explicitly defended Roisman and her friend Mary Mitchell from accusations by Bradford that they had engaged in racist conduct towards him by expecting him to sign the Churchill petition just because Churchill claimed to be an Indian: "What kind of an Indian ARE you?", Roisman had exclaimed when Bradford refused to sign. Bradford asserted that he was an individual, with individual opinions, which did not include support of Ward Churchill: in other words, Bradford claimed to be a person, not an ethnic category.
The problem Vice Chancellor Plater now faced was that he had lied in print to the people of Indiana. The fact was that Bradford WAS eligible for tenure. At IUPUI and in the Indiana University system, anyone at any time is eligible to apply for tenure who is on a tenure-track line. Bradford is on a tenure-track line. Early tenure is in fact an established practice both in the Indiana University system and at IUPUI for those with outstanding records. Since Bradford has excellent teaching and service records, and an astounding number of publications for someone untenured (a book, a forthcoming book, and 21 legal-scholarly articles), he was a natural candidate for tenure. Not only where there tenured associate professors in the Law School with fewer publications than Bradford had, there were FULL professors in the Law School with fewer publications than Bradford had, and indeed there were CHAIRED full professors in the Law School with fewer publications than Bradford had. In one case, a white woman, Mary Mitchell,--a close ally of Florence Roisman--is a full professor and holds a Chair of law at IU Indy-Law on the basis of a small book of case law and two articles, the last published in 1987: that is all. Bradford has published literally ten times as much as she has. Moreover, Mitchell’s license to practice law in Indiana was revoked "for cause" in 2003.
Well, what was the Vice Chancellor to do, to “handle” his problem of having lied to the people of Indiana, in Indiana’s leading newspaper, in July, and to cover the University’s legal liability for having wrongfully rejected Bradford’s letter of application for candidacy for tenure? His solution was to create a special grievance panel to consider charges of "ethics violations" which Roisman and Mitchel raised against Bradford. Their grievance was that Bradford had publicly called them racists. Since Vice Chancellor Plater had already defended Roisman and Mitchell against this accusation in print in public in The Indianapolis Star, calling Bradford’s charges "unfair", he was just about the LAST person at IUPUI who should have been entrusted with considering this case. He was, indeed, asked to recuse himself, precisely for this reason--but he refused. Instead he indulged himself by reaching a preliminary judgment that Roisman and Mitchell’s "ethics violation" charge had merit—enough to warrant creting a committee of investigation. And then he personally hand-picked this panel to deliver a judgment on the white women’s grievance. That panel consists of three white people, two of whom are known friends of Roisman and Mitchell.
In seating this panel which is now already setting about its business to bring in some sort of verdict against Bradford, Vice Chancellor Plater obviously hopes to distract attention from his own lies to the press and people of Indiana by having the minority male Bradford convicted of "ethics misconduct" for calling Roisman and Mitchell racists when they treated him as a specimen of a racial category.
But the action of the Vice Chancellor has in turn created another problem for him—both legally and in terms of public relations. The "hanging jury" he has empanelled is in multiple and severe violations of the IUPUI Handbook on Grievance Procedures. It is blatantly and multiply illegal according to the bylaws of Plater’s own university. By pursuing this illegal course of action in order to distract attention from his previous public lies to the people of Indiana, Vice Chancellor Plater has opened his university not only to a shameful scandal of administrative malfeasance and a multi-million dollar lawsuit from Bradford; he has also become himself a severe danger to the University itself.
Roisman and Mitchell say they have a grievance. Very well: there is in fact a well-established procedure at IUPUI by which faculty can pursue grievances, either against one another or against the University. The formal procedures by which a Review Board is empanelled to hear a grievance brought by faculty, and how the members are appointed, and how the Review Board is then to proceed to judge the case, are all laid out in great and specific detail in the University’s Grievance Handbook: "University Bylaw: Article IV: Grievance Procedure." The stated purpose of these rules for empanelling of the Review Board and the governing of its procedure is to guarantee fairness to all sides in any grievance, and to guarantee an impartial judgment from impartial observers. Any reader of Frontpage can look up these detailed and careful procedures at this website.
For the sake of our convenience here, I am calling these University Bylaws of Grievance Procedure the "University Grievance Handbook". A simple glance at the University Grievance Handbook establishes that the Plater Panel IS ILLEGAL in multiple ways simultaneously. It severely violates numerous rules of the Grievance Handbook. In other words, it severely violates numerous bylaws of Plater’s own University.
That any university official, let alone a Vice Chancellor would dare to engage in such malfeasance, to violate the rules in this multiple and savage fashion, in order to cover up his previous administrative incompetence or malfeasance, and to protect the university from the legal consequences and liability from that previous wrong-doing—well, it is simply astounding.
Here are the rules, and Plater’s Panel’s violations of them.
(1). "Each Faculty Board of Review shall consist of five members appointed by the Executive Committee of the IUPUI Faculty Council from a group of twenty (20) faculty-members and librarians elected by the Faculty Council." This is Handbook Rule E.1. The 20 potential members eligible for five-person Grievance Review Boards are all chosen in January of each year (Handbook Regulation E.2).
But the special Plater Panel to hear Roisman’s and Mitchell’s grievance against Bradford was constituted and handpicked by Vice Chancellor Plater HIMSELF, instead of being chosen from eligible faculty by the Executive Committee of the IUPUI Faculty Council as required in the University bylaws. Thus the Plater Panel from the beginning blatantly violates University Grievance Rule E.1. That this panel chosen to judge Bradford was chosen by a University administrator who had already mishandled the case and already criticized Bradford in print on the very issue to be judged by the panel he has chosen obviously raises severe questions of conflict of interest as well: it is precisely the type of conflict of interest which Grievance Rule E.1 was designed to avoid.
The Plater Panel also consists only of three people: Jerry Bepko, James White and Angela McBride; but the Grievance Handbook mandates that a Grievance Review Board shall consist of five people (E.1 again). The Plater Panel thus simultaneously violates this provision of University Grievance Regulation E.1 as well.
2. "A potential member of a Board of Review who is a member of a department (or school whichh is not departmentalized) from which a case arises is disqualified to consider the case": this is Rule F.5.a, obviously created to avoid any conflict of interest by members of the panel. Now, the case from which this grievance arose came from the Law School. Yet the Plater Panel has two members from the Law School: James White and Jerry Bepko. Instead of having no persons on it who belong to the unit from which the controversy arose, as mandated by University Grievance Regulations, the special Plater Panel thus has two persons out of three from the very unit where the controversy arose. This is in blatant and even grotesque violation of University Grievance Regulation F.5..a. Two-thirds of the panel are actually automatically disqualified from participation by F.5.a. This is for a good reason: any judge from the affected unit has a potential severe conflict of interest, hence is automatically excluded for reasons of fairness and to maintain impartiality. It is astounding that this rule has not stopped Plater—but it has not.
3. "A member of a Board who believes he or she may not be impartial shall disqualify himself/herself, and a replacement shall be appointed by the Executive Committee”: this is Rule F.5.b. The importance of impartiality is also stressed in Rule A.2.a.
All three panelists on the Plater Panel have been accused of bias, two because they are members of the law school, one (Angela McBridge) because she is a known friend of one of the plaintiffs, Roisman. A formal complaint about this, with specific allegations, has been lodged with Vice Chancellor Plater. His response was one sentence: everything looked just fine and impartial to him, so case closed. With all three panelists accused of bias, and with no reply to the specific accusations of bias being given, the Plater Panel is thus in violation of University Grievance Regulations A.2.A and F.5.b
4. The Plater Panel was constituted before the grievants had engaged in informal redress of grievance: Roisman and Mitchell have attempted absolutely none. But the University Grievance Regulations mandate that multiple attempts must be made by the grievants to resolve the conflict informally before there is resort to a formal Grievance Review Board: these are Grievance Regulations F.2 and F.3. The Plater Panel, has already been seated and put into operation before informal redress of grievance had been attempted. It is thus—addition to all the other violations we have established--in severe violation Grievance Regulations F.2 and F.3.
5. The Plater Panel is making up its rules of procedure as it goes along, as the Vice Chancellor informed William Bradford on September 9:
With regard to the procedures that the panel will follow, the advisory panel will be developing its own procedures. This is set forth in the August 24 memorandum charging the panel—on which you were copied. I believe the panel, therefore, will communicate directly with the parties regarding the procedures they will use.
The Plater Panel is thus in violation of every single University Grievance Regulation included in Grievance Regulations Section G.4, which sets forth the precise procedures to be followed in a the hearing of a faculty grievance. It violates every one of the formal procedures which are required in that section of the University bylaws.
That the Vice Chancellor has been allowed to create this "hanging jury" on his own, in violation of numerous University bylaws, IS A MAJOR SCANDAL: the Plater Panel was illegally chosen by a biased administrator who should have recused himself; the panel contains an illegal number of people; its panelists consist 100% of unacceptable people who should have recused themselves for cause as members of the panel; it was constituted at an illegally early stage in the grievance procedure before any recourse to informal resolution of the conflict; and it is proceeding illegally by making up its own rules of procedure as it goes along. This is the lynch mob Vice Chancellor Plater has created in order to “handle” his Bradford problem.
Now, perhaps Plater will attempt in public—because this should now go public in a big way in Indianapolis if the reputation of the University is itself to be saved--to depict his panel as simply a regular Grievance Review Board. If he attempts to depict the panel as a regular Grievance Review Board, the main problem is that it violates SIX major guarantees of fairness in the Review Board Handbook.
But it is my belief that Plater will now in fact argue in public that he is NOT in violation of the Grievance Handbook because his panel is NOT really a "Grievance Review Board"; it is merely an "Advisory Panel." And as a mere “Advisory Panel” it is not governed by any of the rules in the IUPUI Grievance Guidebook.
It should be obvious that this would be a subterfuge, a deception, based on a mere playing with words: indeed, it would simply be more evidence of Plater’s lawless bad faith in the Bradford matter. Lynch mob, “Advisory Panel”, whatever you call it, this special committee is simply a better instrument for lynching Bradford than a properly constituted and properly regulated Grievance Board of Review where his rights would be protected—a Grievance Board of Review which is readily available through regular University procedures.
Suppose Plater does claim that his hand-picked committee of hangmen is merely an “Advisory Panel;” let us lay out the ways in which Plater is once more trying to mislead. His argument is fallacious because (1) the purpose of Plater's Advisory Panel is deliver a judgment on a grievance (Roisman's and Mitchell's), just like a regular Grievance Review Board does: this judgment on Roisman’s and Mitchell’s grievance against Bradford will constitute the alleged "advice" the Panel gives Plater. (2) But given this purpose, the fact is that there already exists an established procedure at the University for formally handling grievances, an established procedure which carries with it built-in guarantees of fairness to all the parties, a process which Plater is deliberately avoiding. One wants to know why he is avoiding it. And, finally, (3) in any case NO special and ad hoc "Advisory Panel" constituted to hear and judge a grievance can be created which intentionally omits from the beginning all those guarantees of fairness which are built into the regular grievance procedure.
But wait—there’s more. It turns out that just as there already exists at IUPUI a regular Grievance Review Board, there also already exists at IUPUI a more informal “Grievance Advisory Panel.” The rules for the use of this official “Grievance Advisory Panel”, and who specifically sits on this panel, and what their duties are, can be found at http://www.iupui.edu/~fcouncil/committees/FGAP_04-05.htm. Here is what those rules for “Faculty Grievance Advisory Panels” mandate:
“The IUPUI Faculty Grievance Advisory Panel is an elected faculty group designed to be available early on in the course of developing or potential grievances. Its members are available to serve as impartial consultants for faculty and administrators. The Panel members are available to help resolve situations informally by encouraging and facilitating discussions between the parties to the grievance. At the conclusion of its work, the Faculty Grievance Advisory Panel shall not compile any report or file containing the specific information of any grievance brought to it.” (Faculty Council Bylaws IV.A.2.)
The current elected members of this standing advisory panel are then listed: there are seven elected members (not three), and none of the seven elected members are the three people whom Plater has chosen for his “Advisory Panel” on the Roisman-Mitchell “grievance” against Bradford. Moreover, it is intended that Plater’s “Advisory Panel” will issue a report—a judgment to Plater himself on the Roisman-Mitchell “grievance”.
Thus if Vice Chancellor Plater claims that his panel is a regular Grievance Review Board which can issue a judgment, then it is a Review Board which is constituted and is operating in ruthless violation of almost every single university regulation governing Review Boards (see above). But the same scandalous situation is also the case if Plater now claims that his panel is merely an “Advisory Panel.” For Plater’s “Advisory Panel” has been constituted at far too late a stage in the controversy, it contains the wrong number of people, it contains the wrong people per se, it contains people who are not impartial, and it will issue a report to him. All of this violates the specific University Bylaws governing the creation and function of informal Grievance Advisory Panels.
Vice Chancellor Plater should be ashamed for attempting to create this grievance panel with no rules, a grievance panel which illegally and intentionally violates all the guarantees of fairness built into the regular grievance procedure. This is why it amounts to a lynching. And those who serve on Plater’s Panel should be ashamed of themselves as well. Moreover, Plater now risks severe damage to the University and its reputation by going down this immoral and illegal road. Not only is there a multi-million dollar judgment from any jury in Bradford’s favor at the end of this foul process, but how does Plater think the Republican state legislators who control much of IUPUI's money are going to react to such breathtakingly out-of-control behavior and arrogant rules-breaking by the second-in-command at IUPUI? Can you imagine what both the near-term and long-term impact will be for IUPUI, and especially for the Law School? Plater's uncontrolled and vindictive actions against Bill Bradford are creating a public-relations Katrina for the University. People must wake up to the reality here: they must embrace the protection provided by the rules, regulations, and procedures regarding grievances which the University has, for good reason of fairness, already established.
This has become a matter for the University’s Trustees.
“Professor X” is a full professor at a flagship campus of a major state university. He is a registered Democrat who voted for Kerry in 2004.
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