AN OREGON LAW PROFESSOR AND SEASONED ARBITRATOR of grievance cases has ruled against Humboldt State University for its 1992-93 layoff of a tenured education professor. It could lead to her rehiring and/or a substantial monetary settlement.
Carlton J. Snow, professor of law at Willamette University in Salem, Ore., delivered his finding Nov. 29, thus wrapping up a series of arbitration hearings that began in April 1998, pitting the California Faculty Association against Arcata-based HSU.
It was a welcome conclusion for Carolyn Anderson, a tenured, full professor in HSU's education department, who had battled the layoff through the Humboldt Superior Court and then through arbitration hearings for almost 10 years.
She told the Journal in December, in a telephone call to her home in Santa Rosa, that there was still the matter of working out a settlement.
Anderson sits in front of the education department building.
(photos by Mark Lufkin)
"I don't want them to get away without paying me what they owe me. I'm entitled to get back my tenured position. We said we would entertain a financial settlement."
Anderson did in fact recently receive a job offer from Humboldt State. It came in a letter dated Jan. 28 from Charlotte Stokes, vice president for academic affairs, but copies went only to President Alistair McCrone and John Costello, dean of the College of Professional Studies. It bypassed the principal arbitration figures -- Professor Snow, Edward Purcell, the California Faculty Association representative for Anderson, and even the university's representative, Joel Bloc, of the chancellor's office.
"It seemed kind of weird," Anderson commented.
"There are such things as professional courtesies," observed Edward Purcell of the absence of any notification to him.
Reached by telephone at his office in Venice, Calif., Purcell told the Journal: "This is typical (HSU) conduct. This is going to wind up going back to arbitration. It's going to spend more time and more money. Somebody up there ought to be outraged at this expense to the taxpayers."
In an earlier telephone conversation (on Jan. 25), Purcell said: "I can tell you that as of today the university has not made one substantive effort to resolve. They've done everything in their power to damage the woman's reputation for 10 years. They owe her her job back, they owe her back pay. Some people on the campus refuse to admit they're wrong."
One person familiar with the case estimates that Anderson's past due salary comes to between $187,000 and $203,000 -- not including other incidentals such as pension contributions. "It could easily go up to $300,000," the source adds. "And a buyout could go even higher than half a million dollars."
As Purcell says: "The dollar signs are ringing up in her favor. The people who should be upset about it are the taxpayers. All of that money is coming from the taxpayers."
`Evidence submitted to the arbitrator established that there was an unsettling lack of diligence in efforts to evaluate the grievant's qualifications in this case.
`No one reviewed her current curriculum vita. Relevant individuals did not access her personnel file nor contact her.
In the face of significant questions, no one conducted any investigation with regard to the grievant's qualifications. There appeared to be an affirmative effort on the part of departmental chairpersons to find reasons to exclude the grievant and to do so summarily, while relying on assumptions and unverified accusations and ignoring protocols in the process that were designed to avoid arbitrary decisions.'
Anderson said the job offered her is to work with the Indian teacher education program. She has agreed to report to HSU on Feb. 21 when she has a 9 a.m. appointment with Dean Costello.
She added an addendum, however, to the signed agreement: that she be assured of tenure, that the salary level be set forth and that she receive back pay she claims is due her.
Anderson was kept in limbo for five years while the grievance was in court, but she was still on the payroll during that time, collecting her $50,000 annual salary. One of the anomalies during that period, when the case was languishing in the local superior court, was that the university would occasionally assign her some work -- such as developing a test for Native American school children in the Hoopa and Round Valley districts -- but she "had to sign a paper saying that this was NOT to be considered a job."
Originally, Anderson was joined by two other HSU education department teachers, Herbert Hendricks and Marvin Heinsohn, in their Humboldt County Superior Court action suing HSU for contract violations and wrongful termination. In an initial ruling by the late William G. Ferrogiaro, the case appeared to be going their way, but after the judge's death, the case wound up being dismissed.
Hendricks and Heinsohn later retired under protest. Anderson carried on alone, getting the teachers union to take on her cause.
Robert Elkins, who taught for six years at HSU, with one year as chair of the education department, recalls giving the California Faculty Association "a bad time" for its initial refusal to take on Anderson's case.
"We thought we were being sold out,"
he said early in January in a telephone call to his home in Novato. "The
union said, `Don't worry about it.' It was only after Anderson brought suit
against the union that the California Faculty Association said, `Oh, oh,
maybe we'd better help her.'
"Carolyn's back was against the wall," Elkins went on. She was too young to retire. She was a tenured, full professor, and they ripped her off. They had no right to. It was a political fight. It had nothing to do with teaching ability.
"So the administration figured out this tremendous ploy. They cut the whole department. These were tenured people; they couldn't say they were not good teachers. They close down the department, and that precludes tenure."
Carolyn Anderson stands outside the classroom where she used to teach.
Elkins adds: "Carolyn, bless her soul, she makes enemies. She has a way of making enemies and doesn't have any fear about it."
Anderson, who considers Elkins "one of my very dear friends," laughs and says, "Yeah, if you stand up to the university, you've made enemies -- big ones."
Anderson insists that the battle has not been about her, but about power and control.
"I was just a pawn that stood up and waved a flag, and said, `This is not right; this is not fair.' And the administration was hoping that everyone would just sort of roll over and fall out, but someone stood up. And, yes, you create a lot of enemies when you do that. I put kinks in their works. It's going to cost them; it's cost me. But I think it needed to be done. The issue needed to be addressed.
"This is the first time that tenure has been addressed through arbitration. And that's critical. In the past it was never addressed because everyone retired. When faced with losing their benefits, they retire. Whenever push came to shove, they didn't want to risk it. And even with arbitration it takes a long time with no pay and no benefits. If you retire, you literally drop your complaint. The union cannot carry your grievance if you retire."
Something else she learned about the system: "If I had taken another job during this period, Humboldt State would not have been liable for that part of my salary. I am so glad I didn't take another job, because they need to be held responsible."
I first met Carolyn Anderson on Jan. 30, 1999, when she came north from Santa Rosa for a two-hour interview to acquaint me with the varied convolutions of her entanglement with HSU.
For starters, she suggested, one should know: "There's a philosophical difference between people in education and people in subject areas, and they're virtually diametrically opposed to one another. The people in math think the most important thing you need to go out in the public school and teach is this extensive knowledge of mathematics. The people in education say that's important, BUT if you don't know how to get the subject across, you're not going anywhere ... So you've got these two philosophies that are totally incompatible, and never will be compatible."
As one HSU faculty member put it more recently, it's a case of the Ph.D. people vs. the Ed.D. people -- the doctors of philosophy lording it over the doctors of education. It's a matter of "different cultures," this source said, and adds: "That had a lot to do with the disbanding of the education department" back in the early '90s -- along with the mass layoffs of education faculty and the resultant Carolyn Anderson case.
Anderson, who herself has a Ph.D., says the Ed.D. doesn't carry the panache of a doctorate of philosophy; it's like "a practitioner's degree, what you would get if you were going to be principal of a high school or something."
That was no problem for her, she notes, because she has been on the education side of teaching throughout her career, and her assignments at HSU included everything from teaching reading courses to computer usage, and being put in charge of a master's degree program.
It was not all smooth sailing.
"There was NEVER any money to run our (education) department," she said. "I can remember teaching this master's degree in computers, and we didn't even have a computer. I asked, `Could I please have a computer?' and I was told, `When the goose lays the golden egg, your department can have a computer, We brought in enough money for a computer. Why should we have to ask for a computer?
"I was borrowing computers for threeeee (she drags it out for emphasis) years from the Teacher Education Center for the county to teach these courses. I would box them all up, teach the courses on weekends, and then pack 'em all up again and take them back to the County Office of Education. And our university could not buy ONE computer!
"So I've always felt that there's
been something funny going on with money ... Then we wanted a fax machine
for the department. `Well, you can't have a fax machine. We can only have
one fax machine, and that's in the president's office.'
"I was a member of the Computer Using Educators (CUE) Association in the state of California, and I would go to these conferences, and apparently the state cut loose with some money so that all the faculty in education were supposed to have modems, in order to get on the Internet, to be connected with other people in this association. And I'd go to the conference, and they'd say, `Well, why can't you get in touch with us?' And I'd say, `Because I don't have a modem.' `What do you mean, you don't have a modem? The state's issued money for you to have a modem.' I said, `Not at our university.' And we never got a modem. Just little things like that."
But also some big things -- like the master's degree fiasco.
"By 1990," Anderson recalled,
"they (the administration) decided, `We'll take the senior faculty,
the ones who've been around the longest and who are entrenched in their
ways, and of course they MUST be the problem, and we'll move them into the
master's degree.' This literally happened over the summer. We came back
in the fall and found we had to move to the master's degree program. And
were told: `Make it grow!'
"To teach in the master's degree, that's kind of considered a plum in academic circles. You've got people who want to be there, you've got very positive people to work with, and you're working at a higher level in subject matter. It's exciting to be there, and in some ways we were looking forward to that.
"I think about after the first eight weeks I was put in charge of that program," Anderson went on. "And we did make it grow. We had a satellite that we had just started in Crescent City, with 30-some people in it."
That was followed by another satellite started at the high school in Willits, with an initial registration of 56 people.
Then it suddenly came to a screeching halt.
"We were told by the dean (then Betty Lowery, since departed) we were not to go any further, cancel the whole thing, write these people and tell them it was no longer available.
"Is this bizarre?" Anderson asks -- rhetorically, of course. "You're being told to make a program grow, and you triple the size of it, and it's going like gangbusters. And our next site to open was going to be in the Weaverville area, to pull in Redding ... Eventually, we got permission to finish the one at Crescent City, because all 30-some of those people wrote to the university in protest."
And the very next year came the layoff notices, the disbanding of the education department (at least for about the next seven years), and ultimately, the arbitration finding in favor of the grievant, Carolyn Anderson.
She is not the first to have brought suit against Humboldt State University, nor the first to have won a case. In fact, it is an article of faith -- if not of solid fact -- on the campus that the university has yet to win a case.
Milton Boyd, a professor of biological sciences at HSU who has been involved with the CFA on campus since 1982 -- "ever since it was recognized as the collective bargaining agent" for state universities -- is unaware of any figures on the number of grievance cases the university has faced, nor is he prepared to say that the university has never won one.
But, he adds: "We certainly have won the majority of them."
Boyd also is aware of the backbiting from Anderson critics on campus. "Sure you hear that," he says. "University campuses are famous for gossip. My statement would be, `So what!'"
Noting how long the Anderson case has dragged on, Boyd stated: "All you have to do is look at the history of the case to know there obviously was some dissatisfaction with the operation of the (education) department on campus, from someone higher up in the administration. It would have to go right to the top, to the president."
Alistair McCrone, 68, a native of Saskatchewan, Canada, who was a professor of geology at University of the Pacific before coming to Humboldt State, where he has been president since 1974, did not respond to repeated messages left by the Journal.
Nor, for that matter, did most other faculty and administration members the Journal sought to interview. Ann Divers-Stamnes, chair of HSU's revived education department, did observe the courtesy of answering a call, if only to say: "We cannot talk about any personnel matters. Those are confidential."
Others would merely refer calls to Sean Kearns, the university's 43-year-old media relations chief, who, to begin with, said he did not know about the Anderson case. He later called back to say: "We are currently in negotiations to resolve the case ... The university accepts its responsibility to withhold further comments until the matter is resolved."
The university's taciturnity certainly comes as no surprise to earlier grievants in litigation with the administration. They have uniformly had to agree to a vow of silence for a period of some years after getting a settlement.
George Clark, who during the time he worked as an accounting technician at HSU's University Center came into conflict with the administration, said of his litigation: "We resolved the lawsuit with the university and purchased a home in Eureka and started a business." In explanation of his grievance, he said: "I was red-baited. I gave an interview to The Lumberjack (the campus paper) and that got the administration mad."
Larry Wolf, another former University Center employee who is now a sergeant with the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office working as correctional supervisor, got his settlement for a run-in with the administration, as he remembers, in 1982-83, so he considers the silence period over.
"I was fired by the university for `not doing my job,'" he relates. "Where I had 'em by the short hairs, I was given access to a memorandum that said I was carrying out all the directives of my superiors."
He wound up with a payoff of $5,000, and he says today: "I would never settle for $5,000 again. It seemed like a lot of money at the time."
Explaining his reason for going to litigation, Wolf says: "I wanted to get McCrone's attention, so he would know these people were leading him down the wrong road. He needed to know that I was running things on the up and up.
"After it was all settled," Wolf concludes, "they gave me my job back. I quit. Would you want to go back and work for them?"
Al Figone, 61, a native of Daly City who taught in high schools for 11 years and at San Francisco State for six years, came north to Humboldt State in 1980, where he is a professor in physical education. He has been involved in two grievance cases against the university, each going on for about five years.
Over breakfast recently he said: "The issues that I was pursuing could easily have been resolved by sitting down, with good dialogue, being reasonable. It was totally preventable, and that's very frustrating to me. Nobody would have lost or won, and the university and I would probably have been more happy about the situation instead of having to go through all these years of spending money. In both my litigation cases I did 95 percent of the work. That was incredibly time-consuming. And it wasn't necessary. That's the frustration of it."
Like other litigants, Figone cannot discuss terms of the settlement. These settlement monies -- and some come to big bucks indeed -- come out of the taxpayers' pockets.
"The university," Figone suggests, "should be able to open up its books and say `this is how much we spent for litigation.' The public should know, absolutely. You're fighting against yourself, because you're paying taxes. The whole system should really insure that fairness is the guiding theme in any issue. It seems that would be in the university's interest, in the public's interest."
Figone, a friend of Carolyn Anderson's, says of her case: "We've discussed that over the years. It seems that if she prevailed, as apparently she has, there must have been something going on there.
"One shouldn't have to go through spending all that money, going through that litigation, that stress ... I don't think in a university setting that kind of behavior should occur.
"It's a large system, CSU (California State University), so essentially it's like David vs. Goliath. And the university, like all large organizations, when an issue comes up, will disregard the law. You're fighting the whole state of California. You could mortgage your house and everything just trying to defend yourself."
Duncan Bazemore, a retired professor of religious studies at HSU and another friend of Anderson's, asks: "Why'd they drag it on all this time? It's a terrible abuse of her." He accuses the university of "stalling tactics to get her to quit (the litigation)."