This post builds upon information provided in other posts, beginning with this blog’s Introduction. The focus of this particular post is upon unfortunate behavior by a few professors and adminstrators on IU’s Indianapolis campus (IUPUI) — especially but not only in IUPUI’s school of social work (SSW). The next post in this series provides more of a chronological perspective on these and related matters.
This post, and the next, cover events as far back as 2007. As such, they depart somewhat from the reverse chronological sequence loosely governing this blog. It seems advisable to provide this information at this point nonetheless, so as to supply some overall perspective.
This post is quite long; yet there is much more that could be said. The material presented here amounts to a compromise between providing too much information to read vs. not enough information to make several essential points. Some readers may find it sufficient to read only the first one or two stories, below, before moving on to the next post. Others may appreciate the longer historical sketch provided by the following comments.
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First, some caveats.
It is relatively unusual to encounter a document of this nature. It naturally raises questions. But to keep this post at a manageable length, there will not be much of an effort, here, to answer those questions, nor to elaborate or reflect upon related topics. Other posts in this series may address some such matters.
This post is further limited by the materials available to me. In various complaint processes, I obtained photocopies of some notes and emails. My study of those materials indicates that other materials were withheld. I also received virtually no accounts of the phone conversations, face-to-face meetings, and other actions and interactions that transpired during this process.
Before proceeding with the stories, I should comment briefly on Gladys, the pseudonymous student involved in several of these incidents. Gladys, a classmate with whom I had no strong personal connection, filed or instigated two separate complaints against me during the 2008-2009 school year, our second year together in the SW PhD program. The first one led to charges and sanctions against me. As described in more detail below, those charges and sanctions were later found to be unjustified, and were dismissed. The second complaint was dismissed without any charges.
After Gladys’s second complaint, Dean Jason Spratt sent an email to Dean Michael A. Patchner of the SSW, observing the prominent role that Gladys was playing in these matters, and warning Dean Patchner that the SSW should not be singling me out for adverse treatment.
I do not know whether Dean Spratt considered the possibility that Gladys, who naturally had her own needs and issues, was at risk of being used as a tool or pretext for an administrative agenda that was not in her own best interests. It does not appear that any other faculty or administrators were concerned about this possibility.
In October 2008, Dr. Margaret Adamek, director of the IU SSW PhD program, sent an email to the university’s Dean of Graduate Students, Sherry Queener, with the subject line “Ray – new information.” In that message, Dr. Adamek notified Dean Queener that she had “disturbing information” about me. The thing that she needed to tell Dean Queener about was a nightmare that I’d had in 1983.
Let me pause to make sure that paragraph is clear. The director of the PhD program in which I invested years of work, in pursuit of a doctoral degree, was telling a senior dean of the university that she had disturbing information about me, based upon a nightmare that I’d had a quarter-century earlier.
Dr. Adamek said that she had received news of this nightmare from Gladys. That is, this senior educator was working with one student in her program, to dig up unflattering information about another student in her program.
Dr. Adamek’s email assured Dean Queener, “I can present documentation of these issues if need be.” But that turned out not to be true. A few hours later, she emailed back to admit that she had gotten it wrong. In fact, she now acknowledged, my nightmare sent a very different message than she had first imagined. The actual message of my nightmare was that I dreamt I was such an awful person that my then-wife would do anything to get away from me.
Gladys discovered the nightmare by Googling my name. She found the story in a book that I published in 1991. The book was about the process of becoming a lawyer. I had the nightmare when I was studying for the New York bar exam. The months of bar exam prep were pretty hard on my marriage. My book was trying to warn young law students, and their loved ones, to be ready for the worst. The book got strong positive writeups from reviewers at several legal magazines, including the American Bar Association’s Student Lawyer.
I was disappointed that this was the first time Dr. Adamek had heard of this nightmare. I had sent her a copy of my book when I applied to her PhD program. The copy was sitting in her filing cabinet, a few paces from her desk.
Further remarks about Dr. Adamek’s role in my IUPUI experience appear in a post in my blog on social work education.
September 2008 marked the start of my second year in the SW PhD program. At that point, Gladys and I seemed to be becoming friends. I added her to my weekly email list. I used that list to distribute various funny and interesting items to friends.
The situation with Gladys changed sharply, later in September. Suddenly she was barely even speaking to me. This change seemed to stem from a disagreement. She had been telling me which words I had to use, to refer to various types of people, and I had said that people are not always going to use politically correct language, and should not be treated like outcasts for making simple mistakes or for preferring other terminology.
As I say, I had begun sending Gladys personal emails. She now began to forward copies of those messages to professors and administrators in our PhD program. She did not tell me she was doing this. Neither did they. Written materials that I have received indicate, instead, that they encouraged her to indulge an obsessive interest in me. There is no sign that they considered it inappropriate for a social worker to share a colleague’s private communications with others.
When Gladys forwarded those private emails to these professors and administrators, she added certain remarks to explain her reasons for doing so. In one of those emails, she pointed out, I had quoted from the famous poem by Yeats, “The Second Coming.” She said that, in her religion, the Second Coming meant Judgment Day. Gladys was not an especially religious person, nor was I. The poem does not speak of Judgment Day, and to my knowledge scholars don’t think Yeats was referring to Judgment Day.
If I had taken a religious interest in Judgment Day, it is not clear how that would be of concern to the SSW. It appeared that Gladys was attempting, rather, to link me with a Schwarzenegger-style concept of Judgment Day as a terrorist or otherwise violent event. This would have been a rather challenging role for me, as I have no military training, have never owned a gun except for a brief period when I was 16 (in 1971), have spent very little time on video games in the past 30 years, and am still looking forward to my first experiences of paintball and laser tag. As far as I know, it would be an odd terrorist who would be inclined to favor gun control.
When Gladys forwarded another of my personal emails, she notified these professors and administrators that it contained a link to a PBS documentary about people jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge. Now, striking a different note, she expressed her concern that this might be “a cry for help” from me. That was an unusual concern: Gladys had no clinical expertise, seemed to avoid discussions of clinical issues, and was not pursuing clinically related topics in her doctoral program.
I think the other friends who received that email message would have found her concern odd. I have no history of suicidality, have not been studying it, and am not particularly involved with it in any other way. In my email, the link to the PBS documentary was sandwiched between a link to a comedy sketch and a link to a Katy Perry music video.
The professors and administrators responded strangely to these materials. Dr. Adamek said that my email messages reminded her of the Virginia Tech mass murderer. Dean Patchner evidently called the campus police. Dr. Bob Vernon had initially found my remarks merely “interesting,” but quickly realized that Patchner intended to hype the matter, and amended himself to claim that my messages were “EXTREMELY DISTURBING,” and to recommend that I be subjected to a psychological examination and criminal background check.
Yet there was no psychological examination, and apparently no criminal background check. The administration pursued its case against me on a casual schedule: matters dragged out over a period of weeks. The words may have expressed alarm and urgency, but the actions suggested otherwise. It seems these individuals were making a show of great concern and anxiety, but were not actually very worried about me.
At this point, I had been active in the SSW on a daily basis for more than a year. I was working as Dr. Vernon’s research assistant. After expressing these very serious concerns, Dr. Adamek proceeded to approve a renewal of my assistantship for the spring 2009 semester, so that I could continue to help Dr. Vernon.
For many years, I had owned a video camera. I occasionally carried it with me to shoot brief scenes from my daily life, for compilation into a personal video diary. I took video of scenes around the IUPUI campus, and of the SSW and fellow students, including Gladys, with no objections. I had also taken some still photos, including several that I took in Dr. Daley’s class and sent to Dr. Adamek. They were good photos. I thought she might want to use them on the SSW’s website. She thanked me for my thoughtfulness.
In April 2009, Gladys complained to Dr. Jim Daley that I had caused intense upset, for her, by videotaping about 20 seconds’ worth of the general scene in his classroom. This occurred about a week after Dean Spratt dismissed Gladys’s first complaint against me. It appeared that Gladys may have been deliberately seeking to keep me under pressure from disciplinary proceedings and sanctions.
My videotaping in that class was so brief and unobtrusive that neither Dr. Daley nor most of the students even noticed it. Gladys noticed it right away. I was not sure to what extent Gladys may have been monitoring my activities. Given the digging for old dirt on me (above), it appeared that such monitoring may have been more extensive than I realized.
Gladys found an eager recipient in Dr. Daley. When she reported the videotaping to him after class, he quickly inflated it into a large issue. I’m not sure why. Maybe he was afraid of what might be visible in a video taken within his classroom. It certainly was an interesting place. Students would arrive at random times. One — a favored person, occupying a junior faculty position — was usually about an hour and a half late. A student from Southeast Asia would sometimes go to sleep, for lack of ability to understand the English-language discussion taking place. A few students could usually be observed ignoring the events of class, focusing instead on doing their homework for other classes. Taxpayers might also have found it quite educational to observe Dr. Daley’s teaching style and the odd presentations with which he required his students to fill the hours.
Dr. Daley also seems to have been motivated by personal hostility. “He hates you,” was what one student told me. She was in a position to know: as I later discovered, she’d had at least one private conversation with him about me. Again, though, I was not sure where his hostility would have come from. Maybe he was uncomfortable with the idea that an Ivy League lawyer would be sitting in his class, watching him. Maybe he preferred younger and/or female students. In one of his emails, he did send me the puzzling request that I should “just be a student,” so apparently he felt I was not performing my role properly in some sense.
Dr. Daley may or may not be a skilled social worker. I don’t know. It would seem that a well-trained clinician would be competent in the management and resolution of his own hostility toward others. Dr. Daley did not engage me in any constructive attempt to resolve his antagonistic feelings toward me.
His attack upon my videotaping was completely unjustified. In response to a question posed by a number of people, his course syllabus did not prohibit the use of laptops, cellphones, or cameras in class. My use of the video camera was also consistent with the rules of the SW and of the university. Moreover, as I say, there was no actual disruption.
Dr. Daley’s handling of the matter was inconsistent with university policies. Those policies required that, if there had been any reason for discussion of my videotaping, he was to handle such matters in a low-key manner, without causing further disruption and without unnecessarily embarrassing the student.
Those considerations played no role in Dr. Daley’s course of action. After class, when Gladys complained to him, Dr. Daley immediately sent repeated, emotional emails to all of the students in the class. He then filed a formal university-level complaint against me. He also emailed Dr. Adamek to ask if this incident would provide grounds to “expell” me, as he put it. In other words, he hoped that IU’s SSW would terminate a top PhD student for taking 20 seconds’ worth of videotape for his personal video diary.
Dr. Daley, a military man, decided that I must have been using the video camera for “surveillance” purposes. On that basis, he repeatedly informed others that I had “paranoid personality disorder,” though at one point he also admitted that he did not actually have any clinical grounds for such a diagnosis.
Many people have heard the humorous adage, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.” Dr. Daley appears not to have reflected upon the irony of his accusation of paranoia. As the documents show, he really was out to get me.
The materials that I have received raise questions as to whether Dr. Daley grasped basic ethical and professional responsibilities of academics and social workers. People in his position are not supposed to distribute gratuitous disparagement about students or fellow professionals. They are not supposed to use clinical-sounding language, unsupported by actual clinical observation, for purposes of harming or slandering others.
No doubt any teacher will make mistakes. That said, recurrent fundamental mistakes can raise a fair question for the need of continuing education or remedial training. Reasonably informed social science researchers might be surprised that Dr. Daley would place the famous Stanford Prison Experiment at Berkeley. Most doctoral students would presumably recognize that Dr. Daley was wrong when he asserted that we would be guilty of academic dishonesty if our papers failed to provide full citations to our own private notes (e.g., “Woodcock, note to self, Dec. 21, 2011”). In the context of this particular case, for reasons stated above, I did find it disconcerting that the SSW chose Dr. Daley to teach the school’s professional practice course on diagnosis of mental disorders.
Straight White Guys
Some of the foregoing incidents appeared to stem from events in October 2008. At that time, the four heterosexual white male PhD students who were then taking courses in the SSW began a hesitant, somewhat open discussion of what they found to be an uncomfortable learning environment. Their particular area of concern was that, in the SSW, they had been the recipients of unpleasant and sometimes hostile treatment having to do with their race, sex, and sexual preference. Gladys (who had majored in women’s studies at IU as an undergraduate) and another student, Hazel, appeared to be principal sources of this treatment. (It should be mentioned that, currently, about 87% of social work students are female.)
That discussion, by those four male students, took place on a listserv that existed for the exclusive use of SW PhD students. New PhD students were assured that faculty members did not have access to the listserv. There had apparently never been a time when any faculty members had crossed that boundary. Dr. Vernon, manager of the listserv, seemed quite circumspect about that rule. Students generally appeared to trust that the boundary would stay in place, and thus posted messages containing statements that they would not necessarily have wanted faculty members to read.
Gladys, Hazel, and a third student, Sylvia, had participated in numerous listserv discussions. But they did not try to participate in this one about the male student experience in the SSW. Indeed, they took active steps to prevent other students from continuing in that discussion. Apparently they felt that most students would not agree with and support their views — that, in other words, they would lose, if they tried to compete on the basis of what was most persuasive and reasonable.
Instead of talking about these matters with their fellow students, Gladys et al. set up private meetings with Dean Patchner and Drs. Vernon and Adamek. And these administrators were very receptive. They did not tell Gladys et al. to turn around and march right back to their computers (or to the PhD student lounge) and start learning how do the hard work of engaging and succeeding in dialogue with their classmates. It appeared that Dean Patchner et al. were not principally interested in making the most of this teaching opportunity. In a world of deeply opposed views on social issues, it does seem that a competent SW PhD student might at least be capable of talking about points of disagreement with his/her fellow students.
In pursuing their complaint, Gladys was apparently the most active of the three. The files indicate that she began forwarding copies of students’ confidential listserv posts to Dean Patchner et al. These social work professors do not appear to have asked her to stop doing this. Moreover, none of them notified the listserv participants that their confidentiality was now being breached on an ongoing basis.
Then Dean Patchner and Dr. Vernon summoned me for a meeting. Dean Patchner said that Gladys et al. were claiming to be physically afraid of me. Dr. Vernon disagreed. He said it was not physical fear; it was fear of what I was writing on the listserv. In other words, after their meeting with Gladys et al., these two men were unable to provide a coherent statement of the complaint that they were now relaying to me.
I asked Drs. Patchner and Vernon to show me which listserv posts we were talking about. What had I written, specifically, that would cause a reasonable person to feel afraid, on either a physical or mental level? Both admitted that they could not point to any particular message that would reasonably provoke any such fear.
I did admit to Dean Patchner that, if I were his subordinate in a mental health facility, I might very well have to take unusual remedial steps to alleviate irrational fears experienced by a client. But in an educational institution preparing PhD graduates who would be training the next generation of mental health clinicians in Indiana, it did seem important to adhere to social work ethical principles as well as the educational principles of the university.
My statements did not persuade Dean Patchner. Months later, in another conversation, he told me that I still didn’t get it. It didn’t matter, he said, whether those claims of fear were true, reasonable, or even fully sane. It was not important that PhD students learn to talk about their views with others who might not agree.
Dean Patchner felt that it was all very simple. He felt that I should have just stopped talking about students’ experiences of discrimination in his SSW. Later reports indicated that, in fact, he had quietly pressured two of the three other heterosexual white males to be quiet. (Funding for the fourth one was terminated at the end of the semester, and he left the PhD program.).
A Cold Front
I was surprised that Sylvia decided to join in with Gladys’s complaint. She and I had interacted well, numerous times, on the listserv, and also in class and elsewhere around the SSW. Within just the past week or two, she had emailed to say, “You rock! These readings were difficult. Thanks Ray,” after I distributed highlighted PDFs to steer classmates toward key parts of a challenging assignment.
Sylvia later stated that her impression of me became negative in that meeting with Dean Patchner and Gladys, et al. According to her statement, that meeting introduced her to a substantial amount of disparaging commentary about me.
A week or so after their meeting, when I sent copies of class notes to students who had missed a certain class session, Sylvia had a very different reaction. No more “You rock!” Now she felt that my act of sharing those class notes was “weird and passive-aggressive.”
It appeared that Sylvia had experienced a rather extreme change of mindset toward me, based on the things she heard in that meeting. I don’t know what those things would have been. Nothing noteworthy has emerged from the materials I have accumulated. They don’t seem to have believed I was a robber, a rapist, or even a Republican.
I am not sure how Dean Patchner managed to get himself on the wrong side of this situation. He surely recognized, while reading our listserv posts, that most PhD students, male and female alike, did not favor the harsh, outdated tendencies of second-wave feminism preferred by Gladys and Hazel. It is not clear why he would have helped these few students to suppress their colleagues’ discussions.
There was an alternative. A number of students suggested it, and it would have been consistent with the claim, by IUPUI and the SSW, that students were treated as responsible adults and that they were able to provide meaningful input into their educational experiences. The alternative we were requesting was a conference, or a series of meetings, in which these matters could be discussed openly. It would have been more constructive, and more consistent with the educational mission, to recognize this as an opportunity to generate relevant publications by students and faculty alike, and to put the SSW in a leadership role in reforming SW education. This option was presented directly to Dean Patchner; he acknowledged that it might provide a reasonable solution; and yet he took no steps to facilitate it.
When I met with Dean Patchner and Dr. Vernon, as noted above, they confirmed that nothing I had written in the listserv could have justified the claims of fear presented by Gladys et al. I understood, after that meeting, that it would have made Dean Patchner most comfortable if I had just ceased discussion of gender issues on the listserv. He did emphasize, however, that he was not going to tell me what I could and could not say.
I think Dean Patchner was mistaken in believing that self-censorship would have solved everyone’s problems. He did not seem to have, or want, a good understanding of relevant facts.
An example may illustrate this. As noted above, Gladys had suddenly lurched into a hostile attitude toward me, after seeming to be a friend. Several people had observed a similar pattern previously: a few months earlier, she had suddenly switched to characterizing one of her former (female) friends as a stalker. For this reason among others, it appeared that a reasonable educational administrator would have contemplated the possibility that Gladys was engaged in harassing, bullying, or perhaps simply irrational behavior. Obviously, it would be unfair to simply assume that she was somehow the problem. This would be a matter for private inquiry, for her sake and for others. Such inquiry should have commenced long before Dean Patchner would condone (much less aggravate) a series of tumultuous and extreme measures against me and other students.
It was surprising that Dean Patchner did not seem to be steered by rational and ethical considerations. As a PhD researcher and top-level administrator earning a quarter-million dollars a year, he would surely be among the first to recognize the possible dimensions of a complex situation. Surely, as a leading educator, he would not wish to curtail intellectual debate or to punish students for expressing their various viewpoints. Even more surely, as a skilled administrator, he would not let a small matter — a disagreement among students — become inflated into a large and enduring issue with potentially profound negative consequences for the reputation and learning environment of his school.
And yet that is exactly what he did. One can say that it does not make sense; yet surely that is not the best explanation. From Dean Patchner’s perspective, his course of action evidently did make sense — not just at the moment but for years thereafter. Dean Patchner seemingly did conclude that the consequences just listed were worthwhile — that, conceivably, they were exactly what he wanted.
It is not entirely clear how this would be possible. But there are some potential explanations. One would be that he wanted to send a clear message that, in fact, heretical discussion of social work dogma would not be tolerated. In other words, he may have considered it vitally important that the hostile feminism espoused by Gladys et al. would continue to be respected as the unquestioned doctrine of his school. In this interpretation, male (and female) students wishing to inquire into more nuanced, third-wave feminist alternatives were not welcome to do so, not as long as they were on his turf.
A second message may have been directed at me personally. Dean Patchner may have felt that he and I were engaged in a pissing contest, pardon the expression, and that he was going to win, no matter what the cost. An adolescent equivalent would be a game of “chicken,” or a drag race, in which someone would die rather than quit. Some of us were determined that we had a right and an obligation to oppose discrimination and oppression, including instances that involved white men as distinct from women or minorities; and he was apparently determined that we would be silent. With all due respect to Dean Patchner’s ego, I do think that we were on the right side, within the purposes of social work and higher education.
(Long after composing this post — as I have since discussed elsewhere — it occurred to me that there might be another reason for Dean Patchner’s treatment of me. It appeared that he might have wanted to get rid of me, in order to claim credit for my earlier efforts to make the SSW more attuned to the field of labor studies.)
After that meeting with Dean Patchner, I posted a note on the listserv, reporting that certain students had complained to the dean about our listserv discussion. This was not unusual; as in previous posts, I was continuing to behave according to the model of an open and fair exchange of ideas. In my message, I expressed surprise that our discussion, which did not possess any obviously disturbing qualities, would have been presented to a dean. I also reiterated the invitation, to the complaining students (whom I did not name), to climb down from their tree and resume normal interactions with the rest of us.
Again violating students’ assumption of a safe space in which to express their views, Gladys promptly sent a copy of that listserv post to Dean Patchner. Meanwhile, the documentation indicates that Sylvia had her own, rather remarkable, reaction to my post. When she saw it, she sent an email message to a faculty member who had no official reason to be involved with these matters, but who had apparently become part of a faculty-student gossip circle. Sylvia’s message exclaimed, “He has made asses of Gladys and I across the entire listserv. How do I go to class on Tuesday? He makes us look like hysterical females!”
Sylvia’s exclamation mark seemed to make the point that she accused me of making. But that was not what I had conveyed. I had simply shared, and replied to, the things that she and the others had said to Dean Patchner, and that he had relayed to me. As the saying has it, what goes around comes around. At a certain point, that is, people who circulate bizarre allegations may reasonably expect that some of those materials will reflect back on them. Sylvia had ample opportunities, before and after this instance, to return to our ordinary level of civil discussion.
There are various possible explanations for Sylvia’s decision to pursue, instead, an unnecessary escalation of matters. Obviously, a person could contemplate psychological explanations. But on a more shared basis, her behavior seemed consistent with a certain unfortunate aspect of social work education and writing. It seemed that students were given a rather cloistered kind of training, where they would rarely have to explain themselves, and listen, to others who did not share their views. In this instance, Sylvia seems to have been shocked to discover that there might be a sensible response to the things that she and others were apparently whispering among themselves.
The point is not so much, “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.” It’s that, as an experienced social worker should know, it’s not always best to reach for the sword. There are usually better ways.
I hope these remarks do not convey dislike of Sylvia. I liked her. I think she knows I have remained open, during these years, to a more constructive approach. By this point, a constructive solution would take hard work, but there are worse things.
The Advice of Friends
As noted earlier, Dr. Vernon became alarmed after Gladys distributed my private email messages with the quote from “The Second Coming” and so forth. In a remarkable email message, Dr. Vernon stated that his reactions at this point were guided by the clinical judgment of (believe it or not) his students, particularly Sylvia.
In other words, Dr. Vernon, a senior professor of social work, made his decisions about me on the basis of clinical advice he received from someone who was not only a student but who had already taken a stand on one side of a controversy, and who was experiencing emotional upheaval as a result. This reflects very poorly on Dr. Vernon’s judgment, on his sophistication in handling disagreements, and on his respect for clinically trained PhDs on the social work faculty. It also suggests that Dr. Vernon was party to a quiet little cabal that actually did not want clinically trained faculty within the school (never mind the duly appointed members of the university’s Behavioral Consultation Team) to get wind of these doings.
But perhaps Dr. Vernon’s participation in these matters was not as daffy as might seem at first blush. Some of the materials I have received suggest that he was initially cautious about the unfolding discussion of gender discrimination — but then he recognized that Dean Patchner was determined to support Gladys et al. regardless of logical merit. In other words, there are signs that Dr. Vernon decided to just go with the flow. This observation is consistent with my sense (above) that he did not really think my “Second Coming” quotation was “EXTREMELY DISTURBING.” If he had really believed he was dealing with a potential terrorist, surely (hopefully!) he would not have relied on Sylvia for guidance.
A few weeks later, in an exchange within the Second Life online world where he was doing some of his work, Dr. Vernon mentioned to another virtual participant that a student in his program had been falsely accused and hounded. I was present, online, during that exchange. Since there were no other students who fit the description, it appeared that Bob was sending me an oblique acknowledgement that I had been railroaded. That might have been as far as he had courage to go, for purposes of providing support to someone in my position.
I did understand the university’s prevailing emphasis on self-preservation, even to the point of throwing worthy others to the wolves. But I was reminded, in interactions like these, of the term poverty pimp — of, that is, the fact that these professors were making a good living from a potentially undeserved claim that they were somehow helping downtrodden individuals. In social work, it seems, the first priority of those who survive the dog-eat-dog university environment may be to attend to one’s own survival and comfort; and then perhaps there will be an opportunity to share a hypocritical sigh with the person whom one has helped to destroy.
I spoke, earlier, of private email messages, from me, that Gladys circulated to faculty. She did that after our separate meetings with Drs. Patchner and Vernon. As noted earlier, she seems to have believed that Dean Patchner and others were receptive to further derogatory information about me, and they do not appear to have suggested that she should not distribute such private materials.
There does not seem to have been much of an emphasis on credibility in such materials. It did not matter if the stuff about a “cry for help” and “Judgment Day” was complete hogwash. Gladys appears to have recognized that, however nonsensical, these adminstrators were willing to treat such materials as a basis for measures against me.
I am not sure how that developed. It appears that Dean Patchner may not have intended that I would take him at face value, when he assured me that I was free to discuss issues on the listserv. He may have believed that he was sending me a sort of gentleman’s signal, an indication that I had better shut up immediately if I wished to graduate.
For whatever reason, Dean Patchner now helped Gladys, Hazel, and Sylvia to escalate the matter. In particular, he helped them acquire and submit campus-level security alerts. Moreover, he approved the decision to close the listserv, for the stated purpose of silencing me, and he also arranged to have campus police conduct plainclothes surveillance of me.
Once Gladys et al. filed those complaints with the university (that is, outside the SSW), much of the focus shifted to that administrative level. Dean Queener ordered me to meet with her within 72 hours or risk expulsion from the university. I will turn to Dean Queener and the university’s involvement shortly. But first, I will wrap up a few loose ends regarding the SSW.
The first loose end is actually the rest of the academic year. The events described above largely occurred in October 2008. A description of what it was like to attend the SSW during the balance of the 2008-2009 academic year, and beyond, would require far more space than I can provide here. It certainly was not a pleasant experience. The class I took with Dr. Daley (above) was in spring 2009; perhaps it conveys some flavor of what I was encountering from various professors throughout the year.
Neither Dean Patchner nor other faculty took any steps, during that academic year, to rehabilitate me back into the SSW. Dean Patchner, in particular, did not want me back. As I now understand, I had been excommunicated. I did not realize that clearly, else I would not have spent another two years in further wasted work toward an intended career as a social work professor. Among other things, as described in an earlier post, I would not have spent months on a qualifying paper that was already destined to be given a failing grade.
Another loose end: my classmates. They certainly got the message: the head that sticks up gets lopped off. Another post says more about that.
Experts at Work
This post does not fully enumerate the many ways in which these various faculty and administrative machinations violated various professional, legal, and administrative codes and policies. It may be appropriate to devote a few words to such behavior and its consequences.
Of course, faculty members and administrators who violated applicable rules were capable of doing damage. The damage would be predictably more intense at higher levels. For instance, when Dr. Daley ignored university guidelines on dealing with an alleged classroom disruption, he would do limited damage. His actions could severely impact me, but would probably have relatively brief effects on other students or on the PhD program or the SSW as a whole. But when administrators shut down the listserv to single out one PhD student, they sent a message that permanently damaged the learning environment for all students. As another example, Dr. Daley may have a story about what an awful person I was. He was entitled to his opinion. But because of the administration’s decisions, all of my classmates now have a story that they will take into their future teaching positions, about what students can be permitted to say and how they will be treated when they disagree with the authorities. Within the putatively change-oriented profession of social work, this was a profoundly unfortunate outcome of a supposedly educational process.
At the university level, Dean Queener was positioned to set a tone for disciplinary matters across the entire campus. She could also do far-reaching damage to the future of an individual student, if she was so inclined. The following remarks offer a few examples of how the student and the university environment could be affected by the violation of rules at that level. (Again, for brevity, I won’t quote or cite the provisions of the student code and other university documents, relying instead on the reader’s general sense of what the rules would likely permit or prohibit under the circumstances.)
One of the first things that happened at the university level was that the Behavioral Consultation Team (BCT) met and decided that I was not a threat. This meeting and conclusion had multiple ramifications; I can only hint at a few in passing.
One part of the BCT picture is that its meeting was conducted in secret, without minutes or other documentation. There was therefore no check upon what it might do in the name of security. Even in my case, where the BCT decided to take no action, this secrecy was not entirely for the best. For one thing, Josh Manlove, the university’s Student Advocate, was not party to the meeting, even though he was on the BCT. In other words, the university’s representative on behalf of students did not know of my case (and, I would guess, other cases as well), and thus could not provide input into its proper handling.
It remains unclear whether the BCT’s psychologists and other mental health specialists were likewise cut out of the loop. As noted above, it does appear that they did not inquire into, or were not informed of, relevant information about Gladys. Given the rather common fact of student bullying, it seems that a competent mental health practitioner might want to know, not only what is being said about a student, but who is saying it, and what role the accuser plays in the situation.
In case the BCT’s psychologists were unaware of such considerations in this matter (and also to protect my own interests), I filed a responsive complaint, using the same form and filed with the same person — namely, Dean Queener — as Gladys had done. University rules required Dean Queener to act on my complaint, as she had acted on Gladys’s. She violated those rules, deciding instead to sit on it. That is, she neither took action on my complaint nor forwarded it to relevant members of the BCT. Her violation of those rules had significant negative effects throughout the SSW and upon my own career.
Josh Manlove, Student Advocate, turned out to be a contributor to the rule-avoidant atmosphere at the university level. Before I discussed my case with Josh, I obtained his affirmation of the promise made by his website: that my communications with him would be confidential. I then proceeded to discuss with him and send documents to him. A few months later, as part of the appeal process, Dean Queener’s office sent me copies of at least some of the papers contained in her file on me. There, I saw copies of the confidential emails and other documents that I had sent to Josh.
I complained about the discriminatory aspects of the matter to the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO). That office not only failed to take significant action on my behalf, but would later serve as the center for the university’s attack on me.
I did meet with Dean Queener within 72 hours, as she demanded (above). That “meeting” turned out to be a three-hour interrogation. During part of that time, no one else was present in her office suite. Obviously, she did not consider me a physical threat. Those conditions were undesirable, insofar as they would allow her to make claims about what the student said or did during that time.
During those three hours, Dean Queener kept me going back over the same things again and again, in an obvious attempt to elicit damaging phrasings. (She did quote a few such phrasings, out of context, in subsequent argument.) She had been doing this work for many years, she said. It seemed likely that many other students had faced similar conditions. Males would presumably be particularly likely candidates for disciplinary treatment from her office. I found the conditions of my interrogation disturbing, given her bitter remark about her own experiences of gender discrimination, during her many years in the university.
More than two weeks after that meeting, Dean Queener notified me that she was placing me on disciplinary probation for 13 months. She also ordered me not to talk to any of my classmates, including my friends, on or off campus, at any time except in the classroom. That’s right. I confirmed with her, on two subsequent occasions, that this is exactly what she meant. She literally ordered me not to have any contact with my friends outside of class. She also ordered me to have no contact with a woman whom I had met outside the university, who had never been a student or employee of the university, who had no business with the university, and who had welcomed my contact.
Obviously, Dean Queener’s sweeping orders could have broad consequences. For one thing, during that fall semester, Sylvia and I were both enrolled in Dr. Vernon’s class. So now we were in an odd, dysfunctional arrangement in which it was safe for us to discuss, question each other, and on a few occasions even laugh together in class. But outside of class, we were required to proceed as if we were sworn enemies. One time, we wound up in the SSW’s photocopy room simultaneously, both fleeing at the earliest opportunity, Sylvia giggling as she went. We have not spoken since. Perhaps the reader shares my consternation that this would be considered an appropriate outcome, within a profession that emphasizes the importance of healthy human relationships, and that constantly advises many of the nation’s most vulnerable individuals as to what they are doing wrong..
Upon receiving Dean Queener’s decision in November 2008, I appealed. It turned out that Dr. Queener, herself, was the person in charge of my appeal. That is, she would set up the three-person panel to hear my appeal. It took her a while to get around to it. The panel did not convene until February.
The person who chaired the appellate panel was an old friend of Dean Queener, name of Robert W. Yost. The second member was Andy Gavrin. I did not catch the name of the third panel member, but it appeared that all three panel members hailed from the sciences. (Dean Queener’s PhD was in biochemistry.) In fact, Drs. Queener, Yost, and Gavrin were all members of the IUPUI Faculty Council. It seemed like quite a coincidence that these would be the people staffing a panel to consider an appeal from a decision by Dr. Queener. There were no social workers on the panel, nor anyone from social sciences, liberal arts, business, education … I wondered if other people who had expressed an interest in becoming qualified to sit on such a panel were ignored. That was what had happened to me, when I had expressed an interest in participating in such a panel, back in 2007.
When I commented on the fact that I had seen them hobnobbing in the hallway before the hearing, Dr. Yost acknowledged that he and Dean Queener used to work together. During the hearing, Dr. Yost frequently interrupted me, injected his own views, and tried to confuse matters.
When I pointed out that I had not actually been accused of violating any specific provisions of the student code, Dr. Gavrin informed me that the panel would reserve the right to find me guilty of a violation during their subsequent deliberations. That is, they did not feel it was necessary for me to know what I was being accused of. Instead, he said, I had to try to imagine which sections of the student code they might decide I had violated, and then I had to defend myself against that.
The panel did not provide their decision until March. At that point, five months after our listserv discussion of gender, they upheld Dean Queener’s decision, with one exception: they felt it would be OK for me to talk to my friends again.
The university’s rules allowed a second level of appeals. I prepared for that. It appeared that few if any students had ever gone to that level. At about that same time, I also sent a message to Chancellor Bantz. By some combination of factors, my case was removed from Dean Queener and put into the hands of Dean Spratt.
In late March and early April 2009, about half a year after the original events, Dean Spratt and I spent hours, in a number of meetings, going over the documents and working through the details of the case. This process ended with a letter that he wrote to me on April 7, 2009. In that letter, he acknowledged that the integrity of the student conduct process had been compromised by “multiple procedural errors,” and concluded that there were no substantive grounds for charging me with any violation of the student code. In effect, he found that Gladys’s complaint had no merit, that Dean Queener’s charges and sanctions had been inappropriate, and that the appellate hearing commission had been bogus.
Of course, April is a poor time to be attempting to start a good school year. Under Dean Queener’s order, it had been unsafe for me to be present in the SSW. From November to April, I was pretty much compelled to go straight to class and then straight home. It was a badly flawed academic experience.
As events demonstrated, I could not breathe easily after Dean Spratt’s letter of April 7. Gladys’s second complaint (through Dr. Daley), one week later, reminded me that, as long as I remained involved with the SSW, I would continue to be at risk of being accused and harassed for something else.
The Gladys/Daley complaint was handled by another administrative officer, Tralicia Lewis. Ms. Lewis dragged out her investigation of that complaint until early June. During that process, she interviewed classmates and inquired into other matters, before finally admitting what had been obvious all along — that there could not possibly be a violation of the student code under the circumstances stated by Dr. Daley. In other words, her investigation had been completely unnecessary. I asked Ms. Lewis to respond, however belated, to the complaint that I had filed against Gladys back in October. She refused.
This post has conveyed an impression of some remarkably confused, irrational, abusive, and/or corrupt behaviors on the part of PhD students and faculty who, to all indications, should have known better. A person who has not spent years in a university may consider it odd or perhaps even impossible that this sort of thing could really have transpired as I have described.
Of course, people across American society have had opportunities to become aware of ways in which the rules are ignored and in which power is abused. What is not always fully recognized is that the university can be answerable only unto itself. The next post in this series develops some of the foregoing remarks into a fuller exposition of the practical remedies available to a student in such circumstances.