Tuesday, November 15, 2005

It is About the Mission Statement

According to information from posts on the website, on Wednesday November 16 there will be a meeting for faculty led by the President that will discuss the Dr. Jeffries tenure revocation, the response of the UD community, and the intent of the editors of this website. With that in mind, the editors of this website want to clarify our intent in publishing this website and our hopes for the University of Dubuque.

It is important to note that our desire is not to denigrate or destroy the image of the school. In fact, the opposite is true, we want to see the university flourish and succeed in its mission of intellectual and moral education. We applaud the University for accepting the charge of trying to create a community that examines the moral and theological components of life. A person only has to look at the action plan for 1998-2008 to realize that there are successes at UD, and we share in the excitement and joy of the successes.

In January of 2004, President Jeffrey Bullock wrote a guest viewpoint for the Presbyterian magazine the Outlook regarding the Mission Statement at UD as well as its role as a Christian institution. The President eloquently describes the extreme importance that the mission statement plays in the life of the university:

I know that at the University of Dubuque, there are a variety of opinions about what our mission statement does and does not mean, and that is OK. But one thing is for sure: the mission, clearly stated, is a living, breathing part of our community life together, and for the mission to be real, to ring true, we must be a community in which a critical mass of people are practicing their Christian faith commitments on this campus day in and day out. If we are faithful in the realization of our Christian mission, there will be plenty of room in this community for people with different faith traditions, or for no faith commitments at all. Hospitality is key to the Reformed understanding of Christianity— and as a Christian school we will be hospitable to all those who see truth and live in love.

The editors of the website could not agree more with the President that the mission statement is an integral part of the university. We agree with the President's assertion that the mission statement must be part of the entire community. We also desire to see the school practice the mission statement in Christian love. It is because of the expressed mission of the University that we are upset, dismayed, and saddened at what has recently transpired. We desire nothing more than to see the school succeed in its lofty goal to help mold the character of all who dwell in it. That is why we are calling for repentance and reconciliation for the transgressions the school has made in handling the Jeffries tenure contract. It is a tragedy that two devout Christians cannot find a way to reconcile their differences. This situation shows the community of UD that we have a long way to go in seeing the mission statement instantiated, as we all truly desire it to be.

In his article, Dr. Bullock wrote that the “pursuit of truth through the testing and application of ideas is always best achieved when fully cognizant of our success as well as our failure…” We too urge the school community to be cognizant of our failure to live up to the mission statement. Moreover, we are urging the administration to hear our words not as bellicose agitators, but as members of the University of Dubuque family, earnestly desiring to see the University to continue to succeed and flourish. The university has grown in numerous ways the past few years, and we are proud of that. However, we have seen instances where the community has failed in its mission. The administration has urged the community at University of Dubuque to "have an opinion about what is right and what is wrong…”and we have voiced what we have seen as a state of affairs that is morally deficient at the school. We have declared what we have seen as inequities in the institution, and have called for reform. We have asked for transparency in the administration’s decisions. We have asked for an open environment where students and faculty feel safe in voicing concern over what we see as failure to live up to the mission statement. We urge the faculty and administration to address these issues in the meeting on Wednesday. We urge the administration to be aware of its failures and the dangers in unilateral decision-making. In short, during the life of this website, we have asked, and continue to ask, for the school to allow the complete UD community to take part in the fulfillment of the mission statement.


Blogger Roger Ebertz said...

I appreicate the most recent comments by the editors. I sincerely hope we can all work together toward the pursuit of our mission as a university. I would like to add some of my own thoughts.

This evening, I have read over a number of the comments on this site. To be honest, I am very concerned. I love UD and have been a part of it for longer than just about all of you who are reading this. But I am also in pain. Why? Let me try to explain.

First, all of the people who are mentioned in these discussions are human beings – with a mixture of good and evil. And their my friends and colleagues. None are angels, none are demons. They all have their weaknesses and their strengths. Over the years, I have experienced very intense conflicts here at UD, and many people have been hurt. Perhaps the thing I have seen more than anything else is the tendency of people to “demonize” those on the other side. I see that happening in this conflict as well. I know we are not where our missions calls us to be, but I do want to move closer. Attacking others as if they are demons is not the way to get there. President Bullock is attempting to do his best to lead the University where he believes it is supposed to go. He makes hard decisions all the time that not everyone agrees with. That’s one of the costs of being the President of a University. I wouldn’t want to do it for any amount of money!! Professor Jeffries believes he has been wronged and he is seeking justice in the courts. Both are attempting to do what is right as they see it. Neither is evil.

Second, words hurt. It is easy to fling words around from behind the cloak of anonymity where one is safe. But we need to be careful that in the “safety” of secretiveness we do not forget that the words we fling can inflict great harm on others and on the University. “WhatWentWrong” writes, “we are pushing for increased transparency of the administration's decisions.” OK. I’m for more transparency, too. As has been pointed out by others, both on the blog and elsewhere, the blog is far from transparent. I am sorry, but we are never going to resolve this issue by throwing anonymous barbs. We need to discuss it in the open, where we take responsibility for our words and defend them in the light of open criticism.

This brings me to the third point. We can only discuss this in the open if people feel free to express themselves. I see two factors militating against this. On the one hand, there is a fear of retaliation from the administration. If we are going to bring this out into the open, we need to get past this. I call upon those in leadership, which to some extent includes me, to be open to criticism from students and others. We must find a way that differences can be aired and criticisms expressed without causing undue harm to others. But on the other hand, I believe there is a threat from the other side of this conflict as well. At the beginning of the semester, Dr. Stewart, in a very open and courageous way, met with the faculty to discuss the situation with Dr. Jeffries. A number of us raised very difficult questions and challenged him on various points. He tried to honestly explain his position. But what happened? Dr. Stewart has been legally accused of defamation of character. In the comments in question, Dr. Stewart was not focusing on Dr. Jeffries per se, but explaining his own (Stewart’) feeling and inability to understand what had transacted in one of their meetings. The charge against Dr. Stewart takes his words out of context and unjustly accuses him of intentions he did not have. To be honest, I find it hard to discuss the case openly when people with whom I am speaking may take my words out of context, report them to others, and use them against me.

This brings me to my final point. WhatWendtWrong writes, “we want the University to explain to its students and alums what happened to Dr. Jeffries.” A number of comments on the blog criticize the Adminsitration for not making a statement. But how could they? As I have indicated, when one administrator tried to explain his position, he was charged with defamation of character. We will never come to agreement over this case. I can guarantee that. Unfortunately, it seems that the courts will have to make a judgment before we can move on. But as long as that is going on, there is also the threat that what is said could be used and misused. As long as that is the case, it will be very difficult to discuss this issue openly and in public.

When one part of the body is in pain, the whole body suffers. Many people are in pain as a result of this situation. Dr. Jeffries, President Bullock, Dr. Stewart, and many others have been hurt by the words that have been tossed around. And I am in pain, too. I hope and pray that we can work through this and move on. But I do not believe it will happen through anonymity. Let’s come out in the open.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005 10:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I urge the administration and others who continually bring up the issue of this site's anonymity to consider the idea that by making it such an issue you reinforce the feeling that anonymity is needed. This is especially true when you consider that these calls have come from a university attorney. This is intimidating, whether intended or not. One might ask why the end of semester evaluations of professors/classes are done anonymously if criticism or praise presented anonymously is seen as less meaningful. We all know, that students are assured that their responses on these forms are anonymous to encourage honest feedback without fear of personal repercussion. In turn, it is true that belligerent, petty, personal or baseless criticism on these forums serves no constructive purpose and any message is lost. What can effect change is thoughtful, literate, and balanced feedback. Listen to the message of what is being presented. Take pride in the voices of the students, alums, and others associated with the University of Dubuque that are not apathetic. They have been afforded the skills to make passionate and intelligent arguments by this university. This criticism should not be seen as an act of anger or betrayal but as an act love and a testament to the quality of students, faculty, and staff at the university.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005 11:40:00 PM  
Blogger Roger Ebertz said...

Thanks for the reply on the issue of anonymity. I do appreciate the concern of students for the Univeristy and for Dr. Jeffries expressed on the blog, and I appreciate the fear that makes them feel that they must make their comments anonymously. That is why my own comments indicated that we need to find a way to insure that people can express criticism and concerns openly and constructively without fear. I continue to affirm that only if this happens can we become the community we want to be.

But I am also concerned that one can make ananymous comments in ways that hurt and harm others significantly while at the same time allowing the one making the comments to avoid taking responsibility for the effects of one's comments.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005 7:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bravo, Dr. Ebertz. I applaud your decision to display your identity on this website, though I still choose to remain anonymous. I have posted several reponses to issues presented on this blog, and I have provided a fair amount of information that should technically not have been posted for the public, and therefore, I do fear the repercussions from the university. I am not willing to discuss where I got the information that I posted, nor am I willing to reveal my identity, but I revel in the fact that I can aid in providing transparency to the administration's decisions and claims, while conversly challenging some statements that have been made within this blog. I'm not sure that I would want to have numerous students and alumni calling my house with angry responses to my postings, nor would I like to be sued by the administration at UD for posting material that indicates the mood presented by a faculty email.

However, I whole-heartedly agree with you on one point. In a prior posting, I said that every cause needs its martyrs. I realize that this is a bit strong since most on this blog have overestimated the full repercussions that the university would truly hand down against them for voicing their concerns. The truth of the matter is that if you frame your questions carefully, and if you avoid trying to be the hard-hitting journalist with credentials that you don't posess, then you might actually get some answers. I realize that I previously called for a petition, and this too is a bit extreme. However, something has to be done if you are all so curious. Have you all gone to Jeffries's house in person to ask him questions about his position? I'm sure that few or none of you have. Furthermore, I'm sure that Jeffries would refuse to answer any questions since the case is in litigation, and it would be UNETHICAL to discuss private matters until a fair and unbiased ruling can be made. After all, Jeffries was the university ethicist, right? So, before anyone continues to press for transparency, realize that this blog was able to find financial information on public record, and the editors were able to receive a response from the university's representation. I don't believe that the overall lack of transparency goes against christian virtue or the mission statement. After all, a mission statement lists things to come. Maybe this has yet to pass.

Rather, I believe that the university has the right to protect its agenda from the standpoint of being a business. Several BUSINESS decisions have been made to improve the quality of education on campus as well as the quality of UD's facilities. President Bullock and his associates have been compensated as business people, and the bases of salary increases has always been a private matter in business settings. I feel that many of you have lost sight of this fact.

My final point regards the issue of Professor Garfield's situation that several bloggers have tried to uncover. I'm not familiar with any case regarding plagiarism from Mr. Garfield, and it's clear than not many of you are either. So, rather than stepping into the realm of speculation and possible defamation, leave this as a possible case of extenuating circumstances. Jeffries's situation with the university is very different than Garfield's, and the situation was handled privately. We also don't know the full extent of the conversations that Jeffries had with the university that led to the current lawsuit. Therefore, we will sit and wait patiently for an explaination that will be handed out by the court rulings. It IS fair to request that UD answer the questions of the students, but it is also difficult to address a growing climate of distrust that the university may or may not have fueled to begin with. Thank you for your honesty and courage Dr. Ebertz. I hope that in time we will all be able to step out from under the shadow of anonymity.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005 8:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i would like to say, thank you dr.ebertz. i have been readin this blog for some time now, and i still will post anonymous in fear of the administration. i have had both you and paul for teacher and loved those classes. paul jeffries was my favorite teacher here. he helped me see that there is more to life then whats on the surface. i dont know all of the issues going on, but i hope at the end of this dr.jeffries can come back and help other students like he did for me.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005 9:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is encouraging that Dr. Ebertz liberated himself and his ideas concerning this blog and the situations concerning Jeffries and the university. Although I have reservations for a few of his comments, I respect his honesty and his desires to see the university and its community grow and heal.

It is discouraging to me why so many people are caught up over the anonymous comments on this blog. Although I commend Dr. Ebertz for his willingness to speak openly, I cannot help but wonder if it is easier to put your name on a blog which draws a line down the center of the current debates and places oneself there. The risk in revealing one's identity comes when one is further from the center of the issues.

For example, it is easy to see that we should all be proud of of sexuality. Some hetersexuals say "I'm proud of who I am and I'm not afraid to say it; why can't homosexuals come out in the open and be comfortable with themselves." Well, it is obvious to me that it is easier and in fact safer to be openly straight than it is to be openly gay. Therefore, we make paths, pass laws, write mission statements that welcome and protect people that are sometimes punished for being proud of their sexuality.

I believe that it is the hands of those faculty and administrators at UD that have the comfort and security of having less controversial viewpoints to make way for us: the further left or right, the less protected, the less secure.

So let's stop speculating over why some of us cannot feel comfortable in handing our names over to an administration that does not have a track record for protecting voices similar to ours. Instead, I ask any and all of you that believe you are on higher ground in UDs opinion, to secure a route for us to come forward to join you. When this is a reality, I will repost this blog and plaster my name above and below it.

God Speed, Anonymous

Wednesday, November 16, 2005 10:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


check out this website, President Bullock is making almost as much as the president of Penn State!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005 11:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I agree in principle with what Dr. Ebertz offers, I wonder if he too, is missing the point. As long as UD includes a clause in the contract for faculty that prohibits facutly from offering negative perspectives about UD, I doubt that anyone will publically own comments that may be offered.

It occurs to me that administration has the burden recognizing that folks are scared to be publicaly honest and that eliminating the employment contract clause that addresses this point could be a major step towards encouraging openess. I suspect many comments are already honest, but are being offered anonymously out of fear of losing one's job.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005 7:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear WWW editors,

I have taken the time to read all the postings and responses on the WhatWendtWrong site.
I may be mistaken, but I believe you have altruistic concerns and the best of intentions in creating this forum. You call for open discussion of the issues that led to a breakdown in communication between Dr. Paul Jeffries and the university administration. You assert that it is not your intention to denigrate the image of UD and that you want to see our university flourish. You say you support the university’s mission to examine the moral and theological components of life. I believe you.

I hope to accomplish two things in this response. First, I will share some ideas to make this site more consistent with your stated goals. Second, I will give you my own (fallible) take on the dispute that has left Dr. Jeffries unemployed.

The Blog

I agree with Roger Ebertz that the anonymity of this site is counterproductive. It will sabotage your desire to promote “repentance and reconciliation.” That is why I am writing under my own name. I am willing to take responsibility for my opinions and I hope you will do the same. I am not part of the university administration. As the campus pastor, my views often diverge from those in authority. Yet I choose to believe the recent words of President Bullock to the assembled faculty and staff that he welcomes “a civil, scholarly discourse” and his assurance that “disagreeing with the president does not mean you will be fired.”

The problem with anonymity has already become apparent on this blog. Rather than sticking to the issue at hand, respondents have turned it into an all purpose slam session, throwing around unsubstantiated rumors and demeaning personal comments about Professor Jeffries, Professor Garfield, Dr. Bullock, UD players and coaches, the library staff, students who wish to share their faith, Wendt scholars, Mr. Wendt, etc. I doubt that this is what you intended.

Nobody can fault you for publishing public, documentary information or expressing your opinions about this information. But since you call us to a higher morality that matches our Christian profession, let us all put a stop to innuendo and personal attacks that inflame animosity. You (both editors and respondents) can do this by taking responsibility for your words and editing them with the Golden Rule in mind: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Dr. Jeffries vs. UD

For the sake of full disclosure let me say that Dr. Jeffries is an esteemed friend. And the administrators who have been most involved in this clash of wills, Dr. Bullock and Dr. Stewart, are also my esteemed friends. I know them well enough to say that each of them believes strongly in UD’s mission to be a place where “diversity is appreciated and Christian love is practiced.”
As a pastor, I have tried to listen empathetically to each of these men give their respective interpretations of the events that precipitated the conflict. All of them are attempting to live out a Christian ethic and all of them are convinced that ethical issues have motivated their decisions. I am convinced that the breakdown in the relationship between Paul and the university administration could have been avoided if everyone involved were willing to grant charitable interpretations to the words and actions of the others. I believe the rift could still be healed if all the lawyers (representing both UD and Jeffries) were fired and the estranged parties were willing to listen to each others’ concerns, lay down their defensive armor, pray together, and seek reconciliation through Christian mediation. These are not weird ideas for individuals who work together in a Christian institution.

Christian love is self-sacrificing and generous in nature. “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:4-7). I say to everyone striving for a righteous cause, can we not, even now, find a way out of the morass by humbling ourselves, repenting of intellectual hubris and institutional pride, and renouncing our supposed “righteousness” for the sake of the greater righteousness that is not found in ourselves but only in our Lord Jesus Christ?

As the one we follow said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. . . . Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. . . . Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God” (Matt. 5:1-9).

Your still hopeful campus chaplain,

Alan Crandall

Thursday, November 17, 2005 11:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Direct questions to Roger Ebertz and Alan Crandall and anyone else that wishes to answer.

Did UD intend to offer tenure to Paul Jeffries when the Board voted in favor of it and offered him a tenured contract?

Given what you know, were the parties involved following the Wendt objective of "Honesty" when they offered Paul Jeffries an extended tenure contract or tenure-term contract after the Board vote?

Given what you know, have the cases of Paul Jeffries and Alan Garfield been handled following that Wendt objective of "Fairness"?

Long Term Adjunct

Friday, November 18, 2005 11:29:00 AM  
Anonymous not a doctor said...

Disagreeing with the President may not mean that you get fired... What about students? When is Jeff going to sit us down and assure us that we are protected? When are UD faculty going to stop tearing through campus trying to find us so they can report us? Where are the advocates for students?

A university without students would be an interesting sight. Please remember that faculty are here to offer us a service, a service that we are paying for.
I encourage all bloggers to keep their identities anonymous... that is of course unless your name follows the word Doctor.

Friday, November 18, 2005 12:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry Dr. Ebertz I cannot reveal my identity. Unlike you, I am not confident in the faculty or administrators at UD to protect me or not to seek revenge. I hope you will understand. Besides, Garfield has shown me that sometimes when a name is attatched it is not credible.

Alan I disagree with your disappointment in the various blogs on this site. I think that it is encouraging that students are starting to spot injustices for themselves... all over campus. I think that the athletic students are raising good questions. It's like a domino effect.

It is ironic that their lessons in ethics are coming from this site and not UD's classrooms. I guess with the campus ethicist fired this is the only means available to students.

Friday, November 18, 2005 12:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just because I choose to be anonymous on this blog does not mean that I have remained anonymous when voicing my concerns to the University's administration. I have written letters and had conversations with people on campus and in each case told people who I am. There is a time and place for coming forward with one's opinions. It would not surprise me if I am not alone in choosing to remain anonymous on the website but claiming my opinion by in other settings.

Friday, November 18, 2005 1:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Alan Crandall said...

To all who responded to my post, I am grateful for your measured words and thoughtful questions.

To “Long Term Adjunct”—

Did UD intend to offer tenure to Paul Jeffries when the Board voted it? Yes.

Was the subsequent offer to Paul of a tenure-term contract made in good faith? Given the character of those making the offer, yes.

Have the cases of Jeffries and Garfield been handled with fairness? The cases are quite different and difficult to compare. Professor Garfield has admitted to an ethical lapse involving plagiarism. This is a serious offence in the academic culture. However, he publicly and contritely confessed his wrong-doing to the entire faculty and returned the award money for the faculty prize. Many of us believe forgiveness is now the only correct response. Professor Jeffries has not admitted to any ethical lapse, and as far I know he has been accused of none. His story instead revolves around the collapse of trust over a contract negotiation. He believes he has been unjustly treated in this negotiation and is unwilling to sign the contract that is currently offered to him. Lacking the possible solution I suggested in my first post, this conflict will have to be decided by the courts.

To “Not a Doctor” and “Anonymous”—

I am confident the protection of academic freedom applies to students as well as to faculty. Dear student, I will go to bat for you myself if you are threatened. But this protection should not be misused by any of us as a cover for irresponsible mud-slinging. Like you, I am encouraged that students are developing a moral awareness and raising good questions. But “good” questions must be based on evidence and respect for each other’s dignity, not on innuendo or ad hominem attacks.

A struggling believer in grace,
Alan Crandall

Friday, November 18, 2005 1:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having followed this blog for several days, I am troubled by the linkage of the Jeffries situation, the stated topic of the blog, with Garfield's admitted plagiarism. I thought Garfield returned the award and the issue was done.

But, a couple of days ago, I ventured into the lobby of Blades Hall and was amazed to see that Garfield's name remains on the award board. Given the awards board evidence, the award has not been returned.

I've had the impression that some folks would like to separate the two issues: Garfield and Jeffries. However, if Jeffries' ethical perspective questioned the handling of Garfield-something that is plausible, but unknown to me-then I'm beginning to conclude Jeffries became a person who was not a team player.

Thus, it appears the the Garfield award give-back did not occur and I now wonder if the two topics, Garfield and Jeffries remain linked, given the appearance by the presence of the awards plaque, that the award has been given, and kept.

Friday, November 18, 2005 4:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the posting that suggests by eliminating the faculty contract paragraph about offering disparaging remarks about UD would be a proactive action of good faith by administration that could set the stage for the development of a more trusting place to work. From what I see at this blog, administration, Dr. Ebertz, nor the Chaplin can mandate the openess they desire.

Friday, November 18, 2005 4:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alan Crandall,
Thanks for your comments. I honestly mean that as I did not expect any response to my post and felt my questions were almost unfair. In your answer above you write:
Did UD intend to offer tenure to Paul Jeffries when the Board voted it? Yes.
Was the subsequent offer to Paul of a tenure-term contract made in good faith? Given the character of those making the offer, yes.

You lost me. Aren't these two answers exclusive of eachother? As I have written, I am an adjunct so some of the technical points of tenure maybe lost on me. But UD offered to give/buy/sell something called tenure. How can it later make a good faith effort that is seemingly in contradiction to the original offer? If I offer to sell you my car for $100 and we agree. Shouldn't this be binding? As I understand the hallway talk, UD's position is that Jeffries made a counter offer, legally, UD might be correct that the counter offer null-n-voids the contract offer, but shouldn't a Christian College follow its original word? To put it a different way, I have PERSONALLY taught classes at UD without a contract in hand. In fact, I have gone an entire term before the contract was organized. One would think that the oral agreement we made would be binding.

Can you connect the dots for me in your thinking?

Long Term Adjunct

Saturday, November 19, 2005 1:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Roger Ebertz commentary is in character. Although presenting himself as an arbitrator and sprinkling his monologue with terms of Christian love, forgiveness, character, hope, and reconciliation, he is really a flunky and apologist for the administration as his past behavior has demonstrated. He is too subtle to take the administration position; instead, he moves the dialogue toward the center, as shown above, instead of taking up the defense of his colleague. His colleague’s fine record over the years has earned him tenure and Ebertz should be indignant that in one short month that has been removed for unspecified behavior. Behavior which denies him tenure but still not bad enough so that he can be kept on the faculty. One does not wonder long as to why he is one of the six remaining faculty after the 1999 slaughter.

Saturday, November 19, 2005 7:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not think that is a fair characterization of Dr. Ebertz. You do not know what the professor has or has not done for Dr. Jeffries. You claim that he should be more outspoken but what have you done publically to support Jeffries? At least Ebertz has posted with his name as well as talked to the President about it.

Saturday, November 19, 2005 8:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, too, find your characterization of Dr. Ebertz unfair. Yes, his position is pretty much toward the center, but I appreciate his comments and the time he took for some reflection on this site.

I also think all of us need to be careful before blaming one another for inaction. Especially given the issue of anonymity, none of us really knows what the other has done to support Dr. Jeffries, find out more about the issues at stake, speak our opinions in the open, etc.

Given the emotional charge of this situation for many of us, let's be sure to keep our comments about each other and the faculty and administration of UD fair and respectful.

Saturday, November 19, 2005 10:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find the suggestion that being anonymous is somewhat cowardly a bit ingenuous. The decision to do so should be made against a broad background as does the suggestion that the blog be limited only to Bullock and Jeffries. This background would include any incidents of unethical behavior on the part of Jeffries and on the part of Bullock. Because Bullock has responsibility that covers the entire university, then any tolerance or intolerance of unethical behavior on the entire campus and all of its employees should be part of that background. Thus, it would be proper for any unethical behavior on campus to be part of the discussion.

Saturday, November 19, 2005 11:34:00 PM  
Blogger Al Lisk said...

I have been lurking in the background of this URL for many days and finally feel compelled to offer some thoughts. As an organizational behavior (OB) and organizational development (OD) trained person I can attest to the value of anonymous customer and employee feedback.

While I have no doubt that this blog site is filled with innuendo and conjecture and have little tolerance for such occurrences, I suspect there are some noteworthy issues being identified. From an OB-OD applied and theoretical perspective anonymity needs to be protected for if it is not, the feelings of possible retribution will continue to prevail. If folks are uncomfortable with this public blog-site for feedback, then I want to encourage UD to seek a formal system that would allow for anonymous feedback. (I’m intimate with the concept of asking those who offer suggestions to serve on a committee to develop ideas presented but, please don’t ask me to help, ‘cause I’m swamped).

Instead of criticizing anonymous folks or asking those who choose anonymity to ID themselves, I believe the UD community ought to be rejoicing that any comments are being offered at all. This is an opportunity to listen to what folks have to say about our organization and then to decide whether UD’s policies are collaborating in the creation of employee or customer perceptions that are either desirable or undesirable.

By paying attention to what is being both written and NOT written, feedback is being provided and I cannot fathom any organization that would not value the opportunity for honest assessments to be made. The who, of who is writing, is not as important as what is being written (or not written). I agree that malicious conclusions are not good, but dwelling on the anonymity issue only exacerbates negative thoughts in the first place. Such discussions reinforce perceptions that retribution will occur if one’s thoughts are ID’d.

Instead, why not focus on what is occurring at this blog and begin to discuss what is contributing to negative perceptions that are being ID’d? The problem with answering this question is that UD as well as other institutions of higher learning, lack formal systems by which feedback can be obtained from a wide audience.

When there is substantive organizational change, customers and employees need opportunities to voice their opinions and management needs to listen to feedback being offered. Doing so are key elements in establishing and building trust in the transformed organization. Unfortunately, due to work loads for all employees and unlike other campuses where I have worked, cross-functional employee conversation tends to be rare or non-existent at UD. We simply don’t find the time to schmooze with one another and this blog has afforded such opportunities.

The taking of morale surveys is a common practice in organizational life. Unfortunately, institutions of higher learning don’t think about conducting such events nor can they financially afford to do so.

What is interesting to note is that morale surveys are done anonymously, an option available at this blog and one which other bloggers have criticized. While it is true, demographic data is collected about morale survey participants for department classification purposes, names are never used. Individuals are NOT identified, nor are survey participants asked to disclose their identity.

This blog albeit unofficial from UD’s perspective, has afforded similar opportunities for UD employees to voice (write) their opinions because there is an apparent perception that doing so on campus, could be detrimental to one’s career. It’s noteworthy, that as of this writing, over XXXX hits have been made at this URL, but there are only XX comments, aside from the text messages provided by the editor(s).

From all of my organizational behavior (OB) and development (OD) training integrated with reading the postings at this blog, some conclusions can be made.

One observation pertains to what people are tending to write, as well as, NOT write?

It is clear that most bloggers are NOT willing to ID themselves and this reality, in OD parlance, suggests that folks do want to be associated with their comments. All too often this stems from a fear retribution for voicing opinions. While I do not know reasons why, I suspect that many insignificant issues have been combined into perceptions that are unhealthy for the future growth of UD. It is abnormal for only one event to trigger passionate perspectives. On the other hand, it is normal for one event to release pent-up passions.

Perceptions are real, even if they are wrong. I believe those in managerial or administrative roles ought to be and probably are, discussing changes to issues that might be contributing to the perceived mistrust that is being identified in this blog. There is a call for transparency in discussions and decisions pertaining to UD, yet, faculty members are offered a contract that permits UD to take punitive action if employees speak negatively about the organization.

From this OD practitioner’s perspective, the contractual clause appears to contradict UD’s desire to establish and build trust. In and of itself, the clause may not be a big issue and it isn’t to me because if it was, I’d seek employment elsewhere…I simply would not agree to sign the contractual terms of agreement.

However, real or not, the perception of this clause can readily be: if I am truthful, I may lose my job. Given the need for UD to grow and change coupled with the Wendt Character initiative, being truthful is desirable and needed. From my trained perspective, the contractual clause can work at cross purposes to creating a trusting environment. I’m bringing the issue up because its future removal could be a symbolic gesture of the organization’s good faith and desire to trust that employees will be judicious in the future. (Yes, I know history in the 1990’s suggests otherwise, but that is history. Today, there is a nucleus of brand new folks who are working long hours - including administrators – to get UD rolling again).

Based upon one bloggers comments there appears to be a lack of complete understanding why employees have left UD. If this is a reality, then the desired transparency is compromised. When employees are not aware of actions regarding colleagues who decide to leave an organization, then the folks who remain get nervous. As previously indicated one small event in and of itself, does not generally contribute to employee ill-will, but a pattern of similar events can and given the list that was posted, one could conclude there is a lack of information sharing. I am not suggesting that employees be consulted during administrative decision making processes, but instead, am simply observing that ignorance is a breeding ground for hostility and that proactive publicized action can neutralize or at the very least, reduce the tendency for incorrect rumors to occur.

It is my belief that management has a responsibility to acknowledge what is taking place and to share its perspectives with all. Dr. Bullock was doing exactly this during his recent presentation with faculty and staff. As Dr. Ebertz offered in his blog comments, this is what Dr. Stewart was attempting to do at the faculty orientation. I believe, that more of these kinds of efforts are needed, even though doing so is immensely time consuming and emotionally draining out of a concern that others will misinterpret public conversation. Organizational change occurs so rapidly, that it is hard to keep everyone abreast of what is going on. Thus, the concept of over-communicating has immense value and is an investment in establishing and building trust.

A different and what I believe to be a series of insignificant issues, have been combined with regards to the Garfield and Jeffries issues. I have read in this blog and heard around campus that they are separate topics. Although I suspect the mechanics of each are indeed separate issues, I am not sure that employee perceptions correspond with the technical differences being claimed.

Various events that I have addressed in this blog-response have occurred in an arena where idealism prevails. The academy is filled with those of us who are trying to make the world a better place to live and in doing so we frequently focus on the ideals of tomorrow without regard to practical implications. When someone violates the sanctity of the academy, i.e., plagiarism, and remains employed while someone else disagrees with administration over contractual issues and does not remain employed, an imbalance in justice can readily be perceived.

I am NOT suggesting Mr. Garfield be terminated. In fact, my stance is quite the contrary. Equity Theory in the organizational behavior discipline suggests that employees will achieve balance in their lives. When a perception of imbalance occurs, employees will act in ways that counteract the perceived imbalances in order to produce a perceptible balance…even if overt actions seem to be contrary to common sense, i.e., the creation of anonymous blog sites is one way of creating a balance supported by Equity Theory; another is the stealing of pencils and other office supplies from an organization when compensation is perceived to be less than adequate.

Whether linked or not, there can be a perception that one employee was treated fairly while another was not. Thus, Equity Theory is upheld as employees voice their dissatisfaction over perceived unequal treatments. In this case, I have never read or heard that Mr. Garfield should be terminated, but I have read and heard others question the fairness of treatment for Dr. Jeffries in light of Alan Garfield’s treatment.

Every organization has warts and employees frequently disagree with managerial actions. It is depressing to acknowledge that Organizational System’s Theory suggests that as one set of warts is identified and corrected, a different set of ugly protuberances will emerge. I argue that all employees and especially management personnel ought to know what employees are “really” thinking and frequently, anonymity aids the process of providing employee feedback.

I believe there ought to be rejoicing in the identification of what employees think. I’d like to see all employees offer their anonymous perspectives as more meaningful data could be gleaned. Presently, the “n” (statisticians will know what this means) is very small and as such, it is difficult to draw meaningful conclusions that would pass a statistical significance test. Even if offered anonymously, feedback is essential for organizational growth to occur and such feedback needs to include both good and bad perspectives.

Organizational behavior and development literature contains an abundance of research data that supports the fact that employees are not stupid and can readily discern fact from fiction when anyone describes events within an organization. The UD community is filled with learned people who can readily see false statements and conclusions that lack substance at this Blog. In addition, OB-OD literature confirms that employees want to thrive and succeed and that they want the organization to succeed and grow so their own well-being can be assured

I also argue that organizational growth will occur regardless of whether employees are satisfied or not. However, when dissatisfaction is present, the work is much harder. When perceptions are shared, then all are in a position to positively amend problematic policies while expanding on policies that work. When this occurs, change and growth are much easier to implement.

Thank you for reading my thoughts. I am certain that there will be folks who do agree with me, and that’s OK. Will those who either agree or disagree share your thoughts, too? The exchange of perspectives is one step towards reducing the dangers of bias that inhibit trust building.

Sunday, November 20, 2005 1:36:00 PM  
Blogger Al Lisk said...

Oops, forgot the hit/comment counts in the above posting.

Hits - over 3,300
Comments - approx 95

Sunday, November 20, 2005 1:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Al, I appreciate your thoughts. I do have some questions, though. Where do students and alumni fit in? Your comment was very helpful to me in understanding the employee/administration component of the situation but not how students and alumni fit in. Are were merely customers? Do buisness models always work for institutions of higher education?

Sunday, November 20, 2005 2:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Al's response: An organization is an organization is an organization.

Within an organization anyone who has to deal w/others has customers...and those folks are NOT "merely" customers. Instead, the other folks are the backbone of the organization and all must be treated w/care. In addition, the customer role is constantly changing just as the organization is constantly changing.

Thnx for sharing your thots.

Sunday, November 20, 2005 5:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Al Lisk, for your research-based information. Another positive is that members of the Board of Trustees will read the bloggers comments and form a committee to discern their veracity. The results should guide the growth of the institution.

Sunday, November 20, 2005 11:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tenure does not mean a life-time guarantee of a teaching position, as many erroneously believe. It means that you cannot be fired without serious reasons being given by the administration. Among these reasons are incompetence and immorality. Jeffries was denied this protection--after having been given it!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005 12:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, I'm a faculty member at another institution, but I've followed UD issues over a few decades.

The granting of tenure means that tenure cannot be revoked without following the procedures outlined in the tenuring institution's faculty handbook. I find the following situation ironic: at UD, a faculty member was granted tenure, and his tenure was subsequently revoked after no standard procedure had been followed; at my institution, an administrator not eligible for tenure was granted tenure and now it cannot be revoked (even though he wasn't eligible to receive it) because he has tenure's protection.

It's no wonder UD was censured by the AAUP.

In fact, it's hard for me to see how anyone can defend UD's administration in any way, given that the penalty of last resort (AAUP censure) has been applied to that administration. Institutions which are interested in being fair and just (might one say Christian?) may misstep, but then they make things right. Is UD in the process of reconciling the issues brought up by the AAUP? Hmmm... doesn't seem like it according to the AAUP journal of record, Academe.

Thursday, November 24, 2005 7:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please excuse me for my ignorance, but I thought that I had submitted a relevant comment, and it has yet to appear. Is there a time delay in posting comments?

Friday, December 02, 2005 9:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The current UD Board of Trustees does not want transparency; they simply want complete control. Bullock and his team are giving the Board exactly that, and are paid very well for doing it.

Monday, December 05, 2005 10:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do other UD alumni share with me in noting the high level of irony when reading the recently-issued UD Alumni Newsletter? The headline emphasizes the Ethics Conference held on campus last fall. As usual, the underlying message is: "Do what I say, not what I do."

Friday, February 17, 2006 2:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the University of Dubuque is really "all about the Mission and Value Statement", as Bullock claims, it is informative to visit the UD Website and check faculty staffing priorities, as demonstrated by course offerings. The WorldView Seminars were developed as part of a new Core Curriculum as the main mechanism to provide values education. This is particularly true for WVSeminar I and II, required of all students.

If you check the names of faculty assigned to teach the sections of WVS I & II (click on "MY UD"), you will see that most sections are taught by adjuncts with Masters degrees at best. The University's valued full-time faculty must have more important things to do!!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006 1:05:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

free web page counters