Friday, August 29, 2008

Ville Board Trustee Jumps into the Bunker with Ramsey & Willihnganz

This from Nancy at C-J:

Trustee chief backs U of L leaders in Felner inquiry
Porter 'satisfied' on Felner inquiry
The chairman of the University of Louisville board of trustees sent a letter to the full board this week saying he is "satisfied" with actions taken by the school's administration regarding faculty complaints and a federal investigation involving former education dean Robert Felner.

"We care about our employees -- they are a source of our pride," J. Chester Porter said in the letter. "We have worked with (U of L President) Jim (Ramsey) and (Provost) Shirley (Willihnganz) long enough to know they, too, care deeply about the
welfare of all the University's employees and students."

Porter acknowledges in his letter that "given issues raised in the media, there is little doubt that Dean Felner's personality may have accelerated the departure of some of the faculty."

He then says that during Felner's five-year tenure, Ramsey and Willihnganz "began to understand the tensions he created in the college" and notes it was the university's investigation that "alerted the U.S. Attorney to investigate peculiarities" in the College of Education and Human Development.

Felner, who resigned from the university June 30 to take a chancellor position at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside that he later backed out of, is the focus of a federal investigation sparked by his possible misappropriation of a $694,000 federal grant.

Porter's letter was in response to an open letter sent last week to the board by 21 former faculty who worked for Felner.

In the open letter, the former faculty took issue with comments made to the media in July by Ramsey, who characterized many of the faculty complaints and grievances against Felner as "anonymous crap."

"We are insulted by President Ramsey's response to this crisis," the letter states. "On the contrary, faculty stepped up repeatedly, knowing that any overt action would make them vulnerable to severe retaliation."

The letter went on to recount how faculty tried repeatedly to get the administration
to take action against Felner, including casting a no confidence vote against him in 2006.

A day after Ramsey made his comment about the grievances to the media, U of L Trustee Brent Fryrear, head of the university's staff senate, alerted Ramsey in an e-mail that he had received 15 to 20 calls before lunch from university employees upset by the comment, and "questioning whether or not the university takes its grievance process seriously."

"There are a number of staff who are leery of reporting incidents or filing grievances for fear of retribution and I believe this confirms their fears," Fryrear said in the e-mail, which was obtained yesterday by The Courier-Journal through an open-records request.

Porter told trustees in his letter they are welcome to discuss the points made in the faculty letter at the board's next meeting of its Personnel Committee in September.

He went on to explain several points made in the faculty letter, saying that Ramsey's anonymity comments related directly to a reporter's question regarding the grievance process.

"Jim had explained to the media numerous times that only four grievances were filed," Porter said. "References to 'more than 30 grievances' (in the faculty letter) were closer to the number of people who spoke to the grievance officer but did not pursue a grievance. The names of individuals who speak to a grievance officer are never released so those conversations may remain anonymous." ...

No comments: