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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Stepping out of the blogosphere

Once the domain of egotistical-but-still-living-with-their-parents couch potatoes, the blogosphere has now become the latest forum for protesting the UA transformation process.

Instead of celebrity gossip, the UA Defender is an anonymous “”academic forum for presenting facts and expressing legitimate opinions.””

Moderated by “”Evelyn B. Hall,”” the blog administrator’s pseudonym, the anonymous posts of faculty and staff point a collective finger at the actions of President Robert Shelton and Provost Meredith Hay.

The aspect of the UA Defender that is both comforting and troubling is its anonymity. The faculty and staff posting to the blog, though up in arms about the transformation process, do not want to be subject to any reprisals.

They need to put food on the table like everyone else, and the current job market isn’t clamoring for college professors labeled as “”whistle-blowers.”” On the other hand, any alleged violations by President Shelton, Provost Hay or other officials are moot if no one stands behind them.

More people need to make themselves known as well as heard in order to make these concerns legitimate.  

Some of the motivation for Evelyn B. Hall and other posters was the ousting of former Vice President for Instruction Juan R. Garcia last semester. As reported by the Arizona Daily Star’s Aaron Mackey and posted on The Arizona Desert Lamp blog, Garcia was placed in charge of designing and coordinating a set of classes to be taught in Centennial Hall. Garcia was subsequently informed that Vice President for Student Affairs Melissa Vito would complete final stages of the planning.

In a justifiable, but perhaps thoughtlessly indignant, e-mail, Garcia opened with “”What?!! You are joking, right?””

Garcia accused Provost Hay of making discriminatory and unilateral decisions. “”Giving the Centennial Hall project to a non-instructional unit flies in the face of reason and practice,”” Garcia said in the e-mail.

He was referring to the division of responsibilities set forth in the University Handbook for Appointed Personnel, which dictates that faculty, not administration, should decide curriculum.

Since Provost Hay is only the number-two fish, perhaps Garcia was counting on Shelton to mediate the dispute.

Instead, Shelton told Garcia, “”The wording and tone of your e-mail to Provost Hay — your direct superior — will not be tolerated.”” With swift and heavy hands, President Shelton pulled the switch on Garcia several months after praising him for his “”distinguished record of leadership and academic accomplishment.””

While posts may be anonymous, the alleged abuses of power present serious ethical concerns. Evelyn B. Hall, accused Provost Hay of usurping power of faculty, the same allegation Garcia made.

Because of the anonymity that the site provides, the influx of posts tend to be one of two things; either part of what seems to be a conspiracy to ruin Shelton and Hay, or sent from members of a group of faculty and staff who feel a need to bring these concerns to the table but cannot sacrifice their jobs to do so.

Regardless, the existence of a blog containing such serious accusations should raise enough eyebrows and should not be discounted.

Shelton and Hay’s alleged approach to faculty comes into sharp contrast with their attitude toward students.

Shelton has publicly praised the past leadership of Associated Students of the University of Arizona, which helped organize a student protest at the state capitol last semester, decrying the massive budget cuts to higher education. Shelton’s own golden boy Tommy Bruce passionately proclaimed,

“”We are not going to stand for this, and we are going to speak up and be an active participant in this entire process.””

Students at the protests succeeded in showing their frustration at higher tuition for less educational resources.

Provost Hay said herself, “”I was very proud of our students and their dedication. It is equally as important for the students to speak loudly for themselves.””

I guess the importance of solidarity and speaking out fades when you’re an employee of the University of Arizona.

The transformation process has lacked any of the transparency that Shelton so adamantly touted. Without clear guidelines, faculty and staff fear becoming victims of “”efficient reorganization”” during the transformation.

As students pay more in tuition every year, they may lose dedicated professionals who couldn’t keep quiet any longer.  Even worse, the plight of current faculty and staff stands as a warning signal to any of the best and brightest potential candidates that this administration might be as faculty-friendly as vultures are corpse-friendly.

 

— Dan Sotelo is a political science senior.. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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