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Tension between faculty and administration grows as censure vote approaches

Provost Charles Zukoski and Faculty Senate Chair Phil Glick exchange terse emails

zukoski

The chairman of UB’s Faculty Senate has accused the university’s top academic officer of bullying and intimidation ahead of the Senate’s vote Tuesday on whether to censure Architecture and Planning Dean Robert Shibley for allegedly mishandling a former assistant professor’s tenure case.

The dean is facing a censure vote after a Faculty Senate subcommittee found in May that the School of Architecture and Planning dismissed the professor without following proper procedure.

The professor contended, and the subcommittee agreed, that Shibley had not received a necessary report from her mentoring committee before making his decision to terminate her contract. There is a counter-proposal up for a vote, as well, that would remove the censure resolution from the floor altogether.

Since the last Senate meeting, tensions over how to handle the case have intensified between Senate Chair Phil Glick and UB Provost Charles Zukoski, according to a string of emails The Spectrum obtained Friday in which Glick accused the provost of attempting to bully and intimidate the Faculty Senate throughout the process.

Several faculty members and administrators familiar with the case argued at the last Senate meeting that Shibley acted appropriately and according to all rules and procedures. They said the censure resolution was brought forward without all the facts of the case known.

Those who believe the dean should be censured feel the issue deserves special consideration since the dismissed professor is now suffering severe health problems and would not have lost her New York State health coverage if Shibley had heeded the subcommittee’s opinion and re-appointed the professor.

On Nov. 4, Glick emailed the provost to ask him to consider changing his position to reappoint the professor.

He offered to do “everything in [his] power as faculty chair to permanently table” the censure resolution against Shibley if UB would reinstate the professor in order to allow her to obtain disability benefits.

At issue is whether allowing the professor to do that would constitute an “impermissible gift of public funds,” emails show.

The former professor’s current health insurance does not cover her outpatient care, which costs an estimated $20,000 a month, Glick said in his email. Glick cited a legal opinion the Senate obtained through NYSUT’s legal team that said the reappointment would not constitute a gift of public funds.

Zukoski responded Nov. 7 to Glick’s email, copying the other members of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee in the “interests of transparency,” he said.

“I am very sympathetic to the difficult situation of a former colleague whom you described,” Zukoski wrote in his email. “However, the University at Buffalo cannot appoint an individual for the express purpose of providing paid NYS disability benefits to which that individual would not otherwise be entitled. To do so would be an impermissible gift of public funds and violate the public trust placed in me as an officer of a state institution.”

Glick responded to Zukoski’s email Nov. 8, noting that UB’s attorney did not dispute NYSUT’s legal opinion and that the university’s “continued assertion that reinstating the faculty member would constitute a gift of public funds is nothing but a red herring.”

Glick declined to comment for this story.

Zukoski declined to comment on the nature of the emails or the differing legal opinions between SUNY’s and NYSUT’s legal teams, and he would not elaborate on his position that the reinstatement of the professor would be a “misuse of public funds.”

The provost released a statement through UB spokesperson John Della Contrada.

“Faculty are central to our core missions,” the statement reads. “Policies and practices have been put in place to enable, serve and protect them. Personnel matters are confidential and are not commented upon.”

Sarah Crowley is the senior news editor and can be reached at sarah.crowley@ubspectrum.com

    


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