Thursday, August 19, 2010

IN MY VIEW: Secret Meeting of Faculty in Enstrom Firing Violated Due Process

The requirements for due process in the consideration of non-tenured faculty reappointment by faculty committees have been made very clear by several documents produced by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). One critical component of due process in such proceedings is that the faculty member in question must be given the opportunity to submit to the committee any materials that he believes are important in the consideration of his reappointment (see: AAUP's Statement on Procedural Standards in the Renewal or Nonrenewal of Faculty Appointments).

These procedural standards for due process state that: "Probationary [non-tenured] faculty members should be advised of the time when decisions affecting renewal and tenure are ordinarily made, and they should be given the opportunity to submit material that they believe will be helpful to an adequate consideration of their circumstances."

The Rest of the Story

It does not appear that Dr. Enstrom was given the opportunity to submit material to the Environmental Health Sciences faculty for their specific consideration at the April meeting at which a vote was taken on whether or not to terminate his appointment. I believe this violates due process.

A second violation of established procedures for non-reappointment is that the Department and School failed to give Dr. Enstrom the requisite 12-months advance notice of his non-reappointment. According to the AAUP's Statement on Procedural Standards in the Renewal or Nonrenewal of Faculty Appointments, a faculty member who has held a position for more than two years must be given 12-month notice of non-reappointment (AAUP, Policy Documents and Reports, 10th ed. [Washington, D.C., 2006], 54.)

Dr. Enstrom received his notice of non-reappointment on June 30th, with an effective date of August 30th. Thus, he was given only two-months advance notice, which is inappropriate and unacceptable for a faculty member with 34 years of continuous appointment at the School. (As a contrast, a faculty member in a similar situation at my institution - the Boston University School of Public Health) is guaranteed three years advance notice of non-reappointment.

I also believe it was inappropriate for Dr. Enstrom not to have been given an opportunity to directly address the faculty who were about to make a decision to terminate his appointment and I find it distasteful that he was not allowed to attend the meeting to hear the reasons that were used in supporting his termination and to be able to provide factual evidence, if appropriate, to counter any misrepresentation of the facts.

The rest of the story is that there were, in my view, at least three violations of due process in Dr. Enstrom's firing:

1. The failure to allow Dr. Enstrom the opportunity to directly address his faculty colleagues on the issue of his research and qualifications for re-appointment;

2. The failure to allow Dr. Enstrom the opportunity to submit materials for specific consideration at the meeting at which the decision to terminate his appointment was made; and

3. The failure to provide 12-month advance notice of termination of his long-standing faculty appointment.

ADDENDUM: While not related to due process, I wish to note that in declaring that Dr. Enstrom's research is not aligned with the Department's mission, the Department has (inadvertently) maligned the research of the esteemed Dr. Lester Breslow. Since Dr. Breslow was the co-author with Dr. Enstrom of an important 2008 article in Preventive Medicine that linked lifestyle factors and mortality, the Department's disavowing itself from Dr. Enstrom's research is also an indictment of Dr. Breslow. This is unfortunate, given that Dr. Breslow is a legendary figure in public health who has the utmost esteem of so many of us in the field. It is hard to imagine finding that a faculty member who collaborates in research with Dr. Breslow and publishes a major research article with him is doing research which are not aligned with the mission of a School of Public Health. I can only imagine how Dr. Breslow feels or would feel (I do not know if he is aware of the situation) about the way in which Dr. Enstrom was treated by his UCLA School of Public Health.

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