Kean professors fear disciplinary action over ‘excused’ Professional Day absences
By Joshua Rosario | Published Nov. 28, 2017
Thirty five Kean University professors have been threatened with disciplinary action from the university’s Academic Affairs department for not attending their professional development days after they were excused by their deans, according to
Kean Federation of Teachers President, James Castiglione.
According to Castiglione, the professors were excused by their deans because of
research, teaching, or service commitments that they were assigned to by their deans.
“They followed the procedure to be excused from attending [professional development days] to do other work for the university and now the university is threatening to discipline them,” said Castiglione in a September interview with The Tower.
If disciplinary action is pursued, a letter is placed in their files and would affect decisions made on perks such as travel funds,research money from Kean for scholarly
activities (for presenting at conferences), the opportunity to teach summer and winter classes, and other requests they submit to the administration.
“[The University] is threatening to haul people in for disciplinary hearings and we are concerned how that might play out,” said Castiglione.
Professional development days are for faculty and employees. These four days are filled with sessions to help train and teach new things that they can use with students or for their own use as professionals.
According to the University website, some of the sessions from 2017’s January professional development days were “How to Get your Content on Kean’s Website,” “Managing Disruptive or Emotionally Distressed Students” and “Creating a World Class Experience.”
These days take place some time before and after the spring semester. Professors are currently not paid for these professional days.
“It was my understanding I had permission not to attend,” said a professor who is facing disciplinary action and has asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution by the administration. “ I was shocked.”
The anonymous professor received a memorandum from Provost and Vice
President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Jeffrey Toney, that had a little checklist indicating a referral to Human Resources for a disciplinary inquiry regarding a “behavioral infraction” for missing the professional days.
“It has caused me unnecessary anxiety,” said the anonymous professor. “ It is my understanding that most of us who have received these letters are professors who have earned tenure. It’s a little bit insulting.”
The professor is concerned this issue will continue to be an issue and understands the majority of the people who work for Kean University and the administration are “not evil” and understands they’re “as important as the professors.”
“I believe they just have to do their jobs,” the professor said. “ I wish more would be done to encourage unity instead of division. The spirit of professional days is not for our betterment.”
Kean spokesperson Margaret McCorry said no disciplinary action has been issued as of Nov. 16 and disciplines are never issued without an employee having the opportunity to present his or her point of view. The University does not comment on specific personnel matters.
“All faculty are required to attend 32 sessions of professional development each academic year as part of the University’s continuing commitment to providing a world-class education and outstanding academic services to Kean students,” said McCorry. “Faculty who missed in excess of 90 percent of their mandatory obligation have been referred to Human Resources for further review to determine if their absences are excused.”
Chair of the Grievance Committee for the Kean Federation of Teachers, and a fulltime tenured Political Science Professor Jacqueline Keil said there are people receiving notices for impending meetings. Those who have met with Human Resources
have received no feedback.
“The really disturbing part in all of this is faculty thought they were following protocol,” said Keil. “In other words,they had permission to be absent from Professional Development Days from a manager/supervisor. Th ere is documentation supporting their absence(s), but they are still being notified about an HR meeting.” Kiel added that, “people are not receiving clear directives about how many PDDs to attend, and what the consequences are.”
Keil was the KFT representative in two meetings so far and stated when faculty asked to have a written document about these investigatory meetings, they were told there would be no written record.
“In other words, there was an information gathering meeting, but faculty could not see a written document describing what information from the meeting would be passed up to “higher ups” who will be making a final decision about any possible consequences. This is very disturbing, and seems like something out of Kafka’s “The Trial,” said Keil. (Franz Kafka’s “The Trial” is a book about a man arrested and prosecuted by a remote, inaccessible authority, with the nature of his crime not revealed to him or to the reader, according to Amazon.com.)
The Kean Federation of Teachers (KFT) is a union for the professors. The Tower reached out to several professors involved who did not respond or were concerned about speaking out.
The Tower contacted Managing Assistant Director of Human Resources, Dr. Yvonne Catino, who directed all questions to McCorry. Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Jeffrey Toney, did not respond to a request for comment.