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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

UAB's President Embarrasses Herself

Carol Garrison, president of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), has upheld my termination from the university where I worked for 19 years.

That means I won't be receiving justice within the university framework. And considering the leadership currently in place at UAB, that is not a surprise.

We noted a few weeks back that Cheryl E.H. Locke, UAB's director of human resources, had upheld my firing, even though her own grievance committee had found that I had been wrongfully terminated.

Garrison was my last line of appeal, and you might think that she would be able to see the absurdity in upholding a termination that the university's own committee had found was not supported by fact or policy.

But you would be wrong. And that sound you hear probably is Dr. Joseph Volker turning over in his grave.

You see, UAB once had visionary leaders who cared about issues of social justice, right and wrong. Dr. Volker is considered the "Father of UAB," and he more than anyone else is responsible for turning a small extension center of the University of Alabama into a major comprehensive university and a world-class medical center.

Dr. Volker grew up in Rochester, New York, and received his training in dentistry. He was dean of the dental school at Tufts University, near Boston, when he decided in 1948 to move to Birmingham and become founding dean of the dental school here. He went on to become UAB's first president and the first chancellor of the University of Alabama System.

Volker had the professional prowess to live most anywhere in the country. But he chose to make his mark in Birmingham, which was hardly a glamour spot at the time.

The city was riven with racial tensions in the 1950s and '60s, but Volker chose to stay and lead. He ensured that the integration of University Hospital went smoothly and played a huge role in helping Birmingham make the transition from steel town to biomedical research center.

If some right-wing zealot had come to Joseph Volker and demanded that he unlawfully fire an employee for political reasons, Volker almost certainly would have booted the zealot out the door--in a hurry.

But UAB no longer has that kind of honorable leadership, and Carol Garrison's letter to me proves it. Check it out:

Dear Mr. Shuler:
I have reviewed the facts upon which your complaint was based, the recommendations of the Problem Resolution Committee, the decision of the Chief Human Resources Officer and your letter of appeal. I believe that the offer of reinstatement to a position in another department, with two written warnings, was most generous. Given your refusal of that offer, I believe the decision to terminate your employment was correct.

For the foregoing reasons, I will take no further action with regard to this matter.

Sincerely,

Carol Garrison

In our previous post, I compared Garrison's handling of my case to the smarmy activities of U.S. Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-FL), who currently is embroiled in an employment-related mess of his own making.

Some readers might think comparing Garrison to Mahoney is overly harsh. After all, Mahoney was engaged in inappropriate extramarital activity and apparently was involved in improper use of public funds.

Garrison's letter to me might not seem to rise to that level of conduct. But I invite you to come along with me on an interesting journey through higher education, one that involves personal, professional, and financial hanky panky across several Southern states. And through it all, Carol Garrison was front and center.

Should UAB's president be compared to Tim Mahoney? Once we look at the details of my case, and at Garrison's personal background, I think you will see what I'm talking about.

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