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Friday, July 16, 2010

UAB Dysfunction Doesn't Happen In A Vacuum

Readers of The Chronicle of Higher Education are a hard bunch to shock. Many of them have been at colleges and universities long enough to witness some pretty bizarre behavior from deans, provosts, presidents, trustees, and the like.

But even Chronicle readers seemed stunned this week by the paper's report on efforts by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) to oust Glenn Feldman, a tenured business professor who has ties to labor unions and Democratic Party politics.

Our Legal Schnauzer team, unfortunately, was not stunned by the Feldman story. I've been closely associated with UAB for 21 years--19 as an employee and two as a former employee who was unlawfully cheated out of his job largely for daring to exercise his First Amendment rights on this blog. We've reported on a long list of UAB scandals and embarrassments, so we know the Feldman story did not arise from a vacuum. It was the natural by-product of an administration that has been dysfunctional for years.

Why would UAB be concerned about Feldman's ties to organized labor? Feldman has those ties because his academic specialty is labor economics and history--and it's pretty hard to understand that subject without researching the connections between unions and the political party that has tended to support them.

In a federal lawsuit, Feldman alleges that UAB is trying to unlawfully terminate him because it wants to appeal to a white, conservative, "pro-business" market. UAB is so desperate to rid itself of any ties to organized labor, the Chronicle reports, that it asked the Alabama Legislature to withdraw a $650,000 line-item appropriation and kicked away more than $3 million in federal grants.

That prompted Chronicle readers to respond with comments such as "this might be the first time in history . . . " and "I've never heard of that happening anywhere."

Under the the "leadership" of President Carol Garrison, with an assist from Provost Eli Capilouto, UAB has a longstanding pattern of mistreating faculty and staff--and mishandling federal funds. In fact, UAB has seen so many scandals and lawsuits that we summed them up in a post titled "Has UAB Become a Hotbed for Mismanagement and Corruption."

A number of new embarrassments have surfaced since we wrote that post in December 2008, including three cases of academic fraud. It's difficult to keep up with all the UAB sleaze under Garrison, but here is our best effort at an updated and comprehensive list. It doesn't include two or three cases we are aware of that are still in the developing stage. And while I try to be a diligent Schnauzer, UAB is a big place, and I'm sure it has brewing scandals that I've not yet heard about:

* Nine papers written by scientist H.M. Krishna Murthy are retracted because of concerns about academic fraud;

* Researchers Juan R. Contreras and Judith M. Thomas are barred from receiving federal funds after falsifying results from animal studies;

* School of Medicine Dean Robert Rich steps down under mysterious circumstances, in the wake of multiple reports about fraud and discrimination that took place on his watch;

* A University of Louisville dean, who has ties to UAB 's Carol Garrison from her days as provost at U of L, pleads guilty to fraud-related charges and is sentenced to 63 months in federal prison;

* Longtime engineering professor Rosalia Scripa files a discrimination lawsuit;

* Longtime history professor Horace Huntley files a discrimination lawsuit;

* Longtime business professor Susan Key files a discrimination lawsuit;

* Former trainee Seema Gupta files a lawsuit claiming widespread discrimination against international medical graduates in UAB's Family Medicine Residency Program in Huntsville;

* A company owned by a member of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees is found to have been involved in insurance fraud;

* An office associate uses a university computer to send a hate-filled e-mail to a California gay-rights group. UAB announces no disciplinary action against the female employee;

* A financial associate uses a university computer to send a racist e-mail that mocks President Obama and other major Democrats. UAB announces no disciplinary action against the female employee;

* A federal lawsuit alleges that UAB's Office of Public Relations and Marketing unlawfully used copyrighted illustrations in various print publications and on the university's Web site.

* A prominent donor, with strong ties to Republican Party politics, has a lengthy history of driving-related arrests and questionable business practices;

* Several UAB medical professionals have ties to a company owned by attorney Rob Riley (son of GOP Governor Bob Riley), which has been accused in federal-court documents of practicing health-care fraud;

* UAB settles a federal whistleblower lawsuit that alleges some $600-million in fraud over a 10-year period;

* I am unlawfully terminated from my job as an editor in the UAB Office of Publications after 19 years at the university. Evidence strongly indicates that I was fired largely because of my reporting on this blog about the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman;

* In her first year on the job, President Garrison embarrasses the university by playing a prominent role in a scandal that led to the ouster of University of Tennessee President John Shumaker.

UAB is not alone in being run by administrators who are clueless, incompetent, corrupt--or all of the above. Marc Bousquet, author of howtheuniversityworks.com, presents an interview with Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

Nelson says universities increasingly are relying on "contingent faculty members," those who have no tenure and, thus, no job protection. This development, Nelson says, presents an ongoing threat to academic freedom and the quality of instruction in university classrooms:


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