Ousted conservative prof files grievance against UCLA
Keith Fink, the conservative University of California-Los Angeles professor who was recently ousted after locking horns with the administration, has filed a grievance with his union.
As Campus Reform previously reported, Fink was recently let go after a contentious process that began with efforts by his new department chair to curtail enrollment in a popular free speech course that he teaches, and culminated with an “excellence review” that Fink claims was stacked against him.
"Unfortunately we’re dealing with people who routinely bend, break, and invent rules to suit their interests."
A mandatory process after an instructor has taught for 18 quarters, the “excellence review” involves a committee of professors from the department who judge a candidate’s teaching based on a variety of factors, including student feedback, before deciding whether to promote the candidate to “Continuing Lecturer” or allow their contract to expire.
Now, Fink has filed a formal grievance against UCLA with the Faculty Council-AFT, the union that represents “non-Senate faculty and librarians” in the UC system.
“The overarching basis for this grievance lies in the fact that the University deliberately violated numerous sections of the Unit 18 [Memorandum of Understanding] during its ‘excellence review’ associated with Keith Fink’s initial Continuing Lecturer Appointment,” the document, a copy of which was provided to Campus Reform, begins. “As it became clear that the university blatantly and brazenly had no respect for the terms of the MOU and other governing rules, further violations associated with Keith Fink’s prior mistreatment by the school were also discovered.”
First, Fink alleges that UCLA did not provide the required 30 days’ notice before the review, informing him in a letter on January 25 that he had until February 8 to submit materials for consideration by the review committee. Then, he claims, the administration “repeatedly changed the timing of the review calendar without providing timely notice,” even after deadlines had already passed for Fink to submit additional materials.
The grievance also asserts that the review committee did not give “due consideration” to student evaluations provided by Fink, even after he disproved the department chair’s erroneous contention that only letters solicited by the department could be considered.
“Had the University given due consideration to these relevant materials, the outcome of Mr. Fink’s excellence review would have been entirely different,” the grievance declares.
Moreover, Fink contends that the review committee’s very composition was biased against him, noting that he had identified several members of the committee in advance as having a potential bias against, and that not a single member had “sufficient knowledge of Mr. Fink’s field of expertise.”
Fink’s teaching assistant, Andrew Litt, told Campus Reform that Fink filed the grievance because “he can’t file a lawsuit without first attempting to have his claim heard and adjudicated through UCLA’s internal procedures,” adding that “his Lecturer position was represented by AFT (a union), and the AFT contract stipulates that within thirty days of an ‘adverse employment action’ a grievance must be filed articulating how the university violated its own policies and the contract.”
Litt made clear that “assuming the grievance does not produce the desired result, litigation is a likely next step,” saying, “Mr. Fink is not putting this matter to rest—and rightfully so.”
Apart from setting the stage for a potential legal showdown with UCLA, Litt said that another goal in filing the grievance “is to increase awareness both on- and off-campus of the many ways that the University will act in complete derogation of the rules and stop at nothing to silence those that they dislike.”
Indeed, the grievance takes a broad approach in its “requested remedy” section, stating that Fink wants UCLA “to cease and desist in all discriminatory practices, including discrimination based on academic and political viewpoint,” in addition to allowing him an unbiased “re-do” of the excellence review.
“Although the grievance is extremely strong on the merits, unfortunately we’re dealing with people who routinely bend, break, and invent rules to suit their interests,” Litt observed. “It wouldn’t surprise me if the University responds with the same behavior.”
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