Conservative prof subject to 'biased' review committee
A conservative professor’s fate is now potentially in the hands of the same administrator who arbitrarily limited his class sizes earlier this semester.
As Campus Reform initially reported, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) Professor Keith Fink has been fighting for months against efforts by his new department chair to limit the number of students who may enroll in his popular "Free Speech in the Workplace" course.
Department Chair Kerri Johnson claims the restrictions are designed to ensure high quality of instruction, but Fink and his teacher’s assistant say the concern is unfounded, calling it a pretext for limiting access to the course.
Now, according to correspondences obtained by Campus Reform, Johnson will serve on a committee conducting Fink’s “excellence review” hearing despite repeated concerns that she presents a conflict of interest.
An “excellence review” is conducted at the conclusion of a professor’s eighteenth quarter with the institution, upon which the professor is invited to submit a list of students and a list of professors whom he or she finds worthy of submitting a review, along with a list of faculty members the professor may find biased against him.
According to The Daily Wire, such reviews are typically an easy process for professors, though, if gone wrong, result in termination, making Johnson’s involvement in the process concerning.
Johnson, notably, only took over as chair of the Communications Studies Department last year, along with Vice Chair Greg Bryant, both of whom Fink repeatedly accuses of bias in a 46-page rebuttal of their involvement in his “excellence review” obtained by Campus Reform.
“My support within the department inexplicably took a turn for the worst after the appointment of Kerri Johnson and Greg Bryant to chair and vice chair, respectively, last year,” Fink writes in his allotted candidate’s reply to the review. “Ever since, the department has done everything it can to rig the Excellence Review process against me in an attempt to deem me “not excellent” and relieve me of my teaching duties at UCLA.”
Fink, according to email exchanges obtained by Campus Reform, brought up the issue of Johnson’s involvement in the review with two members of the school’s Human Resources Department, though both neglected to clarify whether there exists a policy requiring conflicted professors to recuse themselves.
“Can you confirm today that Professors Bryant and Johnson will not be voting at my Excellence Review?” Fink wrote in an email to Carly Bobek and Zenia Kim. “It should be clear to anyone that they are biased against me and thus cannot render a decision here that is fair and without prejudice.”
In response, Bobek cited the Academic Senate’s bylaws, claiming “Bryant and Johnson, as ladder rank faculty, have the right to vote on [Fink’s] excellence review,” though Fink noted that the policy offers no clear procedures surrounding professors who rightfully ought to recuse themselves.
According to Campus Reform’s copy of the exchange, neither Bobek nor Kim offered any elaboration of procedures calling for the recusal of biased members of a review committee.
Notably, Fink’s “excellence review” case was allegedly stripped of any student reviews solicited by him, and was additionally missing “the single strongest department-solicited letter” from a former student.
Fink, who was allowed to examine his “excellence review” file,” notes in his response that “the department omitted the single strongest department-solicited letter from [his] dossier,” attaching a copy of the glowing letter to his rebuttal.
“I find it hard to believe that the omitted letter was accidentally left out of my file—the letter is simply too strong for it to be a mere coincidence,” Fink contends. “Had I not requested a complete copy, this letter would likely have vanished and never been included in the file.”
Campus Reform reached out to Johnson for elaboration on her involvement in Fink’s review, set to take place Thursday, though no response was received in time for publication.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski