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General News    H3'ed 9/29/10

Universities Wrestle With Bloggers and the First Amendment

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Author 13717
Message Roger Shuler
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It's pretty easy to figure out, actually. UAB's own grievance committee found that I should not have been terminated. I sat through the entire four-hour hearing, and no evidence was presented that I even should have been disciplined. UAB's own IT expert admitted I never wrote the first word of my blog on my work computer.

The university's claims that I was "researching" my blog at work fall flat, too. Under the UAB Acceptable Use Policy (AUP), which governs use of university computers, networks, and associated equipment, any violations of policy are to be handled with progressive discipline. That means a supervisor is to notify an employee of a violation and respond with discipline that progresses in nature--oral warning for first offense, written warning for second offense, and termination if necessary.

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UAB never notified me of a violation or instituted progressive discipline--so my supervisors' own actions indicate even they did not believe I was doing anything wrong. And yet, I'm out of a job.

From a legal standpoint, my situation appears to involve a number of factors--age and gender discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination, and more. But evidence strongly indicates that the biggest difference between Stephanie Rauterkus and me is in the content of our blogs.

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The number of anonymous threats I've received on this blog, including one threatening my job about a month before I was fired, indicates political figures were unhappy with my truthful reporting about the state of our justice system in Alabama. Words straight from the mouth of one UAB official--Director of Employee Relations Anita Bonasera--indicate I was targeted because of my reporting on the Siegelman case.

I tape recorded the conversation, and you can listen to the three-minute segment here. For about the first 1:40, Bonasera and I discuss the nature of my job duties. At about 1:50, she admits my job issues are related to my blog. And at roughly the 2:08 mark, she admits I was targeted because of the Siegelman content on my blog:

Audio: UAB and the Cost of Blogging About the Siegelman Case

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UAB officials admitted in my grievance hearing that they monitored my computer usage for roughly a month, even though they had not notified me of any alleged violations of the AUP--as required by university policy. And what did UAB learn from its investigation of my computer? That I had not written the first word on my blog while at work.

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Roger Shuler Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)
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