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General News    H3'ed 3/31/09

A University Loses Its Moral Compass

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Message Roger Shuler
A University Loses Its Moral Compass
UAB's Carol Garrison is doing something that university presidents spend a lot of time doing--asking taxpayers and legislators for more money.

Garrison recently addressed Birmingham-area legislators and urged them to take it easy on UAB when they consider budget cuts forced by the ongoing Bush recession.

But legislators might want to ask Garrison a few questions next time they see her coming with her hand out. And citizens, whose state and federal tax dollars support UAB, might want to ask Garrison the same questions.

One question is this: What are you doing with the money you already have? Answer: Garrison is wasting sizable chunks of it.

Poor human-resources practices that lead to needless legal actions are one way that UAB wastes money. We recently outlined some of the employment-related legal actions that almost certainly could have been avoided. We are researching other such cases. A few cases, which either are pending or have recently been settled, include:

* School of Business faculty member Susan Key;

* School of Engineering faculty member Rosalia Scripa;

* Department of History faculty member Horace Huntley.

We're not talking about malcontents or incompetents here. Scripa and Huntley have been at UAB for 30-plus years. Key has been there about 20 years. I have studied the case files, and it seems clear that litigation could have been avoided in all three cases.

As we have noted a couple of times, several medical trainees from India are taking, or considering, legal action against UAB because of problems in the school's Huntsville program. Much more is coming on that story here at Legal Schnauzer.

Then we have my case, which might be the biggest waste of time and funds of all. UAB literally fired me for doing my job. And like Key, Scripa, and Huntley, I was not a Johnny-come-lately; I had been at UAB for 19 years.

Evidence is overwhelming that I was fired because my personal blog, which I wrote on my own time, made some Alabama Republicans uncomfortable. And that's because I was writing accurately about their unsavory activities. As Scott Horton of Harper's recently wrote, UAB's attempts to explain this case can only be described as Orwellian.

Here's a question that Democratic legislators should be asking Garrison: Why is a UAB employee who expresses liberal/progressive ideas on his personal blog fired, even though he wrote the blog on his own time? And why are UAB employees who have used state-owned equipment to send anti-gay and racist messages still employed?

Actually, legislators and taxpayers of all persuasions should be asking Garrison hard questions. What's next? Is UAB going to start firing employees who practice certain religions on their own time? Will employees who subscribe to certain magazines or check out certain books be fired? Will employees risk their jobs if they join certain civic or social organizations?

Carol Garrison is president of a large institution, one that is happy to take tax dollars from people of all shapes, sizes, colors, religions, and political persuasions. As such, she has an obligation under state and federal law to ensure that her organization does not discriminate.

Evidence is mounting that she is failing miserably in that regard.

In short, Carol Garrison is president of a public institution, which belongs to everyone. Isn't it time she started acting like someone who understands what that role means?
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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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