The business dean at an Alabama university tried to force a department chairman to help unlawfully terminate a faculty member who has ties to labor unions and liberal politics, according to a lawsuit filed in US District Court.
Glenn Feldman has taught labor economics and other subjects at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) since 1996 and earned tenure in the School of Business in 2002. But Feldman alleges in a lawsuit that Dean David R. Klock, who arrived at UAB from Cal Poly Pomona in 2008, has twice tried to fire him.
In one instance, Feldman states, Klock tried to get a key department chair, Lance Nail, to change his vote from yes to no on Feldman’s application for full professor. According to Feldman’s complaint, Klock told Nail, “We are going to fire this guy anyway, and it wouldn’t look good if we just promoted him.”
Nail, who since has become the business dean at the University of Southern Mississippi, refused to change his vote, and Feldman became a full professor on October 1, 2008.
But that, the lawsuit alleges, has not kept Klock from trying to run off Feldman. At one point, Klock said Feldman would experience “pain … considerable pain” if he insisted on staying at UAB.
Klock followed through on that threat, arbitrarily moving Feldman from a 12-month to a nine-month contract, cutting his pay by almost $30,000, and refusing to pay for Feldman’s benefits and family health care for three months in 2009.
Feldman served as director of UAB’s Center for Labor Education and Research (CLEAR) before Klock tried to shut down the center and kick away a $3-million federal grant in the process. CLEAR eventually relocated to Jefferson State Community College in Birmingham.
Why is all of this happening? Feldman says it’s largely because the university, apparently at the insistence of Provost Eli Capilouto, wants to appeal to a conservative audience.
According to Feldman’s lawsuit, UAB has “engaged in a pattern and practice of marketing the school and conforming it to an extent to attract conservative, affluent white students in order to increase the financial resources and reserves of the School of Business and its reputation to the conservative, pro-business community…. UAB and the School of Business administration has engaged in a long series of acts of creating a hostile work environment for those faculty who do not fit within this conservative, affluent, white atmosphere.”
Feldman, who is of Hispanic descent, alleges race discrimination, retaliation, breach of contract, First Amendment violations, and more in his lawsuit. He is seeking lost and back wages, compensatory damages, attorney fees and costs, and other relief.
This story hits close to home here at Legal Schnauzer because UAB is the same university that unlawfully terminated me in May 2008 largely because of my criticism on the blog of the Bush Justice Department, especially its handling of the Don Siegelman prosecution.
I have firsthand experience with the current corrupt UAB administration and its tendency to lie, cheat and violate both federal law and its own policies when it wants to get rid of someone who it perceives has upset the conservative applecart.
In an email to UAB President Carol Garrison, dated November 30, 2009, Feldman painted a stark picture of life in the School of Business, noting that he hardly is alone as a target of harassment. Writes Feldman: “Most of those affected are suffering in official silence, too fearful of retribution to object – except in hallways and behind close office doors. But the climate of fear in the UAB School of Business is palpable.”
Feldman called on Garrison to take action. “Please intervene directly to stop the retaliation, retribution, harassment, hostile work environment, and disparate treatment that my family and I have been made to suffer for a long time now. I do not wish to make this matter more public and external than it already is.
“This whole sordid matter constitutes a disgraceful chapter in the history of what could be a great university. President Garrison, I call on you to do something concrete, tangible, direct, and immediate to correct it.”
Those words apparently fell on deaf ears because the threats and harassment continued, and Feldman was forced to file a lawsuit in May 2010.
That does not surprise me. Garrison’s own grievance committee found that I should not have been terminated, but the UAB human resources director upheld my firing anyway – and Garrison refused to change it. We’ve presented considerable evidence here – and will be presenting much more – that Garrison has a severely damaged moral compass. The Feldman story teaches us that some of her key lieutenants, such as Capilouto and Klock, also seem to be lacking in the ethics department.
How bad is it at UAB? You have a dean intentionally trying to corrupt the promotions process, in ordered to run off a tenured faculty member, and the president is made aware of that – and she does absolutely nothing about it.