Letter to the Editor: Standing up to UW-W administration

April 12, 2016

Last week in the Royal Purple Jeff Ehren responded to my earlier letter to the editor and posed a few questions for me. I thought I should respond. Substantiation for all of the claims made here and in my earlier letter can be found by clicking here.

Ehren noted that “professor Chris Henige still has a job at UW-W.” What Ehren does not know is that when I wrote that letter, and as I am writing this one, I have been on unpaid suspension since December and will be on unpaid suspension until August when the new contract year begins. Nine months without income or benefits. I can no longer seek necessary health care, and I have been forced to sell my home. Ehren’s implication seems to be “why hasn’t the administration just fired him like they have so many others?” The answer is simple: dismissal for cause would require external review of the evidence which includes substantive proof of the allegations against me, and that is something the administration has not ever been able to produce. Besides, why seek dismissal for cause when you can effect financial ruin through suspension without cause and without due process? What Ehren also does not know is that for two semesters leading up to this suspension I was exiled from my department without any due process, and I have been prohibited from having any contact with my colleagues and friends. My classrooms were relocated as far from their original location as was possible, to rooms that were never vetted for the teaching of art history.

One classroom had a projection system that actually squeezed the images and distorted them, another had a huge brown spot in the middle of the projection. The implication in this exile has been that I am somehow “dangerous,” yet there is no proscription against my entering the Center of the Arts at any time, nor my attending department meetings, which are open meetings and therefore open to the public. Again, legally enjoining me from doing so would require external review. The reasons for my exile must be obvious to everyone. As long as I am an active member of the department, and as long as I continue to stand up for the rights of the students and of my colleagues, and against decisions by administrators which harm those rights, I am a “threat.” So, I’ve been exiled, and the administration has sent its message to my colleagues.

Ehren laments that I did not offer a solution. The solution is actually very simple. The faculty, staff and students at this institution must stand up and demand that the rules that are already in place to protect their interests be explicitly and completely followed. When they are not, those responsible must be removed from positions where the implementation and adherence to these rules is necessary. Decisions and disciplinary penalties that affect the very livelihood of those accused must be overturned when there is an absence of adherence to the rules and legitimate due process. At present seven of the 12 hearing panel members who unanimously and willfully ignored the rules that their own committee, the Faculty Appeals, Grievances, and Disciplinary Hearing Committee, surely must be charged with upholding, are still on that committee. Would you want them presiding over your disciplinary hearing? Four of them are on the Faculty Senate and the two Faculty Senate Chairs who similarly did nothing to insure the integrity of the rules are also still on the Faculty Senate, and one is still chair. And what about a Director of Human Resources who has not, at least in my case, demonstrated the slightest regard for the Faculty Personnel Rules? And what of two Chancellors and a Dean who have shown just as little respect?

As long as these individuals are still in a position to make decisions that affect the reputations, careers and livelihoods of faculty, staff and students on this campus, they will continue to ignore the rules simply because they believe they can. And they will do so until someone stands up. I’m standing up.

Chris Henige

Associate Professor of Art History

Department of Art and Design, UW-W