Ivy Tech Abuses Professors at the Expense of Students.
(A new entry with more information about this information is in the works so stay tuned)
Some of the students in Prof. Pejman Norasteh’s class were having a problem fully understanding the concepts presented in the textbook. So like any good professor he created supplemental materials to aid the students. As is often the case, many students will not ask for help, so when some need help odds are those students are not alone.
Ivy Tech fired Prof. Norasteh for his efforts. Apparently a couple students complained about getting materials that were not in the syllabus (pretty lame really), but after other incidents at Ivy Tech it becomes clear that the administration did not want the impression given that their curriculum could be anything less than perfect.
Inside Higher Education gives us the details:
Pejman Norasteh was teaching statistics this spring at the Indianapolis campus of Ivy Tech Community College when he tried to respond to one set of student complaints and found himself in trouble with the administration for doing so. Norasteh saved e-mail messages he received from students and superiors that document his version of events and that he shared with Inside Higher Ed, minus identifying information about students.
Norasteh – like many adjuncts – didn’t have much control over the material he was supposed to cover. But students started to send him e-mail saying that the textbook was unclear. One student said he was getting “depressed” and giving up when he didn’t understand the required assignments. Another student wrote: “As usual, our textbook does a poor job of explaining concepts. I am adding this chapter to my list of examples of how poor our book is….”
In response to the e-mail messages and personal requests, Norasteh started handing out supplementary materials to cover the same subject matter as the textbook, but with his own explanations. While the students who complained were happy, some others were not. They sent e-mail messages to the division chair saying that they were being asked to do extra work on top of the syllabus because the supplementary materials were not mentioned on the syllabus as required reading. That of course was true, since Norasteh didn’t start the course thinking he would add to the reading beyond the textbook.
At that point, Norasteh received an e-mail from Mark Magnuson, division chair for liberal arts and sciences, and general education at the campus. Magnuson wrote that it was clear to him that “you are not using or following the syllabus or textbook,” adding that “all instructors, adjuncts and full-time, are required to use the syllabus and textbook in each course to meet the statewide agreed upon course objectives. Individual instructors do not have the option of straying from the syllabus and/or textbook.”
While Norasteh disagreed with the e-mail (he says he never stopped using the textbook, and only added material), he backed down and returned to the unadulterated textbook. He even has e-mail from one of the students remarking on his return to the textbook only. But it was too late. Shortly after, he was told his contract would not be renewed.
It gets better. Enter the lame PR excuse:
Jeffery Fanter, vice president of communications at Ivy Tech, said he was aware of Prof. Norasteh’s situation but said that college policy prevented him from commenting on it directly. But he defended the idea that the college might tell an instructor not to deviate in any way from a syllabus. “I can tell you that there are expectations that certain aspects of a courses syllabus be followed and taught consistent with the elements that were approved by the faculty in a specific department,” he said via e-mail. “The syllabus and curriculum is developed by our faculty. As a transfer institution consistency in our academic delivery is an important part of our mission.”
The lame “privacy” excuse is just that. It is the abused who are blowing the whistle and want the details publicized. So pretending that they are acting in the best interests and privacy concerns of the people they had abused is a lie that insults the intelligence of anyone with even average critical thinking skills. The truth is that many administrations who abuse students and carry out their duties as if the university exists to provide them with a six figure income always claim ‘privacy’ when they don’t want to be held accountable to the public and to the media. These are tax payer funded institutions and many of those who run them like to think that they are unaccountable.
IUSB has seen this behavior first hand. When IUSB student Robert Francis asked former SGA Chief Justice Chuck Norton (the author of this article) to represent him when he was being unfairly railroaded by the administration in his famed case, the administration delayed Francis’ side of the investigation by claiming ‘privacy’ concerns. The administration asked that it be presented written permission from Francis to see the case materials and see the communications involved. The administration received all of the documents they asked for and continued to deny Norton inclusion in communications and refused to answer many of Norton’s emails.
For more details on this and other recent Indiana University cases: http://www.thefire.org/index.php/article/9186.html and http://www.thefire.org/index.php/torch/#9550
Fanter’s ‘transfer of credits’ claim is almost as laughable as the bogus ‘privacy’ claim. To claim that some supplemental materials to help students understand important concepts, on top of the course text, in any way endanger accreditation doesn’t pass the snicker test. PR professional or not, the taxpayers should not tolerate state employees who are dishonest.
Adding supplemental material at the professors own dime is the act of a true educator; especially considering that he can prove that he was acting at the behest of struggling students. It is not that the Ivy Tech has no clue about genuine education; it is just that genuine education is not at the top of their priority list.
This brings us to the next unethical act of abuse by the Ivy Tech administration:
Becky Lee Meadows was responsible last semester for supervising the work of 16 adjunct instructors at Ivy Tech Community College’s campus in Madison, Ind. When two of them – working without any health insurance from the college – had health emergencies, Meadows got to thinking about what could be done to help out.
Prof. Becky Meadows courtesy Lacarlotta Magazine
She came up with the idea of raising money to create a fund, to be turned over to the college, that would be used to help adjuncts facing unexpected health costs. A country music singer when she’s not an academic, Meadows thought she would get things started by holding a benefit concert. (She records under the name FOXX.)
Not only has the college not created the fund and pressured her to call off the concert, but Meadows is now out of a job, and she believes it is because of anger over her efforts on behalf of adjuncts. A committee of the American Philosophical Association and the Indiana conference of the American Association of University Professors, having reviewed documents in the case, agree – and are saying that the Meadows case raises troubling questions about academic freedom and shows the vulnerability of those without tenure.
A college spokesman said that he didn’t know that Meadows was no longer working at the college, and didn’t have any information he could discuss.
Meadows had worked as an assistant professor and chair of liberal arts at Ivy Tech since 2005. She was full time, receiving health benefits, but as is the norm at the campus, she worked on annual contracts, not on a tenure track. Meadows taught philosophy, English and general humanities classes while getting involved in the Faculty Senate, serving on a curriculum committee, and helping to organize a conference on the humanities.
When she came up with the idea of holding the concert, she told Ivy Tech officials about it because she wanted to be sure they would take the money raised and hold on to it for adjuncts. Meadows said she was eventually told that the college didn’t object to the concert idea, provided that the college was in no way linked to the effort. That was fine with Meadows, who planned to have the company that manages her concerts make the arrangements and to hold the event off campus.
A date was set and tickets were printed. Then Meadows received e-mail messages from college administrators complaining about the tickets, which identified the name “College Relief Fund.” Ivy Tech officials complained that the word “college” violated the pledge by Meadows not to link Ivy Tech to the concert – so she blacked out the word “college,” leaving the tickets labeled only as “Relief Fund.” But more e-mail messages arrived, including one telling her to “cease and desist” and in a meeting with administrators, Meadows said that the she was told by administrators that the concert had become “a PR nightmare” by implying that Ivy Tech doesn’t treat its adjuncts well.
To make a long story short – they canned her. I am not a big fan of teacher unions and sometimes groups such as the AAUP are a part of the problems seen in higher education. If such behavior at IVY Tech continues I would support the faculty of Ivy Tech voting to create a union. Let us see how a few union walk outs help the PR for Ivy Tech’s administration.
Martin Benjamin, professor emeritus of philosophy at Michigan State University and chair of the American Philosophical Association’s Committee for the Defense of the Professional Rights of Philosophers, said he was intrigued by the case as soon as Meadows told him about it. So he requested copies of all the documents and e-mail exchanges. After reviewing them, he wrote to the Ivy Tech chancellor this week to ask for reasons why Meadows is no longer employed.
“It’s a prima facie case that her rights may have been violated,” Benjamin said. He said he was waiting for the Ivy Tech response, and that he couldn’t prove a link between the concert and the non-renewal, but that the timing raised questions. “It looked like she’d been doing an excellent job, had the esteem of her colleagues, good teaching evaluations, and it was very surprising that she would not be given a contract,” he said. “It seems like everything they asked her to do, she did.”
Richard Schneirov, a professor of history at Indiana State University and president of the Indiana AAUP, has also been looking into the case and talking to faculty members who, because of what happened to Meadows, do not want to speak out. Based on the interviews he had conducted and the documents he reviewed, “there is no doubt” that Meadows lost her position because she tried to raise money to help adjuncts, he said.
Prof. Norasteh and Prof. Meadows were doing the right thing and were made to suffer for it by the Ivy Tech administration in a most callous and vicious way. These kinds of abuse are becoming epidemic on campus from coast to coast. The State of California has taken the lead on this issue by passing due process laws and anti-retaliation laws in an effort to get out of control administrations back in line with the public trust. Such measures and a strict set of ethics laws, aimed precisely against such abuses, are needed in every state in the union. Our students, fair minded educators, and tax payers deserve no less.