Arbitrator: KSU violates bargaining agreement

Maria Nann

Brief states Lefton’s rejection of tenure was inappropriate

READ a PDF of the letter.

Kent State violated terms of the collective bargaining agreement, an independent arbitrator decided in November.

President Lester Lefton misinterpreted and misapplied the contract in letters of rejection regarding tenure requests to two faculty members last fall, according to arbitrator Richard Sambuco’s brief.

Mary LaVine and Daniel Dahlgren both applied for tenure in Fall 2006. They received positive recommendations at the departmental level but received negative recommendations by then Provost Paul Gaston. Both LaVine and Dahlgren appealed their cases to the Joint Appeals Board, which returned a positive recommendation to Lefton.

In letters to the two faculty members, Lefton upheld the provost’s negative recommendation. These letters were in violation of the university’s collective bargaining agreement with American Association of University Professors, Sambuco determined.

In normal circumstances, the president should accept recommendations by the JAB, said AAUP chapter coordinator Coleen Casey. In cases where this doesn’t happen, the president must provide compelling reasons as to why the JAB’s recommendations are not in the best interests of the university, which the arbitrator said Lefton did not do.

Casey said the president stated in the letters that he found no compelling evidence to overturn the provost’s decision.

Sambuco, who is from the American Arbitrators Organization, said in his brief, “If the language of the CBA provided for the president to simply reiterate the rationale of the provost, then the importance of the JAB panel takes on a rather specious role … (and) renders an appeal to the JAB somewhat meaningless.”

Lefton couldn’t be reached for comment by press time.

If the violation hadn’t occurred, LaVine and Dalgren would have been employed by Kent State for another year, Casey said.

“Because they did not get tenure,” she said, “they were essentially terminated.”

The arbitrator directed the university to compensate both faculty members for no greater an amount than they would have earned had there been no violation. The university also is to re-evaluate the judgment the president made on both LaVine and Dahlgren.

Tom Neumann, interim vice president for university communications and marketing, spoke on behalf of the university.

“We’re reviewing our legal options,” he said, “and we’ll pursue the appropriate actions.”

Casey said AAUP and the university now have to work to come to some kind of consensus as to what the remedy should be.

“I don’t really know where we go from here,” she said. “We have to talk to the university and find out what they think it means and what we think it means.”

Contact academics reporter Maria Nann at [email protected]