Though the final investigative report of the Professional Conduct Review Committee (PCRC) recommends that the charges placed before it be forwarded to the hearing panel of the PCRC, the hearing process has yet to begin.
This, and the failure of Professor of Biology Richard Levin's complaint of misconduct to be investigated by the PCRC, have lead Assistant Professor of Neuroscience David Holtzman and Levin to say that there is no way for faculty members to address allegations of misconduct against administrators.
The hearing panel of the Professional Conduct Review Committee (PCRC) has not begun its formal hearing process in Assistant Professor of Neuroscience David Holtzman's charges against Neuroscience Program Director Catherine McCormick, former acting dean of the college of Arts and Sciences James Helm and dean of the college Clayton Koppes, nor has it begun its formal hearing process in Koppes' charges against Holtzman. The final report of the investigative panel of the PCRC is dated Nov. 27.
"It should have [started]," Holtzman said, of the hearing process. "It's on hold. The faculty guide includes a very strict timetable for professional conduct review."
Secretary of the College Robert Haslun said the policy does not state a specific number of days after which the investigative panel concludes its work that the hearing process must begin. The only time constraint, Haslun said, is that he must convene the PCRC within four days after a complaint is filed.
Professor of History Marcia Colish, chair of the investigative panel, and Professor of Music Theory Gil Miranda, chair of the hearing panel, would not comment on why the hearing panel has not met, citing the confidentiality of PCRC processes.
Haslun said that this is the first time since the PCRC was established in 1986 that complaints against both parties by both parties have been filed. Because the charges revolved around the same issue, Haslun decided to have one panel investigate all of the charges rather than have four panels meet seperately.
Four members of the nine member PCRC constitute the investigative panel, while the other five members constitute the hearing panel. The investigative panel determines whether the issue under investigation is serious enough to warrant the attention of the hearing panel, which will decide the seriousness of the offense.
Professor of Biology Richard Levin, Holtzman's adviser, filed a complaint against Koppes with the PCRC. Levin filed the complaint after a letter was placed in his personnel file stating that he had participated in a disruptive process in a class. Levin testified on Dec. 13 that he protested the letter, did not receive a response from Koppes, met with Koppes and, when Koppes refused to remove the letter, filed a professional misconduct charge.
The investigative panel for Levin's complaint is the hearing panel for the Holtzman/Koppes complaints, while the investigative panel for the Holtzman/Koppes complaint is the hearing panel for the Levin complaint. The investigative panel for Levin's complaint ruled that it could not investigative misconduct charges against administrators, and that Koppes was acting in his capacity as an administrator. Levin said that because the panel that ruled it could not investigate his charges is Holtzman's hearing panel, the process is now stalled because the hearing panel will not hear Holtzman's charges. "Faculty members at Oberlin College," Levin said, "have no internal recourse [when they have a problem with an administrator]."
The GFC, Dye said, is the appropriate body for receiving formal grievances against the dean. "It's a procedural glitch," Dye said. "It doesn't mean you shouldn't be able to make a formal complaint."
The letter in Levin's personnel folder was removed last week, though the letter in Holtzman's file remains. When asked whether he felt the letter should have been removed from his folder as well, Holtzman said, "Absolutely."
Levin agreed. "I wish I knew [why the letter was not removed from Holtzman's file]. It makes no sense at all. Both of us were charged with the same [thing]."
Koppes said, "I thought it was important to write the letter and let [Levin] know my views about the disruption of class Sept. 5. Since the letter did not constitute an institutional sanction or reprimand I did not feel it was necessary for it to remain in his file."
When asked why the letter was not removed from Holtzman's file, Koppes said, "I removed the letter from Mr. Levin's file because I wanted to be sure there was no possible interpretation that retaliation would occur against a faculty member advising someone in a professional conduct case."
The letter from Dye to Holtzman informing him his teaching was cancelled was dated Sept. 5. The PCRC investigative panel concluded, "By that time, classes had begun. In the absence of formal notice to the contrary, it was not unreasonable for Holtzman to attempt to teach his classes. The allegation of Acting Dean Koppes that Holtzman was adding to his list of delicts by disrupting classes in Neuroscience sounds disingenuous. For it would have been unprofessional conduct for a faculty member not informed otherwise to have failed to meet his classes."
Koppes said in September that Holtzman was notified, during the informal discussions between the College and Holtzman persued in an effort to resolve the situation. However, the PCRC investigative panel concluded, "Prof. Holtzman was not officially notified of this fact in writing before the beginning of the fall term. There was an exchange of letters between Acting Dean Koppes and Prof. Holtzman during the last week of August in which the issue of his not teaching was raised. But it was raised in the context of the range of exploration of a wide range of ways in which Prof. Holtzman might be detached from the College and it was not agreed to by him."
The PCRC investigative panel recommends that the hearing panel receive the charges and also recommends that the allegations of sexual misconduct be sent to Camille Mitchell, administrator of the College's sexual offense policy.
Levin was a member of the GFC until the body began reviewing Holtzman's case last summer. Levin testified on Dec. 13 that he was at the GFC meeting where the allegations against Holtzman were read, whereupon he raised his hand and asked to discuss. After this, he said that "there was some discussion about the appropriate nature of my being in the room. Some people felt that it would be appropriate if I left the room. I declined to leave the room voluntarily because I was neither a spouse nore a member of the same department as David Holtzman, and I was not at that point even his adviser. He had talked to me about the situation because I happened to be the first person he ran into in the gym after he was notified that he was being asked to resign, but I had not assumed a formal role at that point. But I said that I would leave the meeting if the GFC took a vote and voted me out of the room. They did just that, and I did just that."
Of the decision to vote him off GFC, Levin said, "I think they made a terrible mistake. At that time we had no official assocation … Had the GFC allowed me in the room I might have offered a perspective that would have been valuable."
Levin said he feels that because of his position as Holtzman's adviser the College has retaliated against him, citing the placement of the letter in his personnel file.
Holtzman said that he has not done the things he has been accused of, and said that the situation has been "devastating. My career has already been affected. I don't know how to describe the pain that's evolved for me and my family."
Holtzman said the internal processes for resolving conflicts of this nature "are good. I think the problem is not using them appropriately. [The Sexual Offense Review Committee has never seen this. On paper, the CF has come up with a very good procedure for doing this ... when that's not followed there's a problem. That's where we're at."
Professor of Politics Ben Schiff agreed. "I think the Holtzman case and the way it's been handled demonstrate a serious shortcoming in implementing existing procedures as I understand them. Faculty should be concerned that these processes be upheld because it is within these processes that faculty governance itself is maintained."
Koppes said, "Mr. Holtzman had every garuntee of due process, and moreover the American Association of University Professors did not raise questions about the process leading to suspension. The fact is, he is on leave."
Copyright © 1997, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 125, Number 14; February 14, 1997
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