A formal grievance hearing concerning College of Liberal Arts Dean Linda Halisky’s removal of journalism department chair Bill Loving was held on Friday, November 19.
The hearing (which was the first in Cal Poly’s history) was called because Loving said Halisky participated in retaliatory acts by firing him and his rights were violated by Halisky when she fired him. Halisky’s representative, Michael Suess, said no rights were violated by Halisky because the department chair serves “at the pleasure of the dean” and the dean can fire any department chair for any reason that does not pertain to their basic civil rights.
During the six hour hearing, each side was allotted a 15-minute opening statement, two hours to present their case to a judiciary committee (made up of Dan Peterson, John Walker, Marcia Tilley and Clare Battista) and 15 minutes for a closing statement. Loving, who represented himself, had more than 60 e-mails, department reviews and seven witnesses to argue his case. Among the issues of contention were allegations that Loving had acted in a sexist manner toward Teresa Allen (the only female faculty member in the department), that he was a bully, that he had removed Allen from her office without her knowledge and that Halisky had never discussed with other faculty or staff members Loving’s removal.
Allen was not present at the hearing which was open to the public.
When discussing the sexism allegations, Loving asked female staff members whether they had seen him act in a sexist manner toward any female. Administrative support coordinators for the journalism and graphic communication departments, Tess Serna and Korla McFall, as well as College of Liberal Arts adviser to the journalism department Wendy Spradlin all said they had never seen him act in such a manner. Loving’s main point was that Allen had created “a beaten path” to the dean’s office in order to get her way in the department.
Allen’s behavior and attitude toward different faculty members and their fields was brought up many times during the hearing. At one point, a witness said Allen “acts like a 2-year-old” and that she has become a “problem” in the department. Loving expanded on the issue of Allen being a problem by presenting testimony from different faculty and staff members who said Allen had talked poorly about Loving behind his back and who felt personally antagonized by her.
During the administration’s allotted two hours to present its case, Seuss continually argued that the department chair serves at the pleasure of the dean, and Halisky didn’t have to go through the work of contacting Provost Robert Koob for his advice or meet with anyone to discuss her actions. Suess argued that in many instances when Allen had requested a meeting with Halisky or e-mailed Halisky complaining about something in the department, Halisky would refer her back to Loving or not answer her e-mails at all. Suess presented approximately 10 exhibits and at one point had Halisky read a grid which showed when Allen e-mailed her, what it was about and when Halisky had responded.
Koob also testified during the administration’s presentation. In asking Koob to testify, Suess wanted to point out how the journalism department has been an area of contention for a while. Koob said in the past year he has spent an “uncommon amount” of time dealing with journalism issues compared to other College of Liberal Arts departments.
In her personal testimony, Halisky said she removed Loving from his position because she “didn’t think it was going in the right direction” and she felt he often ruled in an “adversarial style” that did not work well in the department.
She especially pointed out a time when Allen was upset about the editors of the Mustang Daily ordering pizza on the advertising account some nights because she argued it blurred the lines between advertising and editorial. Halisky said Loving sided with Mustang Daily General Manager Paul Bittick on the matter instead of hearing both sides.
In closing statements, Loving said in his two years as department chair he worked to bring the faculty’s often contentious personalities together but said he had a hard time when different faculty members would undermine him and get upset.
“If I am to bring them forward kicking and screaming, how am I to do that without them getting upset?” Loving said.
In his closing statement, Suess maintained that Loving’s removal was because he did not demonstrate to the dean that he was able to bring the faculty together. Moreover, Suess said Loving’s arguments that his rights were violated are not legitimate.
“I think it’s important that as you go through this you separate the fact from the fiction,” Suess said.
The judiciary committee has two weeks to make the decision of whether or not to reinstate Loving as the journalism department chair.