A former Cal Poly professor brought charges of corruption and illegal conduct in the local California Faculty Association (CFA) chapter to the state level last Tuesday, but union leaders said each of the accusations are baseless.
Gail Wilson, a former chemistry professor and current volunteer member on the local union’s election committee, said Cal Poly CFA President Glen Thorncroft is committing fraud by allowing a retired business administration lecturer to run for the lecturer representative position at Cal Poly’s CFA chapter. The issue, Wilson said, is that Cal Poly has not formally employed Jere Ramsey since 2010, though she does still substitute to teach some courses.
In an email to statewide union president Lillian Taiz last Tuesday, Wilson called on Taiz to intervene in the local vote, which is scheduled to end May 24.
“(Thorncroft) does whatever Jere Ramsey and the CFA tell him to do,” Wilson said. “He doesn’t think if it’s right or wrong, he just does it.”
But Thorncroft said his actions were entirely proper, and he had approval from statewide CFA headquarters before he moved forward to allow Ramsey to run. Multiple emails sent to Thorncroft by CFA officials specifically state that Ramsey is eligible to run as a lecturer candidate. Wilson, however, said she takes issue with the criteria that makes an individual eligible for the lecturer representative position.
Under statewide CFA rules, Ramsey is allowed to run because she is “grieving nonappointment,” or appealing Cal Poly’s decision to terminate her teaching contract with the university. Cal Poly’s CFA bylaws, however, state that an individual must have “status as a lecturer” to run for the position.
What the two do agree on is that the issue rises from unclear wording in union bylaws.
“The previous bylaws were so boring and complicated, I actually didn’t finish reading them,” Ramsey said.
Wilson said the “status of a lecturer” requirement makes Ramsey ineligible, though Cal Poly union leaders unanimously voted that her grievance with the university demonstrates her status, Thorncroft said. He said he had never spent more time looking over four words than he did while debating the meaning of “status as a lecturer.”
“I feel very confident that a democratic process took place at the executive board,” Thorncroft said. “I refuse to accept we did things improperly.”
The email to Taiz calling on her to reign in Cal Poly’s CFA chapter is the latest in months of conflict between Wilson and chapter leadership.
Another instance came early during winter quarter when Wilson served on a committee with Thorncroft, Ramsey and others aimed to rewrite some of the vague chapter bylaws. According to Ramsey, Wilson asked for only a few changes and was upset when Ramsey suggested a more “substantial” revision of the rules.
“It was really obvious that was very upsetting to her,” Ramsey said.
Wilson, however, said Ramsey tried to take complete control of the bylaws and manipulate Thorncroft to make improper changes. Ramsey and others in the local CFA chapter said the allegations are simply not true.
“With great respect to Gail, she doesn’t know what the hell she’s talking about on this,” Thorncroft said.
Further tension rose between union leadership and Wilson when she filed a Freedom of Information Act request to view Ramsey’s record of employment at Cal Poly without telling members of the union, Thorncroft said. Ramsey said she would have gladly given Wilson the information had she asked for it and was shocked that Wilson felt the need to file the request.
Thorncroft said this request, combined with a letter to the local executive committee declaring Ramsey ineligible for the position, prompted him to ask her to resign from the election committee. He said she “lied” to the CFA membership by writing that Ramsey was ineligible, despite the fact she had already received an email from union leaders declaring Ramsey as an eligible candidate.
“I felt her actions were dishonest,” Thorncroft said. “I felt her actions were ‘going after’ Jerry for reasons I didn’t understand. That’s why I asked her to resign from the elections committee. I thought she was being at the very worst unethical, at the very least not collegial.”
Statewide CFA spokesperson Alice Sunshine said whenever local bylaws conflict with state ones, the states’ takes precedence over the local chapter’s. Though Wilson argues there is no conflict between the two — just a further regulation added to the local regulations declaring the lecturer representative must have “status as a lecturer” — Sunshine said the union will enforce the states’ rules, which means Ramsey is eligible.
Wilson, however, said she refuses to believe that Ramsey is an eligible candidate and hopes that her letter to the CFA statewide president will convince union headquarters to come down on Cal Poly’s chapter.
“Statewide should do something about it, instead of making excuses for (Ramsey),” Wilson said. “I’m trying to find someone they will listen to, because they’re not listening to me.”
The possibility of a lawsuit, Wilson said, is not an option. Though she previously attempted to sue the San Luis Obispo Democratic Central Committee over similar personnel issues, she said she does not want to bring charges against Cal Poly’s CFA chapter.
“A lawsuit takes a long, long time,” she said. “The last one took four years. I’m not interested in spending that much time.”
But that does not mean Wilson intends to give up any time soon. She said despite her lack of success in finding someone to side with her against Ramsey’s eligibility as a lecturer representative — so far statewide officials and Cal Poly’s CFA executive board have all disagreed with her — she is determined to prove her point.
“I’m not going to just let go,” Wilson said.