This is a grievance of:
Robert Hubert Williams, Plaintiff
Clinton Community College, Defendant
Dr. Carol Eaton, President, Defendant
Dr. James Brazil, Academic Dean, Defendant
Holly Sims, Business Division Coordinator, Defendant
Dr. Agnes Pearle, Defendant
This grievance is for the firing of me on March 7, 2001 in direct violation of the contract between the Faculty Association and Clinton Community College. Wording is consistent with legal language in use for compensation in settling disputes. I am currently asking that my job and the regular courses I teach be reinstated and that I be compensated for any lost work due to this illegal firing. I had normally taught 9 credits in each of the regular academic semesters, 6 credits during the summer sessions, and 3 credits during the winter sessions.
The Plaintiff had been hired by the Defendant in 1993 through the Continuing Education Department to teach ACCREDITED classes. His evaluations and work history reflect this fact. His evaluations as a teacher have an astounding record of student evaluations which more than 95% state he is above ‘satisfactory’ performance, i.e. ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ and less than 3% rated him as ‘fair’ or ‘poor’ in the performance of his duties. On Wednesday, March 7, 2001 Plaintiff was informed by the Defendant Holly Sims that his services for teaching were no longer required for teaching his usual assigned accredited classes for the Summer and Autumn 2001 sessions, no reason was given. The Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants ‘fired’ him because of his exercise of his Free Speech and Labor rights Plaintiff has under various United States Statutes and Codes, his academic freedom guaranteed under his collective bargaining agreement, his right to research and publish that research also granted under the collective bargaining agreement, and his exercise of his rights under the Defendants’ own rules and regulations.
On November 7, 2000 the Plaintiff was called into the office of Defendant Dr. James Brazil and was told to remove any and all material dealing with Mars, NASA and personal opinions related to Flying Saucers, Extraterrestrial Intelligence whether sponsored by NASA, or not, and all other ‘personal’ items from his campus website; and to also cease and desist in using ANY such material as examples within the classroom. Plaintiff asked about which specific pages there was a problem with since there was a very large volume of data on the website, including PUBLICATION of Plaintiff’s own FOIA request that had been granted the ‘auspices of the College through the Continuing Education Department’ signed by President Carol Eaton, Defendant. Defendant Dr. James Brazil told the Plaintiff that he “didn’t know anything about that.” The Plaintiff then explained that the Mars pages were for showing not only the scientific relevance of Mars but also the artistic aspect of the Martian Topography by displaying selected portions of the Mars MGS data as examples within the classroom for using the Microcomputer for not only scientific, but to artistically empower the student to use the tool for fun and appreciation of the world around us. Plaintiff also expressed that some of the Mars stuff was also related to his participation in the campus-wide college sponsored ‘Diversity Celebration’ and had been part of his over-booked presentation. Plaintiff explained that one of the Mars pages was when he had the honor, privilege and good fortune to speak with First Lady Hillary Clinton to help with the public release of Mars images when she visited the campus the previous semester. And that on that page was his thanks to her for her actually doing something to promote the release of those images within 36 hours of meeting with her and asking for her help. The Defendant Dr. James Brazil said he “didn’t know anything about that.” Plaintiff explained that the Flying Saucer pages were mainly coverage of the collaborative effort the Plaintiff undertook with the Clinton Community College Student Senate, the Plattsburgh State Student Association, and local community employer Bombardier Corp. in bringing former NASA Nuclear Physicist Stanton Friedman to the Plattsburgh area for two lectures and the press coverage given the event by the COMMUNITY newspaper Plattsburgh Press Republican. The Defendant Dr. James Brazil said he “didn’t know anything about that.” The Plaintiff explained that the website was a result of six years of previous work which was the ONLY ‘Internet’ classroom experience the campus had for 4 semesters BEFORE the campus actually even HAD Internet access. The Defendant Dr. James Brazil said he “didn’t know anything about that.” The Plaintiff asked if using names like Neil Armstrong and John Glenn as examples in problems rather than Jane or John Doe weren’t an academic freedom issue that it was Plaintiff’s right to determine. The Plaintiff then asked Defendant Dr. James Brazil to provide him with a list of specific pages that the administration, or any committee that Plaintiff could address, had a problem with since many of the things being asked to be removed were LEGITIMATE historical campus activities sanctioned by the college that the Plaintiff had participated in as an employee teaching accredited classes, or organized for the benefit of the students and the community as per the college’s charter and mission goals. Defendant Dr. James Brazil then told Plaintiff “I’m serious about this and not fooling around. I want the website material removed and for you to cease using ANY Mars, NASA, or ET examples within the classroom.”
At this point that November 7, 2000 meeting broke up and the Plaintiff left the Vice President for Academic Affairs office confused and thinking that Defendant Dr. James Brazil had not even bothered to look at the site in question BEFORE calling him into the office because the FOIA page was a prominent link, the First Lady’s Visit was a prominent link, as was the Mars Topographical Art Gallery and the Stanton Friedman visit collaborative effort with the college’s own Student Senate, the Plattsburgh State Student Association and Bombardier Corp. All these were LEGITIMATE college sponsored and approved events that the Plaintiff had either participated in or organized as part of the normal employee actions of a teacher of accredited classes at the college.
The Plaintiff went down the hall hauling his rolling-valise down to the elevator thinking that he had a copy of the FOIA to NASA in there that he could at least give Defendant Dr. James Brazil so that he would at least be aware, since he had indicated he wasn’t aware of it, that Defendant President Carol Eaton had signed a statement agreeing that Plaintiff had the right to file this FOIA with NASA through the college. As the Plaintiff walked back into the outer office of the Defendant Dr. James Brazil he spotted him talking to Defendant Dr. Agnes Pearle and was saying “ …and he wanted a list of which pages you wanted removed from the website.” Defendant Dr. James Brazil’s was facing south behind the already open door and Defendant Dr. Agnes Pearle was facing north also standing behind the door as the Plaintiff handed Defendant Dr. James Brazil a copy of the FOIA with Defendant President Carol Eaton’s signature and stated “Here’s a copy of that FOIA you said you didn’t know anything about.” The Plaintiff then turned and exited immediately returning to his shared office on the 5th floor.
At no time has the Plaintiff had any further face to face discussions over this issue with Defendant Dr. James Brazil or Defendant Dr. Agnes Pearle. Plaintiff did personally see and say hello to Defendant Dr. James Brazil on two occasions about a week apart in the 1st floor hallway and 3rd floor stairwell saying “hello” each time AFTER a January 15, 2001 deadline, which was later agreed to following correspondence which is outlined next, and BEFORE the February 5, 2001 date when Defendant Dr. James Brazil ordered Andrew Hersh-Tutor, Associate Dean for LRC/NIS that the new and revised website, that Plaintiff had undertaken to change to comply with the part of the request made by Defendant Dr. James Brazil to remove all “personal material”, be removed completely after receiving one email the college received from Mr. Al Staley of Belle Vernon, PA.
Plaintiff had originally been given only six days to re-do a website that had taken 6 years to put together but was given an extension to January 15, 2001 to remove ‘personal material’. At no time has Plaintiff been allowed to address any ‘committee’ which might oversee these issues despite asking to in that November meeting. Nor has Plaintiff been given a copy of the policy that the site may be in violation of since there is no set policy on this matter. Plaintiff’s research into the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft is an in-class example of using microcomputers for self-expression, scientific investigation, virtual reality modeling, internet research, artistic expression and appreciation, historical appreciation of our Nation’s history in space exploration and as an exercise in critical thinking skills. The computer class Plaintiff teaches is a ‘general education’ computer class that is the ONLY computer class many students at CCC will receive in their degree programs for those students in programs such as Criminal Justice, Humanities, and Social Sciences. It is therefore vitally important, in Plaintiff’s exercise of academic freedom, that students be exposed to using the microcomputer for a very wide variety of tasks and usage with a wide variety of issues. This is a COMMUNITY college and as stated in the CCC’s Mission: “The College is also committed to provide a wide range of courses, workshops, and seminars appropriate for job skills development, leisure time activities, and healthful living, as well as opportunities for community enrichment.”
The FOIA to NASA also has the signatory endorsement of a PSUC Board of Director member and Chairperson of the Community/ Government Relations Committee Donald Garrant; another native born community member who has been a leader in this community for much of his career as a local political figure. PSUC alumni member N.Y. Congressman Weiner also endorsed the FOIA and has already taken action by calling NASA and supporting the FOIA initiative. Plaintiff also has a $55,000 grant application currently pending with NASA co-sponsored by the Geography Chairperson of PSUC, Dr. John Moravick, to investigate a Martian Cydonia feature that Plaintiff found, and may receive international credit in finding first, which very well may prove that Mars is currently highly geologically active now on, and under, its surface. All of this is used as an example using the microcomputer for the scientific investigation by data acquisition, data transformation, interpretation, and Internet presentation; and in the requesting for more accurate and complete data before any final results can be said to be conclusive by applying the critical thinking skills Plaintiff strives to teach within his class. To NOT be allowed to display this history, community activity and involvement on his faculty web page is a direct violation of Article VI of the contract and the College’s mission for community enrichment.
The lack of the ability to publish his results via his faculty web page has hurt Plaintiff’s ability to research, investigate, and to disseminate the scientific data and to corroborate and coordinate research on this issue in direct violation of Article VI and may very well cause NASA to not fund the $55,000 grant requested from NASA to study this feature, thus hurting the Plaintiff financially, personally and professionally.
In reviewing the concerns Defendant Dr. James Brazil expressed to Plaintiff, whether they were Defendant Dr. James Brazil’s original idea or not, Plaintiff decided to meet the requirements well more than half-way by removing ALL personal items and ‘controversial’ editorial comment that had been posted on the website before the January 15, 2001 deadline. Plaintiff redesigned the site removing all his ‘personal’ poetry, original music compositions, his original photographs and computer art; despite that same material being used in the CCC sponsored Talent Show and the CCC Diversity Celebration. To NOT be allowed to include such material as part of the CCC’s official faculty website indicates, in the Plaintiff’s opinion, to the local Plattsburgh and Clinton County Community that CCC is NOT proud and supportive of the Talent Show, nor of the Diversity Celebration, nor of bringing experts in their fields to the campus and community to speak and enrich the lives of our community. That is a clear violation of CCC’s mission as outlined above and also a clear violation of Article VI section 4 of the collective bargaining agreement.
After changing the website to be more clearly educationally focused and less ‘editorialized’, Plaintiff saw Defendant Dr. James Brazil twice, in two different weeks, and both times Plaintiff was cordial and said hello, and was responded with the same. At NO TIME in the 3 weeks from January 15, 2001 until the site was removed on Monday February 5, 2001 after CCC received ONE email from a disgruntled Bulletin Board Service (BBS) poster who does NOT live within the community, did Defendant Dr. James Brazil indicate to Plaintiff that the redesigned website did not meet Defendant’s requirements, or that Defendant was unhappy with the modifications Plaintiff had made. Plaintiff presumed Defendant was competent enough in his job (for the amount of money he receives in yearly salary) that if he gave a deadline for a project to be done, he would have checked on the progress of that project, at least within a day or two of the deadline, to make sure the project, or order, had been complied with. Plaintiff also believed this especially after seeing Defendant Dr. James Brazil in the hallways. Removing a faculty member’s website completely is NOT a trivial thing; especially since Plaintiff had all these other official research things going on with it and using it for various in-class examples.
Plaintiff also alleges that in the winter session of 2001 his 3 credit class was only given ~2/3 of the required number of minutes a 3 credit class is required by law to have by the Defendant. This shortening of time for 3 credit classes is a direct, clear, and severe violation of NYS Education Law and inhibited and put severe stress on the Plaintiff, and the students, in conducting the class to cover all the required material in the shortened time allotted, in addition to the stress caused by the website issue. This added stress was unneeded, unwarranted and also in direct conflict with Plaintiff’s medical condition which was known to the Defendant CCC at the time of hiring in 1993, and was in his personnel file; which has resulted in a negative effect on Plaintiff’s health with weight loss, loss of appetite and loss of restful sleep, and extreme emotional distress.
The Defendant’s decision to not allow the Plaintiff to teach any more of his normal accredited classes, despite having more seniority than any other current qualified adjunct employee in the division ( 8 years ), has put a severe financial hardship on his household and his personal and professional life and also has added more stress into a life where the Plaintiff is supposed to avoid such stress. The Plaintiff had been teaching at the college for 8 years without such stress in the past. The Defendant had not supplied a specific reason, and from this whole episode with the website issue, the Plaintiff feels that the paper trail of memos, the timing of events, and the manner in which these events have unfolded; that the real reason the Plaintiff is being fired from teaching accredited classes is because of the website and any other ‘excuse’ the Defendant may put forward as a response to this suit is as much a ‘smoke screen’ as the vapor coming from the Martian Cydonia landform feature the Plaintiff is investigating and researching as an example of using the microcomputer in scientific appreciation, artistic appreciation, historical appreciation and other applications for class examples in exercising his rights for academic freedom, as a research subject allowed by the collective bargaining agreement, and as a subject to fulfill the Defendants’ own Missions and Goals using the Plaintiff’s right to Free Speech. For the Defendants’ to say that the Plaintiff has to use names like John and Jane Doe instead of historically significant names like Neil Armstrong and John Glenn is simply ludicrous and intentionally vicious persecution that is unwarranted; especially since the Defendant had promised the Plaintiff the ‘kindly protection’ of the college with respect to this issue and through their actions the Defendants have made a mockery of their own Mission Statement and Goals along with their own General Education Policy Statements.
The Plaintiff asks that you find in his favor and direct Defendants be held accountable for their actions and be compelled to compensate the Plaintiff by reinstating his position and classes and to allow the Plaintiff the full backing of the college in pursuit of the investigations begun and ongoing.
Robert H. Williams, Plaintiff
5243 Route 11 Main St., Mooers, N.Y. 12958 518-236-6733
March 26, 2001