The University at Buffalo's Faculty Senate Tuesday rejected a censure motion against one of the university's most prominent officials, Architecture and Planning Dean Robert Shibley.
It is a very strange case because not much is known about the facts. The university process in all of these cases is very confidential.
A contract teacher in the School of Architecture and Planning was denied a contract renewal in her position and she eventually lost her health benefits. The unidentified woman was said to be in Canada, being treated for a serious illness.
The reasons why she was forced out have not been made public - even to the Faculty Senate, apparently, as many speakers said they could not censure the dean when they do not know the facts.
Urban and Regional Planning Professor Samina Raja pointed to that in opposing the censure.
"We're all scholars and researchers here, but we're making decisions based on limited or no editing," Taja said. "So I'm addressing my colleagues of the Faculty Senate to ask yourself, 'Do you have full evidence to vote for the censure? Do you have the facts to make a decision?' If you don't, then please vote with your conscience."
The former faculty member was notified June 22 of last year of the decision not to renew her appointment. She then left the university in August and various investigations took until now.
Law Professor Rick Su said the entire hiring and retention process remains opaque.
"I feel like the way that this thing has unraveled and the way we are here now trying to hold a trial with a body of senators in a process in which we cannot hold a trial is because actually no process has since been done that exists, at least in my mind, feels legitimate, neutral, operated by bodies that can actually do a fact-finding and figure out exactly what's going on," Su said.
Shibley said the process is supposed to be confidential and he admitted it is complicated. However, he said it was not just his decision.
"When you say it's a dean's decision, it's not. I make a recommendation. The chairs make a recommendation. We get recommendations from other sources. We get information from other sources," Sibley said. "Those recommendations go to the provost and he recommends to the president the decision. And there's checks and balances in the review process that's in place, as well. So you get a review. The union either does or doesn't have a say in this subject matter."
Even the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate spent a lot of time on the case before letting the censure vote go forward, without knowing much about the facts of the case.
President Satish Tripathi appeared at the meeting to back Shibley and Provost Charles Zukoski in the matter. Tripathi said the case had been handled correctly.