Inman case still has unanswered questions

Questions remain surrounding USF’s decision not to renew the contract of English professor James Inman, with documents pertaining to the case showing what Inman says are questionable practices on the university’s part.

Inman was notified of the decision on Dec. 2 last year in a letter from Associate Provost Philip Smith. In the letter, Smith does not provide Inman with a reason for the non-reappointment, saying, “tThis notice of non-reappointment does not constitute a dismissal for cause but rather the exercise of the university’s prerogative to discontinue its employment relationship with you with proper notice as given.”

Inman said he has not been given a reason for the decision other than, in Smith’s letter, “a more suitable faculty member can be employed.”

Inman questioned the process both before and after the decision, saying other faculty members in similar situations received more favorable treatment from the university.

On Jan. 30, Faculty Senate President Liz Bird appointed an ad hoc committee to investigate the non-reappointment of Darlene Bruner and Bobbie Greenlee, a pair of female professors in the department of educational leadership and policy studies at the USF Lakeland campus. In the committee’s report, Bird explains that the committee “is formed only to look at these two cases, and is not necessarily to be regarded as a precedent for all cases of reappointment.”

In its report, the committee decides that a “serious breach of collegial governance” had occurred, citing high praise from the faculty review committee and the lack of input from the department as reasons the decision regarding Bruner and Greenlee should be reconsidered.

In an e-mail on Jan. 19, Provost Renu Khator asked Smith if he wanted Inman’s case to be reviewed before a Faculty Senate committee, to which Smith replied with “a strong no.”

“I think (Bird) has recognized that there is little wisdom in the Senate’s reviewing non-reappointments,” Smith said in the e-mail to Khator, describing the Lakeland faculty members’ cases as anomalies.

However, like the Lakeland professors, Inman received high praise in reviews. In a Feb. 2002 review by then-English department chairman Steve Rubin, Inman is commended for strong teaching, research and scholarly activity that was “nothing short of spectacular” and broad professional activities that contributed to the department’s service mission.

According to Inman, he, also like Bruner and Greenlee, did not have the benefit of departmental consultation before a decision was reached. Inman said his status was never put to a vote in the department, and little to no effort was made to collect feedback from the department.

Khator and Bird did not return repeated phone calls Sunday, and Smith could not be reached.

“By constituting the ad hoc Committee on Faculty Non-Reappointment, Elizabeth Bird established that it’s not so simple. The ad hoc committee was specifically to look into whether faculty had any input in the non-reappointment decisions of the two Lakeland professors. The Faculty Senate’s position, then, is that the university should be about shared governance, where faculty and the administration work together and both have input into key university decisions,” Inman said. “The administration has long endorsed shared governance — it’s just that we’re now in a unique moment in history because there’s not an active contract between adminstrationadministration and United Faculty of Florida, and in such situations, the Faculty Senate resumes the faculty rights advocacy responsibilities UFF would normally have.

“This is a big deal because I have been in the same position — non-reappointed at a time when there is not a contract between UFF and administration — but was not given the same consideration as the other two faculty members. Yet I deserve to be treated the same — to have the same faculty rights. So the question becomes, why did I not receive the same treatment? What is the difference between the two faculty members whose cases were considered and me? I see gender as an immediate difference between the two faculty members and me, and that makes me think discrimination. And when I look at the conversation between Khator and Smith, I see them specifically deciding not to treat me fairly because they’re worried about establishing precedent cases, and that’s a rationale that should make everyone who works at USF quite upset.”

Inman, who has been at USF since fall 2001, had applied in 2003 to be considered for early tenure. Normally, professors must be with the university for six years before becoming eligible for tenure. Inman was denied, though, with the reason given in a July 14, 2003 e-mail from former English department chairman Phillip Sipiora to College of Arts and Sciences Dean Kathleen Heide being the lack of a mid-tenure review for Inman. Inman, however, says the rule does not really exist and that he had never heard of it being a requirement previously.

Heide also could not be reached Sunday.