Dispute over contract a factor in vote against dean
A dispute over a former nursing faculty member’s contract was a factor in the vote of “no confidence” against Nursing School Dean Phyllis Hansell, according to several nursing faculty.
The faculty member, Ann Marie Mauro, said she resigned in December 2009 after being denied renewal of her probationary faculty contract, which effectively removed her from the tenure track.
“I was scheduled to go up for tenure this past fall, and six days before the semester started, (the dean) did not renew my probationary contract,” Mauro said. “She offered me a term contract, which meant I was not allowed to go up for tenure.”
Hansell said she was not able to comment, “as this is a confidential personnel matter.”
Mauro said she has a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Seton Hall and had been teaching at the university for nearly six years on the tenure track when she learned her probationary contract would not be renewed. She said she refused to sign the one-year term contract and continued to work without a contract for fall semester 2009.
Mauro also filed a grievance with the Faculty Senate Grievance Committee because she felt the action by the dean was a violation of the Faculty Guide. Her grievance was supported by the Grievance Committee but denied by the provost.
In her complaint, Mauro cited the section of the Faculty Guide regarding probationary faculty that states: “Regardless of the stated term or other provisions of any appointments, written notice that a probationary appointment is not to be renewed shall be given to the faculty member in advance of the expiration of his/her appointment.”
The Faculty Senate’s interpretation of the language of the Faculty Guide regarding probationary contracts was adopted as a unanimous consent resolution at its Oct. 9, 2009, meeting.
That interpretation is as follows: “It is the position of the Senate that the substitution of a term contract for a probationary contract is a non-renewal of a probationary contract and must be given to the faculty member in advance of the expiration of his or her appointment according to article 3.2d.”
That resolution was later unanimously supported by the College of Nursing faculty.
A memorandum to the Faculty Senate, signed by Vice Provost Larry A. Robinson and dated Nov. 11, 2009, explained the denial of Mauro’s grievance. It stated, “It would not be in the best interest of the University for the Office of the Provost to conclude that the language of the Faculty Guide is not the guiding language.”
However, the memorandum acknowledged that there seemed to be “confusion” on the issue and “it is suggested that we take this opportunity to clarify the language of the Faculty Guide.”
The Provost’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.
At its Dec. 4, 2009, meeting, the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate reported it would pursue the matter “so that our colleagues coming to tenure decision in the future will have clear and unambiguous instruction related to changing the terms of an appointment.”
When Mauro left the university, the Faculty Senate offered her a tribute in a Dec. 4, 2009 meeting in the form of a unanimous resolution commending her service to the university, her dedication and her “kindness, dignity and friendship.”
The nursing faculty voted “no confidence” in Hansell at its Feb. 4 meeting, when 20 faculty members out of the 41 eligible to vote supported the no-confidence resolution.
Nursing professor Judith Lothian said there are more faculty members who support the vote but she said she feels that untenured faculty members feared to come forward to speak against the dean.
Mauro said, “I hope the Provost Office does not ignore this important action by the College of Nursing faculty and that they hear their call for help and new leadership.”
Carolyn Maso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.