On June 27, 110 faculty submitted a letter in support of our students to Patricia Whitely, Vice President of Student Affairs, and William Sandler, Dean of Students, with copies to President Shalala and Provost LeBlanc. This letter was also posted on http://www.picketline.blogspot
To the Editor:
While we respect the views expressed by our faculty, it is unfortunate that these particular faculty members have chosen to publicize private, protected information about University of Miami students.
Because the university's principal concern is the well-being of its students, which includes maintaining confidentiality of disciplinary proceedings, it declines the opportunity to discuss the specifics of this matters.
It is worth noting, however, that the faculty letter contains many factual inaccuracies and mischaracterizations with regard to the events to date and is co-signed by only 110 members of the 2,600 faculty body.
The university's actions in this matter have been supported by a number of broad constituencies, including faculty, students, and alumni. The university continues to strongly believe that the students have been treated fairly, responsibly and in accord with its Student Rights and Responsibilities handbook.
University of Miami
The letter makes a number of false claims which must be addressed.
1. The purported signatory of the letter is "University of Miami." It is odd that anyone in the administration believes that s/he is the "University of Miami." The closing sentence also reveals that the author believes that s/he speaks for the entire university: "The university continues to strongly believe that the students have been treated fairly, responsibly and in accord with its Student Rights and Responsibilities handbook." This is, quite simply, not the case. The university is comprised of its students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni. Minimally, the 110 faculty who signed the letter and scores of students who have been accused or who support the accused do not believe that the students have been treated fairly. Conversations with a large number of staff and some administrators, both vulnerable entities in this context, show that they do not share this view. Nor does any of the alumni we have spoken to. The 110 faculty signatories did not claim to be the University of Miami, and we ask in the future that the administration refrain from such misleading statements.
2. The administration asserts that the release of this letter to the press violates "private, protected information" about the students. This claim is sheer nonsense. Since no student's identity was revealed, no confidentiality was infringed. In addition, the students themselves have spoken directly to the press about the charges and proceedings. They have also authorized some of the signatories to do so, as well as saying that information, including their identities, may be posted on picketline. The administration's claim of a violation of confidentiality by faculty is the height of hypocrisy, given that the administration violated the students' right to privacy (and hence, the Buckley amendment) by delivering summonses to some students in class, in front of their colleagues and faculty.
3. The administration claims that the letter contains "factual inaccuracies and mischaracterizations" but declines to indicate any of these. We stand behind the statements in the letter, which are based on information provided by the accused students and their lawyers (some of whom are UM faculty), our own discussions with UM administrators, and our own eyewitness experience of the events.
4. The administration's declaration that "The university's actions in this matter have been supported by a number of broad constituencies, including faculty, students, and alumni" is bogus. While some from each group *may* have supported the administration's actions during the strike, very few in any of these groups even *know* of the administration's actions with regard to disciplining the students, most especially because these actions are being taken in the summer when faculty and students are largely absent from campus. This, in fact, is a large part of the complaint of the accused students and the faculty signatories: the administration has refused to postpone the proceedings until the fall when the students could have a fair hearing before a panel including students and with student and faculty witnesses and faculty advisors to support their cases.
5. The administration shows no respect for the signatories, who are "only 110 members of the 2,600 faculty body." Only? The fact that as many as 110 faculty signed the letter in the middle of the summer is astonishing. Either the author of the letter wishes to denigrate the 110 signatories or, as an administrator, doesn't realize how astonishing it is that 110 faculty could even be found in the middle of the summer to consider signing a letter. It is also worth noting that, unlike the administration, we have no means to communicate with all faculty across the campuses. We can only communicate to that portion of the faculty (fewer than 600) who are members of this list.
Professor of Spanish