by Jamie Hale
Things have been heated between the Idaho State University Faculty Senate and the university, but today it all boiled over. The Idaho State Faculty Association of the First Amendment (an unincorporated nonprofit group of professors) has filed suit in federal court against the university, alleging violations of their first and fourteenth amendment rights. Yeah, it’s pretty ugly.
The official complaint alleges that the university blocked the Provisional Faculty Senate from sending out faculty-wide emails about anything and everything, all starting with the progress on their constitution and bylaws. Meanwhile, the complaint says, the university used that same listserv system to send out emails with their approved version of the constitution. This could be sour news for ISU.
This whole thing started back in February, when the ISU Faculty Senate issued a vote of no confidence in university President Arthur Vailas. The Idaho State Board of Education disbanded the Senate and the Provisional Faculty Senate was elected. The new provisional Senate got to work on the constitution and bylaws, and by November the acting vice-chair of the Senate, David Delehanty, wrote an email to the faculty with the draft of the constitution the date for the faculty to vote on it. When he went to send that email on Nov. 8, he suddenly found himself without access to the faculty-wide listserv, according to the complaint.
Two days later, it reads, Senate Chair Philip Cole sent Delehanty’s email to as many colleagues as he could, and asked them to forward it along, as the message wasn’t approved by the university. Barbara Adamcik, Vice President for Academic Affairs, responded by sending out an email of her own on the blocked listserv, announcing that the planned constitutional vote was not ISU-approved and should be postponed until December.
Since then Adamcik has allegedly openly denied the Senate from using the listserv, all the while using it herself to send out university-sanctioned drafts of the constitution and other communcations. Other university departments and organizations at ISU were able to use the listserv all they wanted, but the Senate was consistently denied.
ISU is keeping pretty tight-lipped on the whole ordeal. Marketing and Communications Director Mark Levine issued this vague, two-sentence statement: “The university has not been served been with any complaint. We will respond in due course.” Now, obviously the university has probably seen the lawsuit, but they’re not obligated to respond until they are actually served the papers. Phillip Cole refused comment and the lawyer in the case, Ronaldo A. Coulter, wasn’t available this afternoon.
It’s going to be interesting to see where this case goes from here. The complaint alleges that Delehenty didn’t violate any terms of service for the listserv and shouldn’t have been blocked from it. The university’s response will have to be a pretty good one; a simple “it’s our email, we can do what we want” won’t cut it here.
The complaint has been officially filed in the U.S. District Court, but there is no other official news. You can read the entire complaint here. Look for more news as it comes in.
UPDATE: A March court date has been set for a motion hearing between the group of professors and ISU.
Contact Jamie at JHaleTBA@gmail.com