November 9 - November 15, 1995


No Shit, Sherlock

To the Editor,
I read with interest Margaret Regan's recent piece on tenure ("Disposable Professors," Tucson Weekly, October 5), specifically in connection with the New Campus in Pima County.

From the tone of Ms. Regan's article, it was obvious to me she had some personal stake in this matter. When I investigated, I discovered that, indeed, Ms. Regan's spouse, Kevin M. Gosner, is a tenured faculty member in the history department at the University of Arizona.

My point is simply this: it would have been more journalistically honest if this fact had been revealed at the time of the article's publication, either by Ms. Regan herself, or as an editor's note.

If you print this letter, please note my affiliation with the New Campus in Pima County.
--Donna J. Leavell
Administrative Associate
New Campus in Pima County

Margaret Regan replies: I agree with Donna J. Leavell that reporters should disclose their affiliations. That's why when I started covering university politics for the Tucson Weekly, I wrote a column making a full disclosure of my marriage to a University of Arizona history professor. What Leavell supposes to be an embarrassing revelation about me is old news.

But Leavell is wrong--not to mention sexist--in attributing the "personal tone" of my tenure article entirely to loyalty to my husband. I've been a journalist longer than I've been a wife. And as a journalist and an American citizen, I am always outraged when political appointees and publically paid employees--in this case, an unholy alliance of regents and university administrators--make moves to abridge First Amendment rights to free speech. That is exactly what I see going on in the fight to dismantle tenure.

I should be grateful to Leavell, though, because her letter proves the point I made in my article: tenure protects professors from vindictive administrators. It also graphically illustrates why I would never, ever, have been so naive as to write about university politics while my husband's job was still unshielded by tenure.

Here's why: Her title notwithstanding, Leavell is the personal secretary of Dr. Celestino Fernández, provost of the New Campus. Leavell answers Fernández' phone; she sets up his appointments; she types his letters. I have covered New Campus intermittently since March, and as long as my articles were neutral toward Fernández, his staff apparently did not feel the need to look into my marriage. But in the most recent article, I took Fernández to task for opposing tenure at New Campus.

By her own admission, following the publication of the article critical of her boss, Leavell decided to take action: she "investigated" (her word) the personal life and marital status of a UA faculty member.

I'd be curious to know what means Leavell used to conduct her unethical little investigation and to ferret out my husband's name. I called Frank Antinoro, UA associate director of institutional data, who handles public records requests. When I asked him if a UA employee's spouse is ever a matter of public record, he was indignant. "Absolutely not," he said. So what did Leavell do? Take a computer cruise through confidential personnel files? Make a few discreet phone calls? Check out our health benefits? Did she do her little bit of skullduggery on company time, courtesy of the taxpayers? Did her boss know of, approve of or, worse, order her investigation? Clearly, by making my husband's name public, Leavell intended to unnerve him and to silence me. But her not-so-subtle attempt to threaten my family would have been far more significant to us had my husband still been untenured.

It's worth noting that Fernández has refused to release to the press the curriculum vitae of New Campus administrators, citing their rights to privacy. It's too bad his office doesn't abide by the same rules when it comes to the personnel records of a professor who has nothing to do with New Campus.

Fernández draws a fat salary to persuade the public of the need for his new college. He could have taken the opportunity to write a letter to the Tucson Weekly himself, offering a rebuttal of my article and enumerating the reasons he believes the New Campus should be tenure-free. He chose not to. It's a pity that the only response out of his office, from his secretary, no less, was an unwarranted investigation of a professor's personal life and an attempt to discredit a reporter.

This sorry little episode raises serious questions about Fernández' commitment to a climate of open debate, free inquiry and, yes, academic freedom at the college he will run. And it should serve as a grim warning to the future, permanently untenured New Campus professors whose job security will lie in Fernández' hands.

Teacher's Threat

To the Editor,
Margaret Regan was right on in "Disposable Professors" (Tucson Weekly, October 5). The daughters and sons of the taxpaying citizens of the State of Arizona are ill-served by those who sacrifice academic freedom on the altar of "administrative flexibility." I have been close to the issue as a member of the Faculty Curriculum Planning Committee for the New Campus and chair of the UA Faculty Senate Task Force on the New Campus.

Regan correctly criticizes the Faculty Curriculum Planning Committee for not standing strongly for tenure at the New Campus. Our timidity was, however, only part of the context. In the first instance, the issue of tenure was kept off the agenda until very late in our deliberations when the need to complete our report and the end-of-the-semester rush combined to weaken our resolve to press the issue.

As frequently occurs at the university, moreover, the final draft of the report came out at mid-summer when the members of the faculty committee had dispersed hither and yon. I, for example, was in Mexico deeply involved with summer school teaching and research. While it was not impossible to fire a broadside at the report under those circumstances, it was difficult to succeed in revising it in any substantial way.

The campaign for tenure for New Campus professors now evolves from two strategies, one general and one more specific. In the first place, many faculty and administrators at Arizona's state universities continue to advocate the positive contributions of a tenure system before the Board of Regents, the state Legislature, and Arizona's citizenry. As tenure remains viable at Arizona's three universities, it should apply to the conditions of employment at the New Campus.

In a more specific sense, it is the clearly articulated position of the Faculty Senate Task Force on the New Campus that initial faculty and/or administrators with faculty appointments be hired at the New Campus. That is, they have tenure or a tenure track position at the University of Arizona. Furthermore, any subsequent decision to re-define or revise the conditions of employment at the New Campus cannot retroactively apply to those already under contract.

Again, I congratulate Ms. Regan on a splendid article.
--Edward J. Williams

Sewer Talk

To the Editor,
That "eponymous manhole" in Stacey Richter's piece on cockroaches was a nice touch ("Cockroach Confidential," Tucson Weekly, October 19). Classy jokes are hard to come by.
--Lou H. Silberman

Wheels Of Fortune

To the Editor,
I often disagree with Jeff Smith but this time ("Montezuma's Revenge," Tucson Weekly, Oct. 19), he is right on the money.

The issue of unsafe Mexican trucks on U.S. highways may be even worse then Jeff imagines. I would suppose he wrote this piece under the impression that, at least in theory, Mexican trucks would be required to comply with U.S. standards. Throughout the NAFTA debate those of us with doubts were continually assured the treaty would not compromise the health and safety of Americans. Those assurances, however, have turned out to be an empty promise. Mexican truckers will be exempt from the mandatory drug testing requirements which apply to all U.S. truckers as of January 1, 1996. NAFTA boosters can drop the pretext that Mexican truckers will be required to comply with U.S. standards because, to put it simply, they won't.

The drug testing issue is probably academic anyway. Without an adequate enforcement mechanism, the regulations that do apply are useless.

I would encourage everyone concerned with this issue to express those concerns to Congressman Jim Kolbe. As one of the biggest NAFTA boosters in Congress I think he has a responsibility to protect the safety of his constituents.
--William C. Thornton

Flush Fife

To the Editor,
With just a touch of Brooklynese in your talk, our gov could easily become J. Fife, the Turd.
--Jean Paschall

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November 9 - November 15, 1995

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