Letter to the Editor: Response to Vol. 18 Iss. 16 ‘Terminated instructor continues fight to clear the record’

The CNM Chronicle has published several sto­ries regarding a full-time faculty member who was terminated, following an internal investigation, for using physical force against a fellow faculty member on CNM property. The deci­sion to terminate the faculty member was upheld by an independent arbitrator.

While the situation was difficult for everyone con­cerned, one of the most troubling aspects of the situation was the biased reporting of the story and, particularly, the dismis­sive treatment of the victim. Stories in the Chronicle appeared slanted to favor a man accused of using exces­sive force against a woman, while discounting and dis­crediting the victim’s side of the story. The woman was victimized a second time in the Chronicle stories.

Many people have been very disappointed with the lopsided coverage of this story, as indicated by a recent, powerful and well-articulated letter I received from a CNM community member. The Chronicle was also copied on the letter.

The decision to termi­nate an employee is always difficult and never taken lightly. Nevertheless, there are situations that require the administration of a college to act quickly and unequivo­cally. Heated arguments that result in the use of physical force constitute such a situ­ation. At CNM, we have a grievance process, devel­oped and instituted with the approval of both the faculty union and the administra­tion, which affords employ­ees, who feel they have been wrongly judged, an opportu­nity to have their case heard on appeal.

The dismissed faculty member exercised his right to take an appeal of the administrative decision of termination. Both parties agreed on the selection of an independent and experi­enced arbitrator, who was charged with hearing the appeal and making the final decision on the case. The arbitrator heard two days of testimony from both sides and reviewed all relevant documentation before ren­dering a decision upholding the dismissal.

It is unfortunate that a CNM employee lost his job. However, there are some actions that are simply unacceptable and cannot be allowed to take place without an appropri­ate response. The CNM Employee Handbook clearly states that “fighting with or assaulting others,” or “threatening or intimidat­ing others,” are examples of behavior that may result in disciplinary action, includ­ing possible termination. The CNM administra­tion and the independent arbitrator concluded that the actions in this matter warranted termination.

Throughout the many months that this case pro­ceeded through our griev­ance process, there were many occasions on which I would have liked to pres­ent the administration perspective. However, I chose to respect the integrity of the grievance process, allowing it to run its course, fully pre­pared to accept the arbi­trator’s decision, regard­less of outcome.

While this particular matter has now been finally decided, the message will be carried forward. As presi­dent of CNM, I take allega­tions of aggression, intimida­tion and physical abuse very seriously. These kinds of unacceptable behaviors are and will continue to be intol­erable at CNM. As a college that is expected to set a good example for our community, we are obligated to set high standards for ethical behav­ior and ensure that we are providing the safest possible environment for our stu­dents to learn, and for our faculty and staff to work. As long as I am president, we will continue to be unwaver­ing in this commitment.

Kathie Winograd CNM President

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