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