Math prof suspended for opposing Dean's PhD decision - part 2

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Unionist
Math prof suspended for opposing Dean's PhD decision - part 2
Unionist

For those interested in learning more about this particular case, there is a wealth of material at the [url=http://fairwhistleblower.ca/content/university-manitoba-and-gabor-lukacs... Whistleblower's site[/url]. I haven't read it all yet, but I will do my best to do so and report back here.

 

Unionist

This letter, dated November 24, 2010, was signed by 86 mathematicians from insititutions in various countries, and addressed to the president of the University of Manitoba, Dr. David T. Barnard:

[url=http://fairwhistleblower.ca/content/letter-support-suspended-university-... in support of suspended University of Manitoba professor[/url]

Excerpts:

Quote:

• No qualified mathematician has justified the decision of the administration. On the contrary, several voices within the mathematics department of the University of Manitoba have expressed their concern about its validity; among these are Dr. Gábor Lukács, whose reputation of integrity and sense of justice is well-known among his peers, and Prof. George Grátzer, an internationally renowned and respected mathematician.

• Dr. Gábor Lukács has been suspended for three months without pay for reasons that appear to be secondary to the matter at hand; this inappropriate reprimand unfortunately suggests that the administration is trying to brutally quash dissenting voices. [...]

In solidarity with our colleagues at your institution and in support of future degree holders of the University of Manitoba, we hope that you will take swift action to rectify this situation. We suggest either that you clearly(2) and publicly justify your decision to waive the established academic requirements for this student, or that you correct an error that risks considerable continuing damage to your institution.

 

 

 

sanizadeh

Thanks unionist.

Lukacs' response to the latest statement by the university indicates that the problem at the department was indeed about jurisdiction; whether the dean of graduate studies had the right to impose his view on the department or not:

http://fairwhistleblower.ca/content/response-statements-dr-barnard-dr-do...

 

Unionist

[url=http://fairwhistleblower.ca/files/fair/docs/lukacs/003--Affidavit_of_Dr_... is the email where the Dean first responds to the question about his authority to unilaterally alter eligibility criteria for a math PhD. Lukacs had emailed him as follows:

Dr. Lukacs wrote:
A second, more thorny issue is the question of jurisdiction. You  referred in your message to exercising your discretion. However, I  could not find reference to such discretion in the regulations that I  reviewed.

In fact, my understanding is that the Dean has no jurisdiction to  determine academic appeals at all -- that power is reserved for the Appeal Committee of the FGS.

Would you be able to refer me to any document that suggests that you  have the power to adjudicate academic appeals? (You certainly can deal  with certain disciplinary ones, but that is not the issue here.)

Dean Doering wrote:
  [...] I would note many of the  things a dean can do are not written down.  For example, the  requirements for admission to a master’s program state a minimum GPA  of 3.0, yet I get requests for exceptions.  No where is it written that the dean can make exceptions - similarly I am not aware of  anything that says I can’t, and so while not policy, this too has  become practice. 

 

sanizadeh

 

CBC the current interviews Lukacs and an expert on exam anxiety:

http://fairwhistleblower.ca/content/cbc-current-exam-anxiety-gabor-lukacs

After Lukacs' suspension, the U of Manitoba administration hurriedly brought a request to the senate to approve deans' expanded powers in making such discretionary decision. The University senate (comprised of administration, faculty and student representatives) reject the motion. The minutes of discussion indicate how strongly it was opposed:

http://www.umanitoba.ca/admin/governance/media/senminnov2010.pdf

Caissa

Here is my background: I have spent 30 years at pse institions as both a student and an employee. I spent 8 years working with students with disabilities on 2 campuses. This doesn't make me right or wrong. I just want people to know where I am coming from.

I see only two issues at the moment.

1) Does Lukacs have standing in a court of law to appeal a degree granted by the institution at which he works? I believe he doesn't.

2) Was the University correct in suspending Lukacs for 3 months without pay? I believe it was not.

Brian White

Here is the thing in a nutshell.  The Dean wants to be able to grant degrees on his own with no oversight.  It is a typical little Ceasar situation.

I suggest the Dean move to BC and set up his own private University or start selling degrees on the internet.

sanizadeh wrote:

After Lukacs' suspension, the U of Manitoba administration hurriedly brought a request to the senate to approve deans' expanded powers in making such discretionary decision. The University senate (comprised of administration, faculty and student representatives) reject the motion. The minutes of discussion indicate how strongly it was opposed:

http://www.umanitoba.ca/admin/governance/media/senminnov2010.pdf

Caissa

Degrees are granted by the Academic Senate and the Board of Governors at most institutions. I presume both of these bodies approved the graduation list which included the name of the student in question.

sanizadeh

Caissa wrote:

Degrees are granted by the Academic Senate and the Board of Governors at most institutions. I presume both of these bodies approved the graduation list which included the name of the student in question.

According to the FAIR site, they were not aware that in addition to the qualification exam, the student also missed a required course.

Caissa

I'm reading the Senate minutes of November 3, 2010 and the point has been made. I have served on Senate in the past. The balance that needs to be struck is between the rights of a student with a disability to confidentiality and the right of Senate to approve degrees. Senate does not have the right to confidential information concerning a student's disability. Perhaps Senate should have been informed that a degree requirement was waived because of the student's disability. Unfortunately, this would lead to some Senators wanting confidential information and wanting to debate the waiving. Senate is not the appropriate body to discuss such a matter. University's rightly hire professionals to assist with accommodations for students with disabilities.

Unionist

Caissa wrote:

The balance that needs to be struck is between the rights of a student with a disability to confidentiality and the right of Senate to approve degrees.

Another balance that needs to be struck is the between the right of a student to privacy, and the right to be accommodated for a disability.

It is not possible, in any workplace whatsoever, to request or require accommodation without first coming forward to management (or, in this case, some authority in the educational institution) and self-identifying as to one's disability.

You don't generally have to reveal the nature of the medical condition to anyone - except, in some circumstances, to the employer's medical provider, who is bound to confidentiality. But your functional limitations are not and cannot be kept secret. The fact that someone can't lift more than 10 kg is essentially public knowledge to immediate managers, fellow workers, prospective employers, etc. The fact that the underlying reason is cancer or degenerative back disease or whatever, ought not to be disclosed to anyone except medical professionals. Managers and others don't need to know that in order to accommodate the person.

I have no idea yet, from reading all this material, what Lukacs disclosed about the student in question. But I have my own question: How did Lukacs find out about the student's exam anxiety??? He had never instructed him nor even met him before serving him with court papers.

So three things:

1. The fact that a mathematician can't tolerate writing exams because of some medical condition is not normally protected information in any setting where the person will study or work. It must be known to all direct associates, otherwise accommodation will be difficult or impossible.

2. The underlying medical condition is no one's business, except that of the employer or school's medical provider, and even then only when reasonably necessary to validate the bona fide nature of the condition, of the resultant functional limitations (which are NOT private) and ensure that the victim is pursuing treatment, etc.

3. Whoever breached the student's privacy, it wasn't Lukacs. Lukacs could not possibly have had any confidential information which he was bound to keep confidential. Someone told him, and it wasn't the student. Think about it.

 

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Caissa wrote:

 University's rightly hire professionals to assist with accommodations for students with disabilities.

Shouldn't that be "Universities"? Tongue out

By the way, there were no accommodations for me as a severely hearing disabled student in two colleges and two universities in the 1970s. I'm glad times have changed.

Caissa

Yes, Boom Boom. I hadn't had my first coffee.
I'm not sure where you perceive we might be disagreeing, Unionist. It might be here: But your functional limitations are not and cannot be kept secret.
As a disability services provider, I usually informed a professor that a student needed x rather than that they could not do y.
A student was required to provide me with documentation of the disability, and ideally suggested accommodations from a medical professional (broadly interpreted) and I was required to keep confidence.

Unionist

Caissa, in my world, the functional limitations are known to everyone in the worker's proximity, unless they are so subtle that they're invisible. You can't hide the fact that someone can't work nights, while everyone else (including more senior workers) take their shift rotation in turn. You can't hide the fact that a worker can't do various physical tasks, otherwise conflict and confusion will result when a manager assigns those tasks, or when the manager consistently avoids assigning those tasks while others carry the extra load. No one needs to know what the disability is - but they need to know the functional abilities and restrictions. And privacy commissions do not in my experience consider such information to be confidential with respect to fellow workers and managers, in the sense that the medical file is.

Likewise, it must be obvious that all kinds of people knew that this student had flunked twice, but was given a waiver - where everyone else is expected to pass or else. What did Lukacs "disclose" that everyone didn't already know? And how did he know it? None of this is clear. In fact, the first disciplinary sanction taken against Lukacs had nothing to do with privacy - it was a reprimand for "harassment". Whom was he harassing - someone he had never met?

This doesn't compute.

 

Sineed

The confusion I see here is conflating the inability to take a test, and competency in a chosen field.  At best, tests are an imperfect measure of a person's knowledge base, and if the student also suffers from an anxiety disorder directly related to test-taking, its validity can only be even worse.

On the one hand, we don't want to, say, graduate people from engineering who may make mistakes in their calculations when building bridges.  On the other, as Boom Boom has alluded to, people with disabilities of all sorts have been excluded from earning college degrees because of difficulties related to their disabilities, not to the set of skills needed for a field.

I wonder if Prof Lukács has ever, upon being called in class, experienced this: a feeling of being unable to breathe, and you can't speak, and you can't hear the professor because your heart is pounding in your ears, and you can barely remember your own name let alone anything pertinent to the class material.

A friend who has an anxiety disorder described it thusly: "You can't think, and everything feels like this *clenches fists* and you feel like little pieces of your soul are breaking off from around the edges."

Imagine the anxiety the student must be going through what with all this attention.

Unionist

Not everyone needs a PhD, Sineed. Not everyone can be a pilot or an air traffic controller. Some disabilities simply exclude you from certain occupations, because accommodation can't be made without undue hardship or waiving inescapable core requirements.

The principal question for me is, who decides the core requirements in all these cases? If pilot instructors say that an individual doesn't have the basic knowledge to proceed to certification, they may be "right" or "wrong" - but I'd be uncomfortable with having their opinion overruled, or simply ignored, by an airline HR person or manager acting on advice of lawyers.

I don't see how further light is shed on the underlying issue by emphasizing how sorry we should feel for the disabled individual, or how Lukacs should have approached the issue, or whether Lukacs has empathy.

 

Caissa

Unionist wrote: Caissa, in my world, the functional limitations are known to everyone in the worker's proximity, unless they are so subtle that they're invisible.
Caissa replied that we endeavour to keep "functional limitations" as invidsible and confidential as possible in the university setting.
Re. Lukacs- I believe, I have consistently said that the university shouldnot have disciplined him.

 

Re. post 16- Interesting questions. I'm not sure they are germane to the case in question though.

I can't say it better than Sineed did here.

The confusion I see here is conflating the inability to take a test, and competency in a chosen field.  At best, tests are an imperfect measure of a person's knowledge base, and if the student also suffers from an anxiety disorder directly related to test-taking, its validity can only be even worse.

 

I really appreciate Unionist your giving insight into how these issues are dealt with in industry. I am mostly familiar with how they are dealt with at the university level and that is my frame of reference.

Unionist

Something made me think of this case. Still "conflicted" about the issues involved. Here's what happened after our interesting discussions.

August 26, 2011 - as predicted by babblers, Lukacs lost in court based on a "technicality" (lack of standing) - the court of course never dealt with the substantive matters:

[url=http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/u-of-m-prof-loses-round-in-phd-fi... of M prof loses round in PhD fight[/url]

November 10, 2011 - Lukacs's appeal against his 3-month suspension and other disciplinary sanctions was settled in mid-hearing as reflected in the following joint statement:

Quote:
The administration of the University of Manitoba and Professor G. Lukács have entered into a fair and mutually agreed upon settlement. The University has rescinded all disciplinary actions against Professor Lukács (including reprimand, suspension and denial of increment). All outstanding legal proceedings between the parties are terminated. The parties have also agreed that it is to their mutual benefit to end the employment relationship. The specific terms of the agreement are confidential and will not be disclosed.“

Obviously, this means they reimbursed Lukacs for his three-months off and paid his increment, plus whatever other undisclosed terms. Babblers had also mostly opined that the discipline was very draconian, if deserved at all.

I don't know what aftershocks this caused at U of Manitoba regarding the Dean's apparent self-arrogated unilateral right to make "exceptions" to any and all academic degree requirements, nor do I know (though I think it's less important) where Lukacs's career has led him since leaving.

 

Bacchus
Unionist

This was from June:

[url=http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2015/06/08/stop-censoring-passenger-c... hands air passenger advocate Gabor Lukacs another victory[/url]

Quote:

Air passenger advocate Gabor Lukacs says a ruling by the Federal Court of Appeal orders the agency to provide him with unredacted documents relating to a dispute between Air Canada and passengers bumped from a flight.

Lukacs launched a challenge against the regulator in March after he requested to view material relating to the incident and was frustrated with the results.

“I was asking for access to documents on the agency’s public record. Those documents were not subject to any confidentiality order and nevertheless I received redacted documents,” said Lukacs in an interview.

He said the agency provided him with documents in which information — including the names of the airline’s lawyers and some comments from passengers — was redacted.

[...]

The Federal Court of Appeal ruled on June 5 that the agency must provide an unredacted copy of the requested information and cover the costs associated with representing himself in court, according to documents provided by Lukacs.

[...]

Hungarian by birth and a mathematician by training, Lukacs says the Canadian Transportation Agency has made 26 decisions in cases he started, 24 of them in his favour.

In recent years, Lukacs has been responsible for increasing the compensation Canadians receive when they are bumped by overbooking. Air Canada, Porter Airlines and Air Transat are among the companies whose policies have changed because of his complaints.