Friday, February 28, 2014

Pulaski Tech board restates support for Ellibee

Posted By on Fri, Feb 28, 2014 at 3:46 PM

click to enlarge Dr. Margaret Ellibee
  • Dr. Margaret Ellibee
The board of trustees at Pulaski Technical College held a special meeting today, ostensibly to hear a report from president Dr. Margaret Ellibee updating the board on events at the school.

The real purpose of the meeting, however, was to allow the board to express its support for Dr. Ellibee, after the school's Student Government Association cast a vote of no confidence in the president last week. Dedman said earlier the board supported Ellibee, but made that support official today.

The SGA  resolution  was sparked by the firing last September of philosophy professor Lyndel Roe, after he asked one of his students if she had experienced anal sex. The SGA resolution says the school "does not have a peer reviewed due process policy in place for the course of a disciplinary investigation against faculty members by the college." The resolution, which passed 9-3, also said the firing had "created a culture of fear and low morale for faculty, specifically in classroom instruction and course content." 

It was the second resolution concerning due process voted by the SGA. Earlier resolutions asked the college to adopt the American Association of University Professors' standards of due process and academic freedom and also authorized the student association to ask the Faculty Senate to investigate Roe's firing.   

Board chair Ron Dedman praised Ellibee, who made the final decision to fire Roe, for her hard work. "In my opinion, Dr. Margaret Ellibee is diong exactly what we hired her to do. ... We hired her to make the decisions." 

Afterward, Dedman said there was no permissible context in which a professor could ask a student if she, or he, had experienced anal sex. A recording made in the class and provided to the administration shows that the remark was made during a class discussion of why a merciful God would allow bad things to happen to people, and his question was in response to a student who suggested that people had to suffer to know happiness. The tape shows that he sought to make a point, inartfully, that one can know one wants to avoid something without having experienced it.

Roe has also used profanity in class and had been warned by the administration against it. Roe said in an interview last fall that he warns students in his class that his language is salty and the questions he asks may offend.

In his address to the board, Dedman also referred to the fine way Ellibee has handled "high level executives taking shots at our school." After the meeting, he said "taking shots" might be an overstatement, but that he was referring to an instance in which Ellibee, in meetings with business interests about the school's upcoming millage election, had been asked why the school hadn't met certain industry's needs, like producing more welders. The school is seeking a tax of 1.9 mills for operating and capital projects cost.

Pulaski Tech has an enrollment of around 10,000 students, making it the largest two-year college in Arkansas. Enrollment declined from around 12,000 after the school dropped its open enrollment policy in favor of one that would assess students before acceptance.

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