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Faculty groups allege misconduct by ‘U’ officials in case of former researcher

By Kyle Swanson, Daily News Editor
Published May 23, 2010

“You can imagine that if you’re trying to affect changes so that other people are protected and treated properly, having a report released that presents a narrow view of what really happened can undermine your ability to negotiate change.”

Referencing ongoing litigation in the matter, Rothman said, “It isn’t that we didn’t accept what was there, it’s that there’s a lot that is left out and by its very omission undermines what we wanted to say.”

“The Provost’s office and SACUA are not in opposite camps on this issue, we agree,” Rothman added.

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald declined a request for comment on behalf of the provost about the letter from SACUA.

“The Provost has nothing more to add on this topic,” Fitzgerald wrote in an e-mail.

When comment on the report endorsed by the Faculty Hearing Committee was sought, Fitzgerald told the Daily that because the full body of SACUA did not vote to approve the final draft of the report, he didn’t feel there was basis for comment.

“There’s really no report to comment on,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald also declined to comment on the copy of the report that was accepted by the University’s chapter of the AAUP.

Sullivan had previously reviewed a draft of the Faculty Hearing Committee’s report sent to her by then-SACUA Chair Michael Thouless.

The draft included several recommendations to University administrators, including that compensation be awarded to Borisov for economic damages, efforts be made to rehire him, the trespass order that bans Borisov from campus be lifted and that the Michigan State Police be called to further investigate the incident.

The draft also recommended that appropriate disciplinary measures be taken against those who allegedly broke University policies — including Valerie Castle, the chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases where Borisov worked. Castle was reappointed to her post as the Ravitz Foundation Professor of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases last week by the University’s Board of Regents.

After reviewing the draft, Sullivan sent a one-page letter back to Thouless in which she said that she was against formalizing the report as it could be harmful to SACUA and some tenured members of the faculty.

“As I read the report, I came to the conclusion that the report would be damaging to the reputation of SACUA and potentially (and unfairly) damaging to the reputation of one or more tenured faculty members,” Sullivan wrote in her response letter.

In an interview with the Daily in March, prior to the formal adoption by the Faculty Hearing Committee of the final report, Sullivan said the report overlooked the other perspectives underlying the issue.

“When this faculty group was empanelled to begin the investigation, no litigation had been filed. Shortly after the panel started its work, a number of people from the University were sued,” Sullivan said. “And so, as was completely foreseeable, counsel said you can’t speak to this faculty panel. So the faculty panel has heard one side of the story.”

Sullivan continued by saying she believed there was another side to the story, but that she wouldn’t comment on the report.

“The first thing you learn as an administrator is there’s more than one side to every story, and there aren’t even just two sides to every story, you know, there are many sides to every story,” Sullivan continued. “That tends to be true in personnel situations as well, so both because it’s a personnel situation and because it’s a litigation situation, I’m not going to be inclined to talk about it.”

However, when responding to follow-up questions from the Daily, Sullivan called the report problematic.

“I think inevitably, the report can talk about what they heard,” Sullivan said.