Lies, Lies, and More Lies
In the coming weeks, I will be getting into the meat of things, specifically, the episodes that finally forced me to file a lawsuit v UT Austin. As I have done throughout, I will be relying on documents in the public record to support my claims. Speculation will be marked as such and I will avoid doing much of it, in part because, at the root of many of my own disputes with UT is speculation without evidence. I will also not be including every incident since the case has yet to be tried; and because I am doing everything I can to avoid the inclusion of, for instance, former or current students.
From early August to now, a number of things have been brought to my attention by various people. Often, they confirm my own experiences and help me to realize that my experience is not especially exceptional. Sometimes they offer additional details that were not known to me and will be useful.
This post looks back at posts I made during Summer 2021, when discussing my experiences around my tenure and promotion case. As I noted at the time, at least three of my colleagues strongly objected to my promotion (Galinsky, Hubbard, L. Michael White). Each of them had their own reasons for doing so. None of those reasons had anything to do with the quality of my teaching, research, and service. These men used the fact that I had supposedly lied about being in job talks with University of Southern California as evidence of my broader lack of ethical character — even though at least Galinsky had been informed long before that his claims of dishonesty had been investigated by the dean’s office and it had been determined that I did nothing wrong.
Of course, because then dean Randy Diehl refused to make a clear and public statement that fully exonerated me and put all of this defamation to bed, the lie festered and festered. I have learned that, even to this day, there are members of the UT community who know me only as the “Classics Professor who lied about a job offer to get a counteroffer.” Festering wounds eventually make the body septic and that is exactly what has happened to my reputation at UT. It continues to be difficult for me to accept that, no matter what I do, there will be people out there who believe the lies.
Despite the efforts of this trio to portray me as a liar, a bad teacher (because I had not been asked to teach one of our larger enrollment introductory course), and a mediocre scholar, the quality and quanity of my work as well as the strong support of my external referrees resulted in a unanimous vote in favor of my tenure by both the college and presidential level committees. In a meeting in Spring 2009 with Randy Diehl, I was assured that any further efforts to harass and/or defame me would be quashed. I was assured that I would have a safe and supportive work environment. I so desperately wanted to believe this, especially after devoting my life to the job in an effort to earn tenure. The last thing I wanted to do was be forced to leave a job that I had worked so hard to get and retain.
During the year immediately following my tenuring (2009–2012), I believed completely that my interests were being protected by my dean and chair (Steve White). Despite the dean’s assurances that the harrassment would end once I was tenured, in fact, it only escalated. During this time I was repeatedly advised to remain silent, absorb the neverending blows, and somehow continue to work in such a toxic environment. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t my most productive period of research production. Also unsurprisingly, I started to lose faith and look for escapes. One escape that presented itself was the opportunity to “flip” my large enrollment Intro to Rome class (c. 200 students). This entailed a huge amount of work, including spending most of a summer in a studio recording all of the lectures for the class on camera.
At some point, probably around 2010, Steve White told me that Randy Diehl was putting together a termination case for Hubbard. In other words, the dean was trying to fire Hubbard. This information was passed on to me by Steve in an effort to obtain my ongoing cooperation as the “prey” in this scenario. Apparently, the idea was that I would be tied to a post, metaphorically, while Steve documented all of the ongoing harassment. And that, somehow, this would provide the basis for termination.
I was naive enough to simply believe what I was being told and to continue to play my part. After all, how could I let down these people who had supported me through my embattled tenure case? Never mind that I developed a serious anxiety disorder during this time; never mind that this was taking an enormous toll on my physical health. At one point, I had such severe gastroparesis (basically, a paralyzed stomach) that I had to take multiple anti-nausea medications daily to be able to function without vomiting everywhere. All of this was stress induced, I would come to learn.
At some point, maybe a year or so later, Steve White told me that the dean’s efforts to fire Hubbard had been rejected by UT System. In other words, despite the dean’s and my chair’s best efforts, the System, literally, had said no. The excuse I was told: Hubbard would retire soon (he was only 55 or so at the time and certainly was not going to retire anytime soon); and that UT System was afraid of a lawsuit from him. Being completely clueless about how my university and UT System operated, or even what the termination process looked like, I took these explanations as true. They were lies.
In response to things I have written about in this blog, Tom Hubbard let me know that, so far as he knows, there was never any effort by the dean to terminate him. He noted that, in all of his open records requests, he had seen no documents to suggest that any kind of termination case was being put together. Likewise, in my own discovery requests, nothing pertaining to a supposed termination case was handed over. Further, and most importantly, I know understand the inner workings of UT as well as the termination process (and other disciplinary processes) much better. Randy was lying to me and, perhaps, also to Steve White.
Randy’s entire goal was to persuade me that UT had my back so that I would not file a lawsuit. He knew that, if I did file a lawsuit, his own actions — especially, his office’s decision to investigate my behavior vis-a-vis USC without my knowledge — would come out. I suspect he had other similarly bad actions that he wanted to keep hidden. Steve did his job admirably. I could not bring myself to do something that would have harmed him. As well, I wanted so much to believe that UT did have my back, did value my career and my contributions to the university.
Until Hubbard informed me of the absence of documents supporting the dean’s story, I continued to believe that UT had made an effort to fire him, only to be denied by System. Well, first of all, the people involved would have been UT Legal Affairs and the AG’s office. Discipline, including termination, is an internal matter. There is absolutely no way that even preliminary efforts could have been made without leaving some kind of paper trail. At this point, Hubbard is retired and has no reason to misrepresent this. All along, Randy Diehl had a lot of reasons to misrepresent his actions to me. I don’t have enough information to know whether Steve was aware of the lies. He was, however, certainly aware of the strategy to placate and silence me even as I was being attacked, especially in email screeds, on a nearly weekly basis.
Ultimately, it doesn’t much matter what the truth is. It only matters that I trusted that my dean was acting in my best interests when, in reality, he was acting in his own best interests as well as the interests of the institution. He cared not at all if he blew up my career trajectory. I was not important.
I cringe when I reflect on this long ago time. I don’t understand how I could have been so naive and trusting. I think I was just desperate to believe that someone was fighting for me and my right to a reasonable work environment. I am not litigious and believed for many years that these problems could and would be resolved in house. It never occurred to me that various individuals had their own agenda, and that those agenda did not align with my best interests. But also: it can be extremely difficult to even begin to learn how these procedures do work. Institutions tend not to be transparent. I only really began to understand the complicated inner workings of UT after working in the Liberal Arts dean’s office for a year followed by another year in the provost’s office. Those two years opened my eyes in often disheartening ways.
The lesson here: trust but verify. Know how these procedures work in your workplace. Ask questions and demand answers. Remember that, always, the only person who has your best interests in mind is you. Every other representative of your institution is looking out for the institution. That has been a very hard but important lesson of my experience.