USM awarded Prof. John Broida $7,000 and a letter of apology from Provost Joseph Wood to settle a grievance Broida brought against the University. Broida said his reputation and ability to do work were compromised after an investigation of harassment last spring.
A student had filed a complaint with the Office of Campus Diversity, said Wood, because she felt harassed over alleged racist remarks made by Broida in a videotape lecture. Broida was investigated last spring and was found innocent of wrongdoing on the basis of academic freedom.
“[USM] made a mistake,” Broida said. “There were several inadvertent violations of contract. As a result, the union felt it had to get involved.”
Broida was represented by a University of Maine faculty union attorney during these proceedings.
When a student has a problem with an administrator or faculty or staff member, there is a conflict resolution policy described in The Navigator. However the student in this case did not follow this policy.
Wood said the student felt harassed and offended, not in conflict with an academic or administrative action or decision. The Student Administrative and Academic Appeals Policy states, “Academic grievances generally involve such matters as appeals of grades or appeals of what students feel to be unfair or discriminatory treatment by a faculty member.”
“She pursued her grievance through the Office of Campus Diversity, which appropriately attempted an intervention. The student, understandably, expected the University to do more than it is capable of doing legally and contractually,” Wood said.
President Richard Pattenaude has recently formed a committee to assess the current conflict resolution policy. (See Open Letter to USM Community on page ####)
As for the original allegations of racist remarks, Broida said, “I have never really heard her complaint. I have heard rumors.” Broida would welcome an opportunity to meet with the student, to listen to her objections.
“There is so much more to communication than words; I’m sure there is something there (in the videotape lecture) that upset her. I want to know so I don’t ever do that again.”
Initially, Broida was surprised at the student’s allegations. He does not consider himself a racist, and in fact enjoys visiting large, ethnically diverse cities for the exposure to other cultures and languages.
After getting his undergraduate degree in psychology Broida was asked to consult on solutions to growing racial tension between white and hispanic residents of the small Colorado town in which he lived. The fighting was resolved through a series of pinball machines being installed in a gas station convenience store. He had suggested perhaps the different groups would stop being violent given something else to do. One machine at a time, the whites and hispanics stopped fighting and instead had pinball tournaments.
“I know who I am,” said Broida. “Obviously she [the student who made the accusations] didn’t.”