I Won!

By Robin Meade

I won!

On September 17, the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board (IELRB) made its final ruling in my case against Moraine Valley Community College (MVCC).

It all started in August of 2013, when I was fired by the administration at Moraine Valley Community College for writing a letter to the League of Innovation in the Community Colleges decrying MVCC’s lack of innovation toward adjuncts. I sent the letter as president of the adjunct bargaining unit. My termination letter specifically stated “your letter goes far beyond what could be considered responsible advocacy on behalf of the Moraine Valley Adjunct Faculty association”, meaning I was fired for my activities as union president and not my teaching position. This situation began the workings of two legal efforts; one with the labor board (IELRB) and one in federal court defending my freedom of speech.

I must say that with many decades of precedent supporting me for both legal efforts, I did not anticipate losing. However, I did not anticipate the MVCC administration and presumably the board fighting so hard. This is the final ruling from the IELRB. An administrative law judge ruled in my favor early this year. The college chose to pursue an appeal and I suspect they will appeal this ruling at the state appellate court which is their right. The federal case was initially dismissed but the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit resounding trounced that ruling. This IELRB ruling came in just in time for my attorney to use it for his summary judgment in the federal case. The IELRB cited the college’s own testimony and evidence as a reason for ruling in my favor.

These ongoing court proceedings have been a learning experience and the curve is sharp. During the depositions for the members of the college administration, I came to full realization of the arrogance and group think that plagues the college administration and board. There was a refusal to accept that the contract I signed to teach was actually a contract and that the Seventh Circuit court determined it to be so. The administrators and the board agreed to fire me with absolutely no consideration the contract I had signed or the adjuncts I represented.

Where do things go from here? According to the IELRB ruling, MVCC must offer me full and unconditional reinstatement of my position without prejudice, pay me with interest the wages I have lost since being terminated, wipe away any reference of the termination from my record and, my personal favorite, post the IELRB notice prominently on the employee boards all over campus for 60 days. The college also has to report to the IELRB what actions they have taken to comply with the order within 35 days. Their other choice is to appeal to the state appellate court. I haven’t heard anything as of yet, so I’m assuming the latter.

I’m encouraged by Governor Rauner signing into law a limit on severance packages and automatic renewals for contracts for college presidents. Perhaps the next law will be to limit administrator salaries, which have risen ridiculously along with tuition. Community colleges should be about educating the community. Education is about helping people grow. Academic Freedom is essential to providing meaningful education. Professors must feel free to speak out on issues that affect the community, including the college that serves it.

17 thoughts on “I Won!

  1. Congratulations, Robin! A win for free speech, labor rights, contract rights, and academic freedom all in one hard-won case.

  2. Robin has also recently been appointed to the Illinois Conference Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure. The Illinois Committee A has two adjunct faculty among its members. The other is Iymen Chehade, who also won a major adjunct-freedom case at Columbia College Chicago.

      • While others made the decision, Professor Meade received financial legal assistance from the AAUP Foundation and the Legal Defense Fund. Ill. Committee A met with her and discussed her situation in detail. Our role was supportive, not determinative, and there were various posts on this blog that kept her adjunct-freedom case before the public. I was born a skeptic: it pays. Robin has won significant victories, but note there could be an appeal and a reversal. I am not betting on it, but knowing the lack of justice in this country-I was at the Million Man March which emphasised it-it ain’t over til it’s over.

      • The AAUP has provided me financial assistance through their legal grant but just as important to me has been their moral support.

  3. Reblogged this on Niki.V.all.ways.My.way. and commented:
    sometimes, those of us who do this, understand how sweet these long lived victories may be, yet the cost of them on our society and communities is great. the need to view those we disagree with as those we can malign and degrade simply has no place in our society. authority must be authentic and not emotional, rising to challenges and collaborative with staff, students, community and sponsors. so happy to read this today. =) #goodnews

    • A win for the good guys! Let’s hope other institutions don’t see the stupidity in your termination letter–your administrators really stepped in it. My fear is that they will make up all sorts of other non-union-acitivity reasons for terminating or “not renewing” activists. Then there is always Plan B, which is to make your working life even more miserable so that you just give up in frustration and quit. Don’t give them what they want, my friends!

  4. Pingback: Part-time Faculty activism and job loss: The fightback landscape | CPFA Forum and Blog

  5. A new reality a new fact of life, we don’t sign contracts any longer. An assignment shows up in my mailbox and a paycheck in the bank, could I ask for more? What protections do I get for paying union dues?

    • Regina, I am hopeful that the next round of negotiations for the MVAFO will provide protection for the adjuncts at MVCC.

  6. Congratulations, Robin…..
    I fought a similar battle with Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio.
    I had been a full time non tenure track lecturer in history and in 2009 was despite excellent annual performance reviews and student evaluations and 19 years of service was reduced to adjunct status by a photo statically signed form letter from the provost in 2009.
    I became ill in 2011 and fell on campus and the college began a chain of events which led to my termination in November, 2011. In doing so, they ignored at their convenience a provision in the handbook wherein they could have put me on unassigned status until health matters improved.
    I took my retirement to get on full medicare a and b and was able to see the necessary specialists. I was in a year once again in good health. and was approved for return to work by my doctors.
    The administration ignored my attempts to solve the dispute within the college. Tnus, I sought legal action. After interrogations and depositions, the college asked for mediation. As a result of the mediation, I received a reasonable settlement.
    I am now an adjunct at a neighboring community college where conditions are far more positive.
    I wish more people would speak up as we have. Administrators would then have to become satisfactory at their jobs.

    Communicator.

  7. Reblogged this on Ken Mitton, PhD FARVO and commented:
    Sometimes we are reminded why unions and professional organization came into being. Often to simply fight against unfair practices in the employment, including academic, workplace. The AAUP has stood up for Academic Freedom for many many decades. Not only is it good for students, it good for our institutions and those who take on the job of teaching.

  8. Pingback: Another Victory for Adjunct Rights | ACADEME BLOG

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