A professor at Eastern Kentucky University claims university officials fostered a hostile work environment and retaliated against her when she sought answers and resolution.
Dr. Lisa Gannoe, a child and family studies associate professor at (EKU), said she feels like university officials targeted her after she complained about a lack of action regarding classroom safety complaints.
According to the professor, her tense relationship with EKU officials began in the Spring 2021 semester and continued to Spring 2022.
Gannoe said, during that timeframe, a student in one of her classes displayed alarming behavior on several occasions. The professor said the student openly bullied another student and engaged in erratic, disruptive behavior during class.
Gannoe said she was aware her student had special needs and that, with her training, she tried to find a solution to the constant disruptive and abusive behavior.
“I understand (students with special needs), because I’ve got a masters degree in special education. I did that for a number of years. But this student was different,” Gannoe said. “This student had no self-regulation, no regard for other people’s feelings. This student did unpredictable things in class. The student was very disruptive to me and everyone in class. There were just a multitude of things that affected my teaching,” Gannoe said.
The professor said she sought help and advice from EKU officials on how to best deal with the student.
“Over these three semesters I kept asking for help,” Gannoe said.
According to the professor, the situation with the student escalated to the point that Gannoe had to be prescribed anxiety medication and was diagnosed with adjustment disorder.
Over this period of time Gannoe said she filed three Student Assistance and Intervention Team (SAIT) reports and an education disposition form regarding the student.
“It was so anxiety producing, that I got put on anxiety medicine for the first time in my life, because I didn’t know what the student was going to do from day to day,” Gannoe said.
The Office of Accessibilities and Accommodations visited Gannoe’s class twice and witnessed some of the behavior the professor was concerned about. The visit resulted with the office putting the student on behavioral plans.
Gannoe indicated that she had been in frequent contact with Dr. Dana Keller Bush, the Associate Dean of the College of Education and Applied Human Sciences and the Office of Accessibility and Accommodation. Bush was serving as the chair of the department when the issues with the students first arose. Gannoe said that both parties told her the student’s behavior was unacceptable and that they could be removed from class.
Emails obtained by the Register confirm this.
“I can imagine the frustration you experienced during class. As a faculty member you have the right to remove (the student) from class for disruptions,” April Jeffries, accessibility coordinator for EKU’s Center for Student Accessibility, said in a March 7, 2022 email to Gannoe.
In later emails from the same day, Dr. Dana Keller Bush and Kelly Cogar, Senior Director for the Center for Student Accessibility, expressed the same sentiment.
“I’ll touch base with Lara Vance (Dean of Student Affairs) about this. (The student) needs to be removed from the course,” Bush said in response to Gannoe.
“At this point, CSA (Center for Student Accessibility) has done everything that we can, and I believe you have done so as well. As (the student’s faculty) you have every right to take the next steps suggested by your program. Whether that is withdrawing (the student) from your class, or some other consequence resultant of (the student’s) behavior,” Cogar’s response noted.
Text messages between Gannoe and Bush obtained by the Register confirm that Bush requested the dean of students remove the student from the class.
The situation with the student hit a breaking point near mid-terms.
Gannoe said she had the student removed from classes after the student swore at the professor in an angry outburst.
“Class was about to start and the student walked into class with a computer and their disability letter. The student is right in front of the class and started an argument with me. I hadn’t even talked with the student about some of these things. Rather than do that in class, I asked the student to step out in the hall. It got to be a heated discussion,” Gannoe recalled.
A meeting was called between Gannoe, Bush, Vance, and current Applied Human Sciences Interim Department Chair Dr. Karina Christopher.
According to Gannoe, during the meeting, a plan from Vance for the situation with the student was given to the professor. It called for a graduate assistant to stay in the class and escort the student out after more than one interruption. The plan also requested more reports be filed, and for Gannoe to dismiss classes if she felt an incident arose that was disruptive to the other students. In the event that the student refused to be escorted out of class by the graduate assistant, campus police would be called.
According to Gannoe, her own mental health struggles caused by the situation and her previously filed reports were not discussed. She was informed there was a different kind of report that was supposed to be filed in this situation, one that Gannoe said she, nor Bush, or any of the representatives from the Office of Accessibilities and Accommodations knew needed to be filed.
“I started feeling like I was in trouble for doing everything they told me to do,” Gannoe said. “The graduate assistant is not trained in safety. That’s not a GA’s job. I don’t want to put them in that position. I don’t want to keep penalizing the other students. In that meeting I said, ‘Well, this is a hostile work environment and I’m gonna have to file my own report.’”
After her hostile work environment response, Gannoe said she received an ultimatum via email from Bush — adhere to the plan, or the professor would be removed from the two classes the student was taking.
While she did not refuse the plan, Gannoe said she was critical of it.
The professor said she worried for the safety of her students and suggested having a campus security officer stationed in the classroom or have backpacks checked or left outside of the classroom.
Following this, Gannoe said she was eventually removed from the classes. She received the news via email.
In the email, the administration said they felt there was no credible threat from the student and that Gannoe would continue to get paid for the classes she was no longer allowed to teach those classes for the remainder of the semester.
Two other faculty members stepped in to teach the remainder of the courses and students were only graded based on their work for the second half of the course taught by the other professors.
“These people replaced me with like four or five weeks to go. They told the students none of the work you’ve done so far counts. We’re going to start with a clean slate,” Gannoe said. “So I knew the students were going to be mad. They were upset that I disappeared. They didn’t know what happened. They got new teachers, and now they’re being told their grades don’t count.”
Gannoe said she heard shocking things about the class after her removal from students and colleagues.
She noted one of her replacement instructors ran into some of the same issues with the same allegedly disruptive student and even filed a report.
“She filed another report on this student, because another student in the class approached her and said the student I was having trouble with, had said things about her (the replacement instructor) that were so awful that she was afraid to repeat it to my colleague. I think that made my colleague a little afraid,” Gannoe said. “This student, who had been a residence hall worker, told her that she knew this student previously and the student had threatened to kill their roommate.”
According to an email from Christopher, students were instructed only to evaluate the second half of the semester for their course evaluations.
Although Christopher supplied her with some of the course evaluation comments, Gannoe later filed an open records request with EKU’s legal office to see student comments (which are electronic and anonymous) from the two courses she was removed from. Her request was denied.
Gannoe then sent a letter to the office of Attorney General Daniel Cameron appealing the dismissal. The attorney general’s office also dismissed the appeal.
“They send the attorney general’s office a 14-page document. ‘She asked as a citizen, students were only told to evaluate the last four weeks.’ I was angry that they made it seem like I wasn’t even an employee of theirs after 15 years. Then I wasn’t allowed to see my own comment sheet. Right after that, I filed another open records request as a faculty member,” Gannoe said.
That second open records request was also denied.
On May 6, Gannoe was involved in a faculty search committee meeting in her department. A tenure track position was in the process of being filled, and Gannoe brought up concerns to Christopher that the search committee did not have any input into the job description for the position. Christopher allegedly said that a pick for the position had been approved and the committee was moving forward with it.
“They posted the job description without saying anything to the faculty. Which is unusual, because usually we get together and say ‘What do you want to put in this?’ We keep it kind of broad so whoever we think fits best, we can kind of address classes and what they might teach best. They didn’t do that this time,” Gannoe said. “The job description was pinpointed to one person who had been working for us as a non-tenured person. It basically said she’s gonna do practicum student teaching, which is very specific. We had two people in our department who were eligible to apply for the job.”
The faculty search committee meeting was comprised of Gannoe, Christopher, Dr. Mary Sciaraffa, and Dr. Tamala North.
According to Gannoe, there were two candidates for the position. One was from outside of the organization and the other a clinical faculty member at the university. Gannoe said Christopher already had the clinical faculty member candidate in mind for the position.
According to Gannoe, Christopher also said Bush (who was not present at the meeting) and served as the outgoing department chair, had voted for that candidate as well.
Gannoe said she felt uneasy about Christopher’s claim, as Bush had not been present for presentations or interviews with the candidates.
When Gannoe expressed her reservations, the professor said a “spirited discussion” ensued.
“I already know what’s gonna happen. They’ve already selected this one person for the job and I already voiced concerns about what happened to the interim chair (Christopher). She said ‘It’s been approved so we’re just going to move forward with it.’ As it’s unfolding, I’m finding myself upset, because it’s basically like a done deal. The candidate in the interview that they wanted, told the whole committee that she wanted another job… When you’re in an interview, you don’t tell the interview committee that you want another job. I said I was going to leave, because I was wasting my breath, but I stayed. We sat down and talked about it,” Gannoe recalled.
The professor said she stood firm in her position and never displayed any discourteous behavior in the meeting. In the end, the other candidate, who Gannoe believed was more qualified for the position was chosen for the job. Gannoe claimed even Christopher changed her vote to the other candidate in the end.
“I thought everything had worked out and we were all good,” Gannoe said of the resolution.
The clinical faculty member who did not get the position ended up taking another one within the same department, according to Gannoe.
Christopher sent an email to the Faculty Search Committee concerning the other candidate’s reaction to the news she would not be receiving the job offer.
“I did break the news to (the clinical faculty member). As you can imagine, she was devastated,” Christopher’s email read. “I think it will be important for all of us to create a positive work environment for them both. It will be an awkward situation.”
Gannoe said she worked with numerous members of the faculty search committee, including Christopher, multiple times following that meeting without issue.
However, Gannoe soon learned things were not as they seemed.
According to a May 9 email obtained by the Register, Christopher made a complaint to human resources about Gannoe’s conduct in the faculty search committee meeting. The email was sent to Tarena Tyree of human resources from Christopher. The email cc’d Human Resources Director John Dixon, current Interim Dean of the College of Education and Applied Human Sciences Gill Hunter, and then Dean of the College of Education and Applied Human Sciences Sherry Powers.
“…she (Gannoe) slammed her hand on the table and started to visually get angry,” Christopher said in the email.
In the email, Christopher said Gannoe accused one of the candidates of being “a bully and a terrible writer.” The email continues, with Christopher stating she considered Gannoe’s behavior “bullying and inappropriate.”
Gannoe staunchly refuted all claims in Christopher’s email to human resource; calling them lies.
On May 12, Gannoe received an email from Christopher asking if she was available for a Zoom meeting on the morning of May 13, which was also EKU’s Graduation Day.
Curious about what it could be over, Gannoe said the meeting was then made mandatory. The reason given was that the incident in the faculty search committee meeting was escalated to an employee performance issue.
In that email chain, when Gannoe asked what the reasoning for the meeting was, Christopher responded “As your current supervisor, I am asking you to attend this mandatory meeting.”
Gannoe expressed she was uncomfortable with the meeting and requested that they hold it face-to-face instead of using Zoom. In response to this, Christopher responded with “The meeting has been scheduled for tomorrow at 1:30. See you then.”
Following this, Gannoe contacted Tyree to discuss the planned meeting.
“I tell her ‘I don’t know what this meeting is about. I’ve told Dr. Christopher that I’m not comfortable with it.’ I told her some other things too, about how things went with that student, how they removed me from my classes. She told me that she didn’t know anything about the meeting and she’s supposed to be the head of our college… She calls me before the meeting and said the head of Human Resources (John Dixon) is doing this meeting and you’ve got to show up for it,” Gannoe said. “At this point, I knew this was big trouble.”
During that meeting, EKU Human Resources Director John Dixon issued a written warning to Gannoe alleging that she violated the university’s employee conduct regulation code 8.3.3HRR for exhibiting behavior that was “rude or discourteous toward other employees” on the date of the faculty search committee meeting.
“You exhibited unprofessional behavior that was discourteous and rude towards other employees,” the warning read. “You are being placed on notice that any reports, which are confirmed, of similar behavior in the future will result in further disciplinary action, not excluding termination of your employment with Eastern Kentucky University.”
No examples of the alleged behavior are outlined in the warning. Gannoe said Christopher’s May 9 email is proof that she has been lied to by Tyree.
“That email is proof that others knew why I had received the first warning letter, but no one told me. Tarena and Dr. Hunter knew before the first disciplinary action, even though Tarena told me she did not know the purpose of the first zoom meeting,” Gannoe said in a letter.
In response to this warning, Gannoe filed a faculty grievance through the Office of the Provost to remove the warning from her personnel file, as she said the written warning did not follow 8.3.3HRR’s standards of a lack of severity and previous issues or frequency. The grievance was denied on several grounds.
“The policy does not require sequential action, since progressive discipline is defined in 8.3.3: Employee Conduct as, ‘A process for addressing job-related behavior that does not meet performance standards using increasingly severe measures,” reads part of an email from Associate Provost for Academic Programs Jennifer Weis. “For illustrative purposes, progressive discipline may include oral warnings, written corrective actions, probations, suspensions, and terminations. However, any of these steps may be omitted, depending on the severity or frequency of the infraction.”
Gannoe claims EKU’s reasoning behind the warning letter are flawed.
“They’re telling me its employee performance issues. This had nothing to do with my teaching. This is about a meeting where we’re discussing candidates,” Gannoe said in response to the claim. “They’re telling me that I don’t meet the requirements for a grievance, because they can skip a step for severity and frequency… How can it be frequency? It was one faculty search committee meeting. It had nothing to do with my job.”
Gannoe said Weis was unable to tell what the definition of “discourteous and rude” was or how what she said in that search committee meeting was perceived as such. According to Weis, the only way the warning could be pulled from Gannoe’s personnel file was if Christopher agreed to have it done.
Gannoe, who is currently teaching a full class load in the Fall 2022 semester, was later asked by Christopher to add two more classes to her schedule and also take on more practicum students.
The professor said she felt it was ironic that Christopher would prompt a disciplinary performance review and then later ask her to take on more responsibility.
In June, Gannoe filed a complaint of hostile work environment, retaliation, and discrimination. In an eight page document, she recapped her experience from start to finish and even listed witnesses to talk to regarding the events of the faculty hiring committee. The complaint also highlighted the rejection of her open records request for class comments.
On Aug. 26, Tyree asked Gannoe to come to a meeting at the office of Dr. Gill Hunter, Interim Dean of the College of Education and Applied Human Sciences. According to emails obtained by the Register, Gannoe was told she was not allowed to bring any kind of counsel into the meeting and that it was mandatory.
“The meeting is mandatory. You are not permitted to bring an attorney as it is an internal administrative meeting. Because you are directed to attend by your Departmental leadership in consultation with Human Resources, failure to attend the meeting may result in discipline for insubordination. The meeting is not to issue employee discipline and you do not need to bring anything in preparation,” an email from Tyree reads.
In that meeting, Gannoe was told that she had broken the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Kentucky Educational Rights and Privacy Act (KYFERPA), University Policy 8.3.3, and University Policy 1.2.1 for her attempt to appeal her previously declined open records request with the Attorney General’s Office.
The basis for the claims is several emails Gannoe sent as supporting information in her appeal to the attorney general. They contain correspondence with a student regarding Gannoe’s removal from class in March, the comments made by another student about her classes, and mentions the first name of the student causing issues in those classes and recollections of some of their behavior, including admitting they were COVID positive in class.
The Register obtained a letter sent to Gannoe listing these alleged violations, as well as the performance plan. It is signed off by Tyree and dated Aug. 26, 2022.
For her part, Gannoe directly refuted those claims in a letter sent to Tyree.
“I dispute the claims. First, with regard to the two students whose names were in an email, FERPA defines directory information as information contained in an education record of a student that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. 34CFR99.3. Further, FERPA regulations identify email addresses as a possible category of directory information. All three students are enrolled at a state university and have provided directory information, which is public and which the students are made aware,” Gannoe said in the letter. “For the two students where only a name was mentioned, no educational information was provided… Emails are not educational records under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, 20 U.S.C. 1232g (FERPA).”
Regarding any mention of the behavior or medical history of the student at the center of Gannoe’s struggles earlier in the year, Gannoe wrote in the letter the student was only identified by first name and that any information shared about COVID or any of the student’s other medical history was shared openly with Gannoe and the rest of the class.
“FERPA provides that “information that an official obtained through personal knowledge or observation, or has heard orally from others” is not protected under FERPA. As University Counsel is aware also, there is only guidance provided with respect to a health emergency,” Gannoe said in the letter to Tyree. “I wanted to demonstrate that there was a demand through email to comply or be removed from my class. The attached letter shows my response for safety concerns. What appears publicly from the attorney general in response to the filing is the attorney general’s ruling letter. The inquiry and documents are not visible.”
On Aug. 29, Gannoe received a report from Dixon regarding her hostile work environment claim. The report concludes there was not a preponderance of evidence that she experienced a violation of policy 8.3.3HRR.
“Presently, HR has determined that the known and available evidence and information does not establish by preponderance that you have experienced a violation of 8.3.3HRR based on the information you submitted on June 23, 2022. This decision is final and cannot be appealed,” the report added.
Furthermore, the report states that any concerns relating to the open records request should be handled with the Office of University Counsel. It also states that her claims of discrimination and a hostile work environment are “generally associated with mistreatment based on a person’s membership in a protected class.
The report said Gannoe’s complaint was sent to the Office of Institutional Equity for review under policy 1.2.1POL.
“It is my understanding that you declined to meet with that office. HR subsequently reviewed your concerns from a perspective that protected class status had not been implicated,” Dixon said in the report.
According to Gannoe, no one spoke to any of her suggested witnesses during the time of HR’s investigation.
On Sept. 26, Gannoe was called into another mandatory meeting. Dr. Matthew Winslow attended the meeting with Gannoe as a silent advisor. Hunter, Tyree, Dixon, and Christopher were present in the meeting.
In that meeting, she was given a final written warning and a Post Tenure Review activation document. During that meeting, Gannoe said she was told the document she was given regarding FERPA was not a written warning, but a “coaching document.”
“If you read the policy for Post Tenure Review, it’s really for people who are not exceeding expectations. So their teaching service or scholarships are terrible,” Gannoe said of the policy. “It’s basically a way to make sure that people are teaching what they need to teach, that they’re doing their service and scholarships. They’ve included this number four, ‘in lieu of termination for cause.’ When you got to termination for tenure faculty, it says the termination for cause would be being immoral, being incompetent, or refusing to do your duties or neglect your duties. I’ve continued to do all my classes.”
The Register obtained a Post Tenure Review activation form dated Sept. 26, 2022. It is signed off on by Christopher, with an “X in lieu of immediate dismissal for cause.”
According to policy 4.6.7ACR, Post Tenure Review can only be activated for four causes.
1. Refusal to participate in the annual review process as described in Policy 4.6.17, Annual Review of Tenured Faculty;
2. A “below standards” rating in teaching in the Year Three Review and in the review in the subsequent year as evaluated in Policy 4.6.17, Annual Review of Tenured Faculty, page 2.
3. A “below standards” and “insufficient progress” rating occurring in the same area of deficiency in two consecutive review cycles (see Policy 4.6.17); or
4. A recommendation from the Department Chair, the College Dean, and the Provost to activate the process in lieu of immediate dismissal for cause.
In a third year review memo dated March 10, 2022, former Department Chair Dana Bush noted that Gannoe met expectations in areas of teaching, scholarship, and service.
“Dr. Gannoe is a valued member of the AHS and Child and Family Studies faculty. I am appreciative of her dedication to our students and their success. It is a privilege for me to call her my colleague,” Bush said in the memo obtained by the Register.
The Register obtained an Oct. 18 email from EKU’s Post-Tenure Review (PTR) Committee sent to Associate Provost for Academic Affairs Jennifer Wies. In that email, the committee made up of five faculty members recommended not activating post-tenure review after reviewing documents provided by both Gannoe and Christopher.
“…the PTR Committee determined that there was not sufficient documented evidence of repeated inappropriate behavior or lack of collegiality to warrant initiation of the PTR (post tenure review) warning,” the email read. “HR issued a “Written Warning” on May 26, 2022 and a “Final Written Warning” on Sept. 26, 2022. It appears from the documents provided that HR did not interview any of the witnesses that Dr. Gannoe indicated might be able to offer a different account of the events in question. While it is our understanding that HR is under no obligation to conduct a thorough investigation, or to allow an appeal of a “Written Warning” or a “Final Written Warning,” the PTR Committee is troubled that HR did not undertake greater efforts to meditate the case.”
The PTR committee also made comment on Gannoe’s removal from her classes at the end of the Spring semester.
“… The PTR committee was surprised that administrators would remove a faculty member from a course for one student’s repeated disruptive behavior, particularly when the safety of faculty and students are of concern. The PTR Committee felt that Dr. Gannoe’s removal from the course resolved that particular situation and should not have also resulted in initiation of the PTR process by Dr. Christopher,” the PTR Committee said.
Despite the recommendation from the PTR Committee, Hunter still recommended the activation of the post tenure review process.
“I have reviewed the recommendation of the Post-Tenure Review Committee, including the committee’s justification for their recommendation. I have also reviewed the timeline submitted by the Interim Chair of the Department of Applied Human Sciences, Dr. Karina Christopher, at the time of her recommendation for activating Post-Tenure Review,” Hunter said in an email to Provost Sarah Zeigler. “Finally, I reviewed the notebook provided by Dr. Lisa Gannoe in response to Dr. Christopher’s recommendation… Following these reviews, it is my recommendation that Post-Tenure Review be activated for Dr. Gannoe.”
Zeigler agreed with Hunter and Christopher in her response. She directed Christopher to convene with the Third Year Review Committee to create a professional development plan for Gannoe, who was to have her own consultation to the plan.
Gannoe also reached out to the Office of Institutional Equity, where Dixon is the interim head of this department as well, who also declined to investigate her claim after determining that it did not fit the definition of retaliation, harassment, or discrimination.
When Gannoe questioned John Perrin, an investigator for the aforementioned office, on how her claim did not fit those definitions and if they spoke to any of her witnesses, he merely referred to the attached communication in a previous email.
This lack of response on how her actions were punishable, Gannoe said, is a recurring theme in her situation.
“It (the Post Tenure Review form) says ‘in lieu of cause.’ I’ve asked for cause three times now. What is the cause? John (Dixon) has been dead silent. Legal has been dead silent. Nobody’s answering me. When I keep answering my questions and the next thing I get is, ‘Here’s your third year plan, what do you think about it?’ I think it’s crap,’” Gannoe said.
That third year plan sent to Gannoe for input was obtained by the Register. It’s criteria for completion (for activities varying from bullying, micro-aggressions, and choice of proper interpersonal communication methods) is taking a series of trainings by Dec. 1, 2022 and “demonstrating appropriate disposition as observed and documented by faculty and peers” from the period of Dec. 1, 2022 to March 10, 2023.
Gannoe is resolute in her belief that Post Tenure Review cannot be initiated in lieu of termination without cause being given.
In giving her input to the plan sent to her by Third Year Review committee members Dr. Erin Eliassen, Dr. Rachel Harington (both colleagues of Gannoe’s in Applied Human Sciences), and Dr. Ann Burns, Gannoe shared that email sent to Dixon and Zeigler.
“This is not a refusal of the plan, but activation cannot occur until that cause is provided. I have already been punished for these same things through Human Resources without proof and continuing this process would be being punished twice without reasons provided. My rights have been completely taken away, policies not followed. and my civil rights to free speech and expression are being denied at the university. I am the one being bullied by being told that there will be no further discussion without due process. To agree to this plan would be admitting to guilt, which is not true. I’m sorry that my peers were placed in this position when administration failed to answer and when you have not been provided with the full story,” she said to the Third Year Review committee members via email.
Dixon was CC’d on that email to the Third Year Review Committee as well. She used the opportunity to once again ask him for cause.
“I am once again asking for the reason for cause. If one cannot be provided and you decide to go to a procedure for termination, cause will have to be provided. That would also allow my lawyer to present my full case to the Board of Regents by policy. I believe I like my chances better by finally allowing my story to be heard,” she said.
Gannoe said that including her colleagues Eliassen and Harington on the Third Year Review Committee was an invasion of her privacy. Gannoe emailed Dixon on Nov. 10 on that matter, also referencing her claim that Post-Tenure Review (an academic policy) was being used as a disciplinary policy.
Dixon initially replied the policies were outside of the purview of human resources.
“Dr. Gannoe – I can’t speak to the policies you’ve alluded to below as they are outside the purview of Human Resources. The Office of the Provost is generally the office to direct questions about academic policies,” Dixon said in email.
“You know that Post-Tenure Review can’t be activated without cause. You have told me many times that you hold the 8.3.3 policy which is about employee discipline. You are ultimately responsible for organizing the meeting where I was given a warning and this document at the same time. You cannot exclude yourself from this process. This is discipline being given under an academic policy, which you need to explain,” Gannoe replied.
In response, Dixon said this would be the last time he addressed Gannoe about the Post Tenure Review process.
“Regulation 4.4.7 (Post-Tenure Review) may be used in any instance in which the chair, dean, and provost determine that the behavior of the faculty member is sufficient to warrant termination. These decisions are made by those administrators, although there is always consultation with Human Resources and Counsel to ensure a thoughtful and appropriate decision. The disclosure of FERPA-protected information in a public document alone was sufficient to warrant termination,” Dixon said. “The tone of your written communications that I have reviewed directly is also sufficient to warrant termination. The chair (Christopher) recommended that you be afforded an opportunity to address these concerns and retain your employment. Post-tenure review may run concurrently with action under 8.3.3 (Employee Conduct).”
Dixon also said Gannoe had been afforded all processes available in the regulations and that the decision was final and not subject to appeal. In the most recent exchange with Gannoe since the process began, she invoked the right of free speech.
“Policy 4.1.1 states that college and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline. The beginning of the Post-Tenure Review policy states: ‘Tenured faculty members at Eastern Kentucky University share the responsibility to maintain an appropriate level of teaching, scholarly/creative activities, and service Per Policy 4.6.7, Annual Review of Tenured Faculty, all departments/units will establish performance standards and procedures for the review of tenured faculty.’ There is nothing in that policy that says the behavior of the faculty member is sufficient to warrant termination,” Gannoe said.
Throughout the entire situation, Gannoe said she has been teaching and performing her duties the same as she would under normal circumstances.
The professor said she feels that her reputation and career have been permanently damaged by Christopher’s accusations against her. She also believes the scenario currently in place began with her speaking out about the tensions with the student that boiled over this past spring.
Gannoe worries that other staff and faculty members risk facing the same circumstances with human resources that she has. She also said since her initial complaint, some protocols at EKU have changed.
“They’ve changed how they do their SAIT reports about students… I found out from Matt Winslow that they had a meeting to talk about re-doing faculty grievances… They invited two Union people to that. They’ve also changed the way they do evaluations at the end of the semester… For the things that have anything to do with my complaint, they’ve made their changes,” Gannoe said.
The Register reached out to Dr. Mary Sciaraffa for information on what happened during the May 6 faculty search committee meeting. Sciaraffa declined to comment.
When asked for a statement on the university’s process for retaliation and hostile work environment claims, the university sent this comment to the Register.
“The university takes all reports of possible workplace concerns seriously, including reports of retaliation, and makes every effort to respond to such reports as quickly as possible. To that end, EKU has multiple policies and processes in place to address different types of workplace situations. Employees and supervisors receive annual training on how to identify and prevent such behavior, and the university has a robust reporting and investigation process, which covers both student and employee complaints. You can review EKU HR policy 1.4.1POL,” the statement read.