FPC denies Gubanc’s appeal

by Ben Frotscher

Susanne Gubanc, assistant professor of communications, has lost her appeal to the Faculty Personnel Committee about its decision to remove her from tenure track and give her a terminal contract.

Academic Dean Bruce Haddox informed Gubanc, who is in her third year at Simpson, of the decision on Feb. 20.

Gubanc couldn’t say why her appeal was rejected because she still hopes to overturn it, but she said the overall process has been difficult.

“As best as I can discover, no one in my position has ever been able to overturn an appeal, I certainly went in knowing history was against me,” Gubanc said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be any easy road.”

Gubanc met with Bruce Sloan, the chair of the FPC, and told him that she wanted to appeal the decision. The appeal occurred on Feb. 15.

“The same committee that has already rejected you, hears the case again,” Gubanc said.

The FPC is made up of five members, two of whom must be full professors. The committee members all must be tenured because they make decisions concerning tenure. Haddox sits in with the committee, but isn’t a voting member.

Sloan declined to comment on Gubanc’s appeal.

Haddox, however, said the committee had acted fairly.

“I will say that the committee did listen very carefully and read all of her documents, meeting on two separate occasions,” Haddox said. “They gave quite a bit of time, consideration and discussion to the situation.”

Haddox stands by the process of reappointment.

“It was clearly the judgment of the principal people, the chair and those involved in making those judgments, that in the light of the future of the department a change was necessary,” Haddox said. “It was not a personal thing, it had to deal with the department and the judgment of these people.”

The appeal to the FPC isn’t the last step for Gubanc. She’s appealed to President John Byrd because he has the final say in personnel decisions, and Gubanc will meet with Byrd on Mar. 9.

Haddox said the appeal to the president is the last step in Simpson’s process of appeals.

“The president has the final appeal on almost anything that happens around here,” Haddox said.

Gubanc wrote a formal letter to Byrd asking him to review the case, which is the traditional method of appealing to the president.

“The president then studies all of the relevant material and decides how he wants to do it,” Haddox said. “He may interview all of the principals, he may not. It’s not spelled out exactly, but he’ll take his time and familiarize himself, and make the final judgment.”

The appeal process at Simpson isn’t common, although Haddox said it’s normal for people to not have their contracts renewed.

“It’s unusual, but it isn’t unusual for people to not get another contract,” Haddox said. “It’s not regular, but every year someone at the college doesn’t get reappointed – it may not be a faculty member, it may be an administrator or staff member.”

Haddox said appeals like Gubanc’s are rarely successful.

“It’s rare and the reason why it’s rare is because the process involves so many people and gets vetted in so many different ways that it has to be an unusual situation [for it to be overturned],” Haddox said.

While the amount of reappointment appeals have been few, Haddox said there have been other circumstances involving reappointment.

“There was one case where the person was recommended for reappointment by the chair and the committee did not accept the chair’s recommendations, and recommended not reappointing the person,” Haddox said.

He said the process just comes down to facts.

“This appeal process is not just jumping through hoops for the sake of form, you make your case and sometimes there is merit and sometimes it doesn’t work out,” Haddox said.

Gubanc said the whole thing has been an interesting venture for her.

“This is a process that takes awhile,” Gubanc said. “He [Byrd] has to review all of the material that has been presented by me and others. No one here has ever been able to change the course of this, so it’s been an interesting struggle.”

Gubanc said she’s confident in her fight to retain her current position.

“I feel confident that I deserve to be on this campus and I deserve to be teaching,” Gubanc said. “I am confident in that I think that I do a good job. I’m confident in the materials that I put together so in that particular way, I’m very confident. Am I confident that I can turn the tide? I am always optimistic, but I’m also a realist.”

If the presidential appeal is denied, Gubanc said she doesn’t know what her course of action will be.

Even though Gubanc can’t say anything about the reappointment appeal, she said she’s appreciated the effort by students to make themselves heard.

“I’ve appreciated all of the students’ support, to hear their voices and to know they were interested,” Gubanc said. “Generation Y and generation X are often maligned as being an uncaring, apathetic, egotistical group of people and I am finding just the opposite. This support is a sign that they care about things and people and stuff that matter to them.”

Haddox said he also appreciated the effort by the students.

“I thought the students who got up early in the morning and demonstrated at 7 o’clock in the cold, I appreciated them and I appreciated their attitude,” Haddox said. “They did it well.”

Sophomore Laura Hersom appreciates Gubanc as a professor who challenges her students.

“Her quizzes always made us use our improvisational talents to think fast and use what we learned,” Hersom said.

Hersom said she doesn’t understand why the college isn’t reappointing Gubanc.

“You would think that Simpson would want more professors like Gubanc, but I hope she can find a job where she is more appreciated for her talents,” Hersom said.

Gubanc said she’s also appreciated the supportive e-mails from concerned students and alumni, as well as visits from faculty members who have come to her in private.

Students have shown their support through some protesting, but also through a Facebook.com group called Students for the Ethical Treatment of Susanne Gubanc. Currently, there are 62 members.

While Gubanc is excited to see students caring, she wishes it didn’t have to deal with her.

“I wish it hadn’t been me where they showed how they felt about something, but we should be impressed when students raise their voices like this – that they can get together and come up with a plan,” Gubanc said. “I think they have been the high point of the past four months.”