Faculty reviews dismissal

Emma Dejong

Emma Dejong Managing Editor

The SDSU Academic Senate decided Sept. 14 to take an active role in the situation involving former Extension Entomologist Mike Catangui and his recent termination.

The Academic Senate took issue with the allegation that the university did not follow the protocol outlined in the collective bargaining agreement between the Board of Regents and the South Dakota Council of Higher Education (SDSU’s labor union), according to the American Association of University Professors.

SDSU officials have declined to comment about personnel matters, but Rich Helsper, SDSU’s attorney, made a general statement that SDSU “follows the COHE agreement to the letter,” and “every faculty member is afforded all due process rights, not only under general law, but under the COHE agreement.”

The BOR fired Catangui June 21 for reasons that have not been completely made public. Helsper confirmed that part of the reason for Catangui’s termination is that he followed his own research, instead of a mandated requirement, in deciding when to spray for the removal of soybean aphids.

“Really it’s becoming a public issue at this point because there is a serious threat that the university is going to get a censure from AAUP,” said Bill Adamson, president of the SDSU chapter of COHE.

The Academic Senate voted to wait until its Sept. 28 meeting to finalize any sort of plan, giving members time to think about the case and then decide on appropriate action. Part of the reason for the extended time frame is because senators said there is likely important information that has not been released that may influence their decisions. The extended time period gives senators time to gather information they believe exists that could influence their final decision.

“We’re sort of stuck with the information flow,” said Paul Johnson, entomology professor and chairperson of Academic Senate.

Senators Sandy Smart, animal and range sciences associate professor, and Patty Hacker, a health, physical education and recreations professor, said they think there is information that they likely won’t be able to know.

“There’s something darker under the surface,” Smart said. “Somebody’s out to get somebody.” Hacker agreed.

“There is a distinct possibility that there is something under the surface we will never be privy to because it’s a personnel issue,” Patty Hacker said. “…I would hesitate to push something forward for immediacy knowing what the ramifications are going to be down the road.”

In an attempt to get the necessary information, the senate plans to invite Catangui to the Executive Committee of the Academic Senate, which will meet Sept. 21, to see if there is any information he would want to discuss with the five senators on that committee.

Out of a five-step grievance process, Catangui’s case is currently the fourth step, which is the BOR level. Both COHE and the AAUP have stated that the fact Catangui was fired before the grievance process ended is part of what could lead to a censure.

“The problem is that the termination process is preempting the grievance process,” Adamson said.

Political science professor Delmer Lonowski, SDSU’s AAUP representative said the AAUP is waiting for the grievance process to conclude before deciding whether or not to investigate a possible censure.

However, Adamson said an investigation is very likely.

“If you read between the lines, the AAUP will probably conduct an investigation,” he said. “They won’t censure just SDSU. They’ll censure all the universities in the entire BOR system.”

A censure would be a mark on the universities in the regental system that would show deficient practices in academic freedom.

The Academic Senate recognizes the seriousness of this issue.

“Now is a good time to make a statement about what is fair and right,” Hacker said. “We need to say something and then be willing to stand behind it.”

#1.1599562:295684540.jpg:Mike Catangui:The SDSU Academic Senate decided Sept. 14 to take an active role in the situation involving former Extension Entomologist Mike Catangui and his recent termination.:File Photo