Risk of censure ignites action

Emma Dejong

Emma DejongManaging Editor

SDSU’s Faculty Senate and Students’ Association have joined the professional organizations for investigating the way, not the reason, former Extension Entomologist Mike Catangui was fired.

Catangui was relieved of his position, partially because he followed the results of his own research versus requirements used in other states that dictate when to spray for soybean aphids.

SDSU attorney Rich Helsper, President David Chicoine’s executive assistant Bob Otterson and Plant Science Department Head Sue Blodgett said they could not comment on the details of Catangui’s case because it is a personnel matter.

Catangui was given a faculty hearing panel in August after he had been fired. The panel determined the university was justified in firing him.

Gregory Scholtz, AAUP associate secretary and director, wrote his third letter to President David Chicoine Sept. 10 regarding AAUP’s stance on Catangui’s case. Scholtz said the panel decided that the “evidence presented to it adequately supports Professor Catangui’s being dismissed on grounds of insubordination and unprofessional behavior.”

However, AAUP has stated that the university did not follow the collective agreement between the Board of Regents and the South Dakota Council of Higher Education (SDSU’s faculty labor union) because Catangui was fired before having the faculty panel, and again before the panel disclosed its results.

Scholtz expressed AAUP’s wishes that the panel would have placed more value on Catangui’s academic freedom.

“We regret that the panel viewed the chair’s allegations of “insubordination’ as more significant than Professor Catangui’s allegations that academic freedom has been violated,” Scholtz said.

The SDSU Faculty Senate and the Students’ Association have both formally discussed taking an active role in the situation, not necessarily because of the decision to fire Catangui, but because of the procedures used.

“Our concern is the proper consideration of academic freedom and due process when there is a perception they may have done wrong,” said Paul Johnson, Faculty Senate chairperson. “The available data shows there is a breach of both.”

At its Sept. 14 meeting, the Faculty Senate passed a resolution to look into Catangui’s case as the situation could potentially result in a censure by the AAUP of all schools in the state’s regental system. The executive committee of the Faculty Senate met with Catangui Sept. 21 to gain as much information as he was able to provide. The Senate plans to go over this information and discuss future action on Sept. 28.

However, Helsper said the university stands by “following the process that’s been agreed to by the COHE group and the Board of Regents.”

“I know no reason why it was violated at all,” Helsper said. “The process is just proceeding.”

On Sept. 20 SA discussed Resolution 10-08-R, which would request “the implementation of a policy that prevents SDSU faculty from being unfairly dismissed.”

Marysz Rames, vice president of student affairs and SA adviser, said this resolution would not be adding a new policy.

“I believe there [currently] is a policy in place for faculty dismissal,” Rames said.

SA voted to postpone the resolution until Oct. 4 after the Faculty Senate meets so more information would be available.

“Prudence would have us wait on the issue,” SA Finance Chair Anthony Sutton said.

Individuals have speculated that the reasons for his termination are more than what has been documented.

“These things happen and there’s a motive behind it,” Catangui said. “What’s being accomplished here for SDSU?”

“Or if you reverse the questions,” Johnson said, “Who was Mike the most threat to?”

Catangui said that he cannot speak for the department’s reasons for firing him.

“Our objective was to pursue the truth so we could serve our farmers in the state better,” Catangui said. “We were never forward in recommending that people follow us. We were just one study; we welcome collaborations.”

Catangui is waiting for the decisions of those investigating his case before moving forward.

“My plan is to follow the advice of COHE and the AAUP,” Catangui said. “This is not just about me anymore. It’s about principles, and it’s about academic freedom. In the long run, it’s about SDSU.”

#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