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ADEPT Library - Case Studies -- Carl Anders

Color Coded Key to Decision/Illumination Points in PTAC Cases without Storylines: Procedural and Bias. Insert annotated references as indicated

[Issues: disability, change of department administration, and teaching schedule]

Carl Anders, Ph.D. in Computer Science from Indiana University, accepted an appointment as an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science of a prestigious research university after a two-year post-doctoral appointment at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Anders negotiated carefully with the university regarding specific needs based on his disability, a cervical spinal cord injury limiting arm function. He used a power wheelchair for mobility and could not drive so he remained dependent on public (bus) and paratransit (private) transportation. Anders had recurrent pressure ulcers that he managed by limiting his sitting time. Because he could not transfer independently, Anders avoided sitting more than 8 hours at a time. Because his bus commute was 45 minutes, he limited his on-campus time to 6 ½ hours per day. At home, he was able to work from his bed to which he could transfer by using a ceiling-mounted lift. This permitted him to work longer hours at home than he could work on campus. (add handbook or legal requirements on accommodation of disabilities)

The department chair hiring Anders assured him that the university's computer science department had great flexibility regarding course schedules and that the size of the faculty permitted the scheduler to meet individual needs regarding day/time of course meetings. Anders insisted on having a clause in his contract indicating the department would do all in its power to reasonably accommodate Anders' disability by scheduling courses within the period of 10 am-4 pm, preferably on a two-day schedule. This schedule assured that Anders would be able to travel efficiently via public transportation by avoiding a longer rush hour commute that would take a physical toll on him.

During his first three years at the university, the department scheduled Anders for a graduate course and an undergraduate course, within his preferred time period and generally according to a two-day schedule, but sometimes with the graduate course scheduled for a third day. In this time, Anders published more than the average faculty member each year, eventually producing 35 papers, co-authoring a book with a colleague from another university, and organizing program committees for significant conferences. He also partnered with his collaborator on an industry grant to work on accessible computing interfaces for the legally blind. Anders' teaching evaluations were excellent; students reported that he frequently met with them on-campus on his teaching days, and encouraged them to use email, to phone, or to visit him at his home office by appointment on other days. He served in his second year on a departmental search committee and in his third year on the university's Presidential Commission for the Disabled.

Anders' work schedule did not cause any controversy during the period prior to his third-year review. He generally spent three days working on campus. His office and lab were made accessible for a power wheelchair and only minor computer equipment purchases were needed to permit Anders to use them effectively. The other two weekdays (plus weekends) he worked from his home office 10 miles from campus. On occasion (perhaps three or four times each term) he would come to special department, interest group, and committee meetings and other events outside of his normal schedule, scheduling paratransit at his own expense.

Anders' third-year critical review garnered him a very favorable evaluation from the departmental committee and praise from his outgoing chair. His colleagues remarked on the originality of his research, his dedication to his students, and his continuing, fruitful collaboration with his colleague, which was expected to lead to the creation of a university center on adaptive technologies for human-machine interfaces.

During Anders' fourth year at the university, the department welcomed a new chair, hired from outside the institution. Facing a period of budget problems dominated by the need to save money and use resources wisely, the new chair did not feel bound to honor any previous commitments made to individual faculty, and pronounced a “clean slate” on policies and procedures. As a result, the department scheduler was instructed to make sure the classrooms were used efficiently and to treat the faculty the same. Under the new protocol, faculty would alternate two-day and three-day teaching schedules depending on the term. In addition, all faculty members were enjoined to work from their department offices except during periods of vacation or professional travel to better serve the mission of on-campus instruction and advisement. Anders immediately set an appointment to discuss his needs and request for reasonable accommodation with the new chair. He was assured by the chair that although she understood the difficulties of his situation and was supportive of his arrangement to work from home occasionally, “it would not be right” for the department to accommodate his needs to teach on specific days on a permanent basis and that he would need to make his requests each term. Anders consulted with the campus office on disability; the human resources representative accordingly spoke with Anders’ chair to explain that the department ought to do all it could to accommodate Anders’ need for a restricted schedule, even if it meant that other faculty (i.e., those without disabilities) might not have their scheduling preferences met. This negotiation improved Anders’ schedule, but he noticed that his relationship with his chair became less cordial.

By the time of promotion and tenure, Anders' record looked more erratic than it had at the time of critical review. Letters of reference indicated that his work, especially the earlier papers, were highly regarded and even "inspirational" for others in his field. His overall publishing productivity was below average, as his productivity had diminished significantly in the last two years. The center (which he co-directed) garnered some funding from industry affiliates and alumni, but not extensive levels. His teaching scores had also dipped. In terms when he was on a three-day schedule with classes offered early in the morning or later at night, students reported that Anders was often late or had to leave early and appeared clipped and brusque, encouraging students to use email to correspond rather than to meet with him outside of class. Some members of the committee had heard Anders complain about the change of departmental leadership in terms of a breach of agreement, but consultation with the unit chair did not bear out any substance to this line of argument – she indicated that he received special considerations of schedule flexibility and office hours compared with other faculty. (add guidelines from best practices on how to handle extraneous information beyond vita and direct statements)

At the promotion and tenure committee meeting, one member notes that some graduate students had complained about Anders’ lack of accessibility. Others recall that the chair had commented on Anders not attending a number of departmental lunches and other events related to his areas of research and that he was not often in his office. (add bias study on disabilities; also perhaps family responsibilities)

As a member of the promotion and tenure committee evaluating Anders, how would you respond to the concern that his record demonstrates diminished productivity and that he was not a team player in the departmental efforts to achieve excellence?