Sunday, January 21, 2007

Still Unethical in Illinois

The controversy over the Illinois ethics test keeps raging. Below is a press release about the issue.

What needs to happen is for all the universities in Illinois to stand up and say that employees who completed the training, regardless of the time it took, fully obeyed the state law and cannot be punished in any way. And then they need to follow the law, which says that the governing units of the employees (the universities themselves) are the ones who get to develop the ethics training (which under the law need not take any particular time nor include a quiz). Imagine if faculty and staff developed a real ethics training relevant to academic issues, instead of this dumbed-down nonsense pushed by state bureaucrats who have falsely maligned faculty and accused them of cheating for completing a stupid quiz in very little time.

At this time, four SIUC Professors have refused to sign forms stating that they are guilty of non-compliance with the Illinois Ethics Test and face disciplinary action involving penalties “up to and including termination of employment” from the Office of the Illinois Inspector General’s Office. In an article that appeared in the January 19 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (“A slow burn over speedy tests” by Kavita Kumar), deputy inspector general Jimenez is quoted as saying that his office has the power to fire university employees who refuse to sign a document incriminating themselves, despite the fact that they all successfully passed the test.

One of the “non-compliant” offenders who sent back the form last week with a letter to the inspector general was University of Illinois at Springfield adjunct professor Stuart Shiffman who finished the training in 3.7 minutes. This unethical professor has ten years experience as a prosecutor, 22 years as judge and teaches classes on ethics for judges and has written about judicial ethics. These facts have been dismissed by Jimenez.

This week SIU Ethics Officer Corey Bradford will write a report to the Inspector General’s Office and await a reply that will order SIU to fire four professors. They are all tenured senior professors from the English and Mathematics Departments. The English Professors are Tony Williams and Beth Lordan (a nationally recognized creative writer and head of the SIU Creative Writing Faculty) while SIU NEA President Marvin Zeman and another professor are from the Mathematics Department.

To date, SIU higher administration has not defended its 255 employees from the allegation made by Jimenez that those who completed the test in less than then minutes cheated by using “cheat sheets.” However, despite the refusal of SIU administrators to defend employees accused of fraud, the NEA is bringing a legal injunction against the state of Illinois and the SIU Faculty Union has already instituted grievance proceedings against the higher administration.

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