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Cyber-stalking at Alfred State College

By Jackie O'Neal

In 2007, when I first spoke to Dr. Uma Gupta about writing an investigative piece
about her experience as the target of cyber-predators during her Presidency at
Alfred State College,in upstate New York, my creative juices immediately began
flowing as Dr. Uma Gupta and I examined the compelling elements: the harassment of
women of color in leadership, a remote, rural campus, the prevalence of ethical
violations, anonymous, vituperative blog, and most importantly an urgent need to
dispel myths with factual evidence. Dan Noyes of The Center For Investigative
Reporting affirmed, “ Knowing the facts is essential to educating and organizing
citizens so they can participate in decision making that affects their lives.”
Dr. Uma Gupta impressed me as a progressive, dedicated leader committed to change.
I had read about her relief effort after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans
and how she had mobilized a group of students on a journey to New Orleans working
side by side with Hands on USA, a volunteer organization to offer a supportive
presence to the victims. I felt empathetic towards Dr. Uma Gupta because I also
had experienced the indignities of working in a climate replete with unethical
behavior, and lack of accountability. But this is the story of Dr. Uma Gupta a
former President of Alfred State College in Alfred, New York during her tenure
from 2003-2006. Dr. Gupta, by all accounts and performance measures, was a highly
successful President. Enrollment was on the rise, fund-raising broke all records,
new programs were launched, capital construction was one of the largest, and
several first-time leadership initiatives to strengthen and serve the community.
Still, a successful presidency was derailed and the president was defamed because
of the actions of anonymous bloggers, whose identity was later revealed. This blog
shares the events and circumstances that led to repeated attacks on Dr. Gupta and
the lessons that higher education stakeholders can learn from it. According to
the New York State Assembly, a recent research study conducted by the United
States Department of Justice concludes that “one in twelve women will be stalked
during her lifetime and one out of every forty-five men will be stalked during his
lifetime. The study further estimated that 1,006,970 women and 370,990 men are
stalked annually.” New York State`s Stalking Law was enacted in 1999. Since that
time, the availability of new and ever more sophisticated technological means
which can be utilized by a stalker to further his or her purpose has greatly
increased. Tracy Bahm, Director of the Stalking Resource Center (a part of the
National Center for Victims of Crime) has stated; "As society and technology
evolve, stalkers will always find new ways to harass their victims."

There are many examples of excellent persons like Dr. Uma Gupta who have worked
hard for the common good, and been persecuted. Dr. Uma Gupta led the college with
integrity, courage, vision and consequently made significant inroads:
Steady increase in enrollment for two straight years resulting in a request
to system administration to increase the institution’s enrollment target.
The collaborative development of a visionary five-year strategic plan which
earned high praise from the Middle States Accreditation team as “…very well
conceived…” with specific praise for leadership that created “…an atmosphere of
mutual trust and cooperation.”
The college secured an unprecedented state appropriation of five million
dollars for a visionary regional economic development initiative.
Number of international students increased by 35% in two years.
Women and minorities were hired to fill key leadership positions.
Fund-raising increased 16% first year and 17% second year. Unrestricted
donors and unrestricted dollars increased multiple folds.
For the first time in a decade, the college submitted a balanced budget.
Close to 10 new associate and baccalaureate programs were launched.
Started the largest building boom since 1960s valued at $31 million.
In fostering change, Dr. Uma Gupta was confronted with several challenges, and yet
she embraced them head on and advanced the institution in ways that were far-
reaching and have made a significant difference evidenced even today. So what
motivated an influential group of veterans to stall progress by initiating an
anonymous blog? Were they richly benefiting from the status quo? Were they
racist? These and many other provocative questions will be explored in greater
depth and our loyal reader’s questions are welcomed as well. Please submit them
via the comments section of this blog.
Events that led up to the anonymous blog:
At the beginning of her tenure at ASC, a technology college with approximately
3500 students and situated in a small, bucolic village with a population of 2000,
respondents of a campus wide survey revealed a climate of fear, intimidation,
fiscal mismanagement, a “good old boys” network, and an environment with a high
tolerance for unethical behavior.

Dr. Uma Gupta, a former President of Alfred State College in Alfred, New York
directly observed ethical violations that transpired at the college during her
tenure from 2003-2006. She reached out to the S.U.N.Y. Board of Trustees in
writing to report violations of Board of Trustees policies and procedures, lack of
financial checks and balances, and a hostile workplace environment in relation to
women and minorities, but was ignored despite well-documented evidence to the
contrary.

In early December 2005, Alfred College underwent an accreditation from the Middle
States Commission on Higher Education. Led by the President of Penn Tech, Dr.
Davie Jane Gilmour, the team consisted of twelve distinguished faculty.

During the exit interview, Dr. Gilmour tipped Dr. Uma Gupta off about the then
Vice President of Administrative Affairs and Enrollment Manager, Mr. James Grillo
and the team’s unanimous opinion that he was undermining Dr. Gupta’s vision. Dr.
Gilmour expressed concern on behalf of the team related to what was observed to be
in an open letter later written to the Faculty Senate by Dr. Gupta, “ a leadership
style that was abrasive and detrimental to the success of the institution’s
future.”

Dr. Gilmour and his team made the recommendation that all budget responsibility
which was at the time managed by Mr. Grillo, be reassigned. Dr. Gupta hastened
to follow the recommendation by conveying grave concerns to Mr. Grillo both by e-
mail and face to face. She initiated the process of re-assigning budget
responsibilities to another vice president just a week or so before leaving the
country for a brief vacation.
It was during Dr. Gupta’s absence that Mr. Grillo contested his re-assignment by
enlisting the support of another senior administrator, writing to the Chancellor,
and requesting central administration’s intervention on his behalf to stop the re-
assignment. These events led to the insidious attacks on Dr. Gupta’s leadership,
the launch of an anonymous, vituperative blog, and an investigation by an
independent Buffalo law firm that would reveal unethical, fraudulent activity,
violations of New York State’s policies and procedures, SUNY Board of Trustees
policies and procedures and IRS violations – all on the part of Mr. James Grillo.
A Timely Tip- Off

In March 2005, after the Accreditation team's exit interview, The team Chair, Dr.
Davie Jane Gilmour, President of Penn Tech College during the exit interview with
the President shared the team's unanimous findings and opinion that the Vice
President of Administrative Affairs and Enrollment Manager, Mr. James Grillo was
sabotaging the efforts of Dr. Gupta and was openly and blatantly undermining her
leadership. The team chair indicated that the team heard enough concern from the
campus community about Mr. Grillo's intentions and his "connections in the
community" to undermine the president. Dr. Gilmour also expressed the team's
opinion that the responsibility for the campus budget should be reassigned from
Mr. Grillo. The accreditation team indicated that the current set up was a
potential conflict of interest because Mr. Grillo was also managing the marketing
and enrollment budget.

Speaking on behalf of the team, Dr. Gilmour also expressed apprehension about the
performance of the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Karla Back. It was
observed that Dr. Karla Back had not been responsive to the needs of the
accreditation team and that they were not impressed with what they saw and heard.
The team did not make any recommendations about Dr. Back or her duties, but simply
advised the president to be guarded.

Karla Back had assumed the title of Vice President for Academic Affairs in August
of 2004, appeared to be negligent of her duties and coming under strong scrutiny
as she continued to fail in meeting expectations. Dr. Uma Gupta initiated a
series of meetings, strategic counseling sessions, written .communications, yet
Karla Back continued to be negligent and refused to take any corrective actions
related to her poor performance which included but was not limited to budgetary
oversight. Ironically, Dr. Uma Gupta had divulged her concerns about Karla Back
to Mr. Grillo and asked his advice, anecdotal records indicate.
Independent law firm investigation: Findings

Public records indicate that not long after Mr. James Grillo had been re-assigned
to a faculty position, a discovery was made that demonstrated the he had engaged
in fraudulent activity during his tenure of Vice President of Academic Affairs.
Dr. Gupta was advised by SUNY General Counsel to initiate an independent
investigation, and hence, a Buffalo firm, Mackenzie and Hughes was retained.
In a report dated February 8, 2006, Mackenzie and Hughes asserted: “Mr. Grillo
failed to live up to his responsibilities as Vice President for Administration at
the college. It is our recommendation that due to the serious nature of Mr.
Grillo’s actions and inaction, as well as the lack of judgment he demonstrated in
connection with the Barrett compensation matter, he should not be considered for
any administrative position in the future.”
The firm’s report summarizes an interview with Deborah Putman, interviewed on Dec.
20, 2005. At the time of the interview, she was Vice President of Administrative
Affairs and Technology services at Alfred State College. Ms. Putnam asserted that
Gerry Barrett had worked as Chief of Police for many years at ASC. He had retired
in 2003. In spite of his retirement, the college continued employing him as
Interim Police Officer for a period of time during which a replacement was sought.
According to Ms Putnam’s understanding, Mr. Barrett was on the payroll of both the
college and ACES. In her interview, Ms. Putman further asserted that after a new
Chief of Police was hired, Mr. Barrett filed for unemployment benefits from the
college.
During a meeting with Mr. Tom Massara, Executive Director, Auxiliary Campus
Enterprises and Services, Inc. at Alfred State College, Massara informed Ms.
Putnam that Mr. Barrett was being compensated for his audit preparation work
through an ACES agency account, but during the interview, Massara also disclosed
to Ms. Putman that an agreement had been worked out between Grillo and Barrett to
pay receipts from various vendors as reimbursement for Mr. Barrett’s personal
expenses” in lieu of direct payments to Barrett for the work he had performed.
During the interview, Massara produced a copy of a letter dated Feb. 10, 2005
which outlined the terms.
Records show the results of the interview with Mr. James Grillo and state that
during the on campus meeting on Jan. 3, 2006, Grilllo questioned the authority of
Mackenzie Hughes LLP had from the State of New York to conduct an investigation
into the Barrett compensation matter. Further, Grillo asserted that he had
nothing wrong or unethical and that “the SUNY people in Albany had already made a
finding that there was no fraud involved” in anything he had done. He further
affirmed, as the record indicates that it was belief that the investigation
conducted by Mackenzie Hughes was nothing more than a “witch hunt.” He then
demanded to know whether the investigation conducted was a criminal investigation,
and was assured by the law firm that it was not.
Mackenzie Hughes concluded in their findings that Mr. Grillo had engaged in
unethical behavior, violated the policies and procedures of SUNY Board of
trustees, and potentially committed violations IRS regulations.

University Faculty Senate v. Middle States Accreditation reports: Clarifications

In September of 2005, Dr. Uma Gupta received a call from the then Executive Vice
Chancellor, Betty Capaldi asserting that Chancellor Ryan had made a recommendation
that a visit from the University Faculty Senate would be appropriate.
Consequently, in October 2005, a few months after the Middle States Commission of
Higher Education visit and resulting positive feedback in its institutional
accreditation report related to the leadership style of Dr. Uma Gupta, the
University Faculty Senate (UFS) was invited in good faith., to address rumor-
mongering and governance process violations of the new Chair of the Faculty
Senate, an ex-administrator who was removed from his position by the President for
unprofessional conduct. (Faculty Senate at each State University of New York
campus elects one Senator to serve as its representative on the UFS). The UFS
appointed five system senators to visit Alfred State College, but declined to
include Presidents, Vice Presidents, Deans or other off-campus senior
administrators to be a part of its team.
Information published in a New York Times article by Michelle York, June 21, 2006
affirmed that “The President of Alfred State College whose leadership was the
focus of a rare, three-month investigation by state education officials last
year…”
It would appear that the New York Times article (and later The Chronicle of Higher
Education) used the term investigation erroneously. Well-documented evidence
shows that the presence of the UFS visitation team was not the result of an
“investigation,” but rather an invitation in good faith by senior administration,
upon the recommendation of the system Chancellor, to address rumor-mongering and
governance process violations of the new Chair of the Faculty Senate, an ex-
administrator who was removed from his position by the President for
unprofessional conduct as stated earlier.
If Dr. Uma Gupta had received a positive evaluation regarding her collaborative
leadership style from the Middle States Accreditation team a semester earlier,
what would a University Faculty Senate” investigation,” as termed by the New York
Times purport to examine? The word vestigare has its roots in Latin meaning to
track or trace. What elements related to Dr. Gupta’s leadership did the
University Faculty Senate establish were absent and needed further tracing above
and beyond what was already fact- from all documented accounts, Dr. Uma Gupta had
passed muster, so to speak with the Middle States Accreditation in relation to her
leadership of Alfred State College. Further, Dr. Gupta was open to transparency.
After comparing the Middle States Accreditation report to the statement in the New
York Times article and the University Faculty Senate’s findings in their report, I
discovered many inconsistencies.
For example, The UFS report cited serious challenges to fund-raising and in
contrast the Middle States Accreditation report noted the following facts:
For the first time in its hundred-year history, the college secured an
unprecedented five million dollars in state funding to turn around an academic
program and launch a new economic development initiative hailed as "ground-
breaking and visionary."
• • Fund-raising increased 16% in the first year and 17% in the second
year.
• Unrestricted donors increased nearly 500% between 04-05 and 05-06. (40
donors to 242 donors)


• The college experienced a 338% increase in unrestricted dollars in two
years.
• For the first-time, several new alumni chapters were launched.
• • The Brick campaign was launched for the first time and raised many
friends and funds.
• The alumni magazine got a new look and feel and web communications were
launched for the first time. Said one donor, "We went from looking like a Penny
Saver magazine to looking like GQ!"
The University Faculty Senate report noted falsely that one manifestation is that
the College's enrollment goal for the Fall 2005 semester was not met, resulting in
a revenue shortfall which will require budget balancing in the near years and the
likely postponement of important plans. Conversely, the Middle States
Accreditation report asserted that on December 12, 2005 (around the same time
the UFS team was writing its report) the President, at the recommendation of the
Vice President for Enrollment Management, requested system administration to
INCREASE the 06-07 enrollment target because of strong enrollment growth. However,
the increased target was not met. System administration noted that other
technology colleges in New York were also experiencing a slight decline in
enrollment. The campus was unable to achieve this increase (difference between
original target and requested increase) because of unanticipated attrition. In an
email to the President dated 8/26/2005 the Vice President for Enrollment
Management noted: "Our attrition last year was terrible - 12.4 in the fall and 9.5
in the spring. We lost 450 students from the beginning of fall to the beginning
of spring alone. In spring we lost another 300. We didn't stand a prayer of
making our continuing target based on that alone. We had 1779 continuing students
at fall census last year and we were projecting 1828 for the year as our target."
Finally, barely a semester before these inaccurate statements were made, the
accreditation team observed, "The institution has been very successful in
increasing enrollment, especially in the four-year programs."
Additionally, the University Faculty Senate report noted that progress on the
agenda had been stalled and successful implementation uncertain while on the other
hand, the Middle States Accreditation report cited that Alfred State College
achieved significant milestones under this administrative team. A few of these
include:
• - Significant increase in enrollment for two years in a row that
prompted administration to seek system's approval to increase enrollment targets.
Alfred State College achieved significant milestones under this administrative
team. A few of these include:
• * A Significant increase in enrollment for two years in a row that
prompted administration to seek system's approval to increase enrollment targets.
• * One of the most successful Middle States accreditation reports (the
College received only one recommendation – an extraordinary accomplishment
according to the team itself).
• * Developed an institutional strategic plan in a highly collaborative
and cohesive manner that won rave reviews from the accreditation team.
• * Launched capital construction projects worth nearly $31 million
dollars. Town homes were built for the first time to support baccalaureate
students.
• * Fund-raising soared. Detailed data has been presented elsewhere.
• * Transparent and consultative budget building processes were initiated
for the first time. Balanced budget submitted for the first time in many years.
• * Many new academic programs were developed, including first-time ever
seamless programs for vocational students to pursue a baccalaureate degree, and
several successful external program reviews were launched
• * Successful recruitment of women and minorities in key administrative
positions.
• * Turned around an agricultural enterprise and an educational farm lab
that was making significant financial losses for more than two decades.
• * Established a first-time Office of International Education and
international students increased by nearly 35% in two years.
• * Established a first-time Office for Transfer Students and transfer
students increased significantly.
• *- One of the most successful Middle States accreditation reports (the
College received only one recommendation – an extraordinary accomplishment
according to the team itself).
• * Developed an institutional strategic plan in a highly collaborative
and cohesive manner that won rave reviews from the accreditation team.
• * Launched capital construction projects worth nearly $31 million
dollars. Town homes were built for the first time to support baccalaureate
students.
• * Fund-raising soared. Detailed data has been presented elsewhere.
• * Transparent and consultative budget building processes were initiated
for the first time. Balanced budget submitted for the first time in many years.
• * Many new academic programs were developed, including first-time ever
seamless programs for vocational students to pursue a baccalaureate degree, and
several successful external program reviews were launched
• * Successful recruitment of women and minorities in key administrative
positions.
• * Turned around an agricultural enterprise and an educational farm lab
that was making significant financial losses for more than two decades.
• * Established a first-time Office of International Education and
international students increased by nearly 35% in two years.
• * Established a first-time Office for Transfer Students and transfer
students increased significantly.
Further, the UFS report cited "lack of civility and frequently hostile discourse,
loss of credibility of both the administration and the faculty leadership,” while
the Middle States Accreditation report presented a different scenario. Unlike the
UFS report’s assertions, the Middle States Accreditation report (just one semester
before the UFS team issued its report) observed that the President was highly
collaborative, open, cordial, and respectful to all constituents' and that she
actively sought out diverse opinions. The accreditation team graciously offered to
share with the UFS team their observations about the leadership style of the
President and the concerns that they had noted to the President about Mr. Grillo
and his unprofessional conduct. Below are a few of the comments from the
accreditation report:
• * The new leadership team has created, in a short period of time, an
atmosphere of mutual trust and cooperation among different segments of the college
community regarding the administration and its communications with the campus.
• * New leadership has invigorated the campus and provided a framework for
sharpening the mission, defining the strategic imperatives and charting a course
for institutional health and prosperity.
• * There is evidence that the faculty, staff, students, advisory
constituents and the community have all been engaged in the transitional status
and conversion into a different higher education culture that includes broadening
the institution's offerings of 4-year programs.
• *The new vision, mission and the strategic plan that was developed,
clearly articulate the future for the institution.
In contrast to the Middle States Accreditation report, the UFS report noted that
apparently accommodation was reached which would integrate liberal arts material
into the technical programs, while conversely the Middle States Accreditation team
report gave special mention and high praise in its report to the open and
collaborative processes followed in launching programmatic initiatives on the
Wellsville campus (vocational campus) and observed:
• * The senior administrative team understood the curriculum, respected the
role of the faculty, anticipated the issues early on, and sought accommodation.
• * Wellsville chairs/faculty are receptive to the need to provide broad
educational experiences for students, to include general education courses, as
well as the need to teach them to be lifelong learners and intentional learners.
• * Emphasis has been properly placed to construct the appropriate
foundation for future success: use of Bloom's taxonomy, further development of
critical thinking skills, and selectivity in admission criteria that support the
newly revised mission, vision and strategic imperatives for institutional success.
• * There is evidence that the Senate's recommendations are strongly
considered by the College.
Moreover, the UFS report indicated that low morale due to fear, retaliatory
firing or reassignment, intimidation, threats, and abuse were prevalent at Alfred
State College while in direct contrast the Middle States Accreditation report
cited that the Chair of the Faculty Senate, James Grillo, eager to stop the
investigation by an outside law firm for financial misconduct, made these serious
charges against the President using 40 anonymous responses to an open-ended survey
sent to nearly 400 faculty and staff.
This report written by the ex-administrator and presented as the campus views was
not seen or endorsed by the Executive Senate, the Faculty Senate, or the campus.
Similar accusations were also made against the previous president. "Morale of
faculty and staff has been without a doubt, at its lowest level ever!" "Many are
fearful to come forward and discuss these issues publicly for fear of
retribution." The reason for sharing these comments with the reader is not in
anyway to minimize my predecessor's contributions, but to show that a small vocal
group has engaged in similar tactics anytime they disagree with the leadership.
The University Faculty Senate’s report contained several accusatory statements
such as “The President does not listen,” despite the evidence to the contrary
based on written testimonials from a wide ranging group of stakeholders that
attested to the fact that Dr. Uma Gupta was a President who listened carefully,
invited diverse view points, and was consistently open and transparent in her
decision-making. The accreditation team’s views about the President’s leadership
style are diametrically opposed to the Visiting Senate’s view. Upon further
analysis, the question arises how is it possible for leaders to dramatically
change their style from collaborative and cohesive to intimidating and
disrespectful in a matter of one semester?
Other inconsistencies in the Faculty Senate report included assertions that in the
absence of an open forum where disparate points of view may be offered for
examination and discussion, or any other mechanism for the exchange of ideas
without fear of repercussion, the blog appears to have become the only opportunity
for open communication for interested parties. Yet, Dr. Gupta had kept the lines
of communications open. From all accounts by witnesses and anecdotal information,
Dr. Gupta was not the kind of President that barricaded herself behind closed
office doors.
College anecdotal records and witnesses evidenced that Dr. Uma Gupta was “famous”
for her hallway walks. Other forms of regular communications included weekly and
sometimes even daily campus electronic messages, speaking at school meetings,
near-perfect attendance at Faculty Senate meetings, attending nearly all union
meetings, attending divisional meetings with VPs when invited, attending
departmental meetings when invited, hosting brown bag lunches, hosting small
groups at the college homes, attending meetings with student leaders, and e-
newsletters, to name a few. On April 19, 2005, the Chair of the Faculty Senate in
an email to the President wrote, “I can't argue with you that there has been ample
public communication from you and the vp's (sic) during your time at the college.
I don't think anyone would deny that,” while expressing sadness at the events that
led to changes in the administrative team.
The Visiting Senate team’s endorsement of an anonymous blog that engaged in
profanities, racial slurs, personal attacks on families, and lies shocked and
stunned all stakeholders, including those that may have disagreed with the
President’s decisions. In an email dated August 8, 2005 to the President, the
previous Chair of the Faculty Senate wrote to the campus, “I held an informal
gathering of Executive Senate, after your Tuesday afternoon forum, primarily to
meet new members and to discuss our calendar and agenda for the year. Inevitably
the conversation turned to the topics of faculty morale and the blog. I was
encouraged that, 1) everyone seemed to agree that Senate needed to condemn and
distance itself from the authors of the blog, 2) there was general understanding
of the loss of credibility we suffered by allowing the 'swapping' of senate
representatives, and 3) there seemed to be general agreement that your responses
to the senate motions of the spring were as reasonable as we could expect given
the unusual (crisis) circumstances that precipitated the turnover among the
cabinet members. I believe this thinking reflects the opinion of a majority of
faculty, however I expect that there will still be a few who will squawk loudly.”
The University Faculty Senate’s report affirmed that recent administrative changes
at
Alfred State could not be characterized as not conforming to a well thought out
plan. The number and frequency with which changes had occurred have an ad hoc
appearance. However, an email excerpt from the HR Director to the President
captures all personnel changes. Involuntary personnel changes were less than five
over nearly two years. Further, the “recent administrative changes,” referred to
by the UFS team was publicly and enthusiastically supported by the Chancellor,
system administration, the full body of the College Council, and many faculty and
staff. The best of plans do not include a scenario of public misconduct by senior
leaders. College records show that the President was highly measured and
reflective in all personnel changes.
Further, the University Faculty Senate report emphasized that toward the end of
avoiding future frequent administrative changes, a full and open competitive
searches should be undertaken.
Consequently, in a post-visit conference call, college records show that Dr. Uma
Gupta expressed the view that the governance structure as it existed at that time,
was not salvageable. Dr. Gupta advised that the current Senate be dissolved
replaced in the short-term with an appointed body until a new governance structure
could be legitimately established.
The University Faculty Senate reported that they heard many conflicting accounts
regarding a number of outside consultants brought to campus by the administration.
Conversely, College official records indicated that two consultants were brought
in to help the Vice President for Enrollment and the Vice President for Student
Affairs create an integrated marketing plan for the institution. The institution
was spending nearly a million dollars, conservatively speaking, in PR and
marketing and reaping little or no benefits. The senior leadership team, which was
dissatisfied with the return on investment, advised the President to conduct an
unbiased and independent review of existing operations. Further, the visitation
team ignored readily-available evidence about the remarkable results the
consultants achieved.
The University Faculty Senate’s report appears to have criticized Dr. Uma Gupta
for being, as they termed “data-driven.” Further, the document is peppered with
terms like “many” and “widespread.” The fact is the Visiting Senate team met only
with a few disenfranchised individuals, and records indicate a refusal to meet
with those who disagreed with the tactics of the ex-administrator, Mr. James
Grillo.
Why is it that in the wake of a successful accreditation report that emphasized
the positive leadership of Dr. Uma Gupta, as college records show, would two
senior administrators, James Grillo and Karla Back not follow due process to
resolve their concerns, in light of the fact that they had a perfect opening to do
so-while the accreditation team was present at the college? Further, college
records show that University Senate requested both sides to submit its
particular governance issues and urgent concerns. In December of 2005, James
Grillo submitted a report outlining his grievances which college records indicate
was not reviewed nor endorsed by the Executive Senate, the Faculty Senate or
Alfred State College. Based on college records, it would appear that James Grillo
compiled a false report. In addition, the report was allegedly based on 40
anonymous responses out of 415 union members. The question arises, why didn’t
James Grillo seek the endorsements of the Executive Senate, the Faculty Senate or
the campus?

Threatening e-mails and letters

Although the College Council publicly supported Dr. Uma Gupta’s cabinet changes
to remove Dr. Karla Back, vice president for academic affairs and James J. Grillo,
vice president for administrative affairs and marketing and enrollment management,
in 2005, by all appearances, the disgruntled, ousted administrators pursued a
course of action in what they termed the exercise of freedom of speech, and yet
which violated societal standards on the internet. The Alfred Sun in an April 14,
2005 article noted: “The Council reviewed the information it received from the
involved parties, the internal and external college community, the State
University of New York Chancellor and his staff. The Council found no evidence of
illegal, criminal, or immoral action by President Gupta.”
On June 16, 2005, Dr. Uma received the first of a series of threatening e-mails
that were later traced back electronically to Karla Back’s IP address.
Additionally, Dr. Back’s husband, Peter von Stackelberg, on July 25, 2005 sent a
letter to Chancellor Ryan accusing Dr. Gupta of sending armed guards to the home
the deposed vice president of academic affairs, Karla Back. On August 3, 2005,
Chancellor Ryan responded to the letter and affirmed: “After thorough
consideration, I find your allegations to be entirely without merit.”
Public agenda research and internet issues: debates
Public Agenda, a non-partisan opinion-research and civic engagement organization
stated: “Private life is being turned inside out for all to see in the electronic
age.” Furthermore, there are several arguments related to safeguarding the
individual’s rights of privacy and free speech. According to research on Public
Agenda.org, one argument against this approach asserts that “the choice perversely
stands up for the rights of sociopaths to express themselves while paying scant
attention to their victims.” On the other hand, the research went on to say, some
believe in protecting communities by curbing overly permissive rights, banning
hate groups, and insisting individuals accept limits on what they can say, or keep
confidential on the internet. Along the same lines, Public Agenda.org’s research
suggests that banning anti-social speech does not undermine free speech.
On the part of Dr. Gupta, there were repeated requests for SUNY to take action in
addressing the Alfred State College blog started by Karla Back, and college
records show the requests went ignored by SUNY. In matters like this, the college
general counsel can issue an informative, fact-based memo educating the college
community about federal and state laws concerning hostile workplace and
harassment, and as a result can make its point effectively. The question arises,
why did SUNY fail to act?
Accountability in academia:
Dr. Leslie R. Wolfe, President of The Center for Women Policy Studies, the first
feminist policy research center offering expertise on women’s issues in
Washington, D.C., has conducted national surveys and focus groups on the treatment
of women in corporate America. The center was not able to do research on the
climate for women in academia due to lack of funding, yet Dr. Wolfe explained that
what she believed about the climate in terms of the structure and levels of
accountability in academia based on anecdotal evidence appeared to be far worse
than in corporate America. “Corporate America has the bottom line to consider.
There is no bottom line in academia.”
Could this notion be one of the pieces of the puzzle related to why SUNY took a
laissez-faire attitude?