California College Professor Is Hit With Sexual Harassment Charge After Publicly Opposing Gay Studies Program

There is a growing controversy involving a community college professor who claims to have been placed under investigation after he publicly questioned his school’s decision to begin a gay studies program. Professor Jay Rubin wrote a letter to the editor at Alameda Journal that challenged the fiscal basis for the creation of a new program. While he did not sign the letter with his academic title, Rubin was reportedly subjected to a charge of sexual harassment based on that letter by a colleague. I have been pursuing this story for days because of the lack of details and documents in the media. I was able to secure some of this information from Matthew McReynolds, his counsel, with the Pacific Justice Institute.

While the Peralta Community College District has apparently decided that it cannot punish the professor for the letter, I fail to see how this letter would prompt a long investigation. In the letter signed without reference to his academic position, Rubin raises primarily financial questions about the program. The letter is linked below. After questioning the wisdom of creating a new program at this time, Rubin adds an allegation of nepotism:

Even more troubling is the fact that — with all the talented gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender academics in the Bay Area who are currently unemployed — the new LGBT course at College of Alameda will be taught by, his merits aside, Randy Connor, the domestic partner of College of Alameda’s head librarian who helped develop the new program.

Perhaps the next program to be developed at College of Alameda could be “Introduction to Nepotism Studies.” There’s clearly a need for that, too.

I can certainly see why such an attack would be viewed as non-collegial and inimical to faculty relations. However, Rubin has a free speech right to make such public objections, particularly with regard to a public institution. Very few universities have recognized an LGBT degree, including San Diego State, Hobart, and William Smith colleges.

On September 11th, McReynolds wrote the letter below challenging the basis for the sexual harassment charge and the response of the school.

If it is true that the sexual harassment charge is based solely on the letter, it would seem likely it is due to the naming of the head of the course and his relationship with the librarian. Of course, his name would be public anyway, so that leaves the question of the association. Is it sexual harassment to publicly state the association — and thereby the sexual orientation — of these men? In making a nepotism charge, a relationship must be stated. Moreover, a gay relationship is neither illegal nor condemned in the letter. It is treated like any other personal relationship such as a conventional marriage to question whether the course was selected in part due to the association with the librarian. I am not saying that the underlying charge is valid or that this was the best way to pursue such a concern. Indeed, I value civility on faculties very highly and I would not have published such an attack in the newspaper. However, there is no question in my view that this constitutes protected speech and I am concerned with the long investigation. The college clearly must investigate all such charges, but the reported length of the investigation is problematic. This would seem a rather straightforward matter for college officials.

The college rules defines sexual harassment as:

Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment or educational environment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or learning, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or learning environment.

Here is the full policy: Complaint-and-Investigation-Procedures-for-Employees-and-Students-Unlawful-Discrimination-and-Sexual-Harassment

I am particularly concerned with the allegation that the college barred Rubin from discussing his case in public. This type of gag order is becoming too common in such cases. Rubin should have every right to discuss his case and his treatment. I believe it is not wise to do so in most cases, but I have serious reservations about a college ordering an academic to remain silent if this account is accurate.

What do you think?

Here is the original letter to the editor: My Letter in Alameda Journal

Here is his counsel’s letter: PJI ltr PCCD redacted

37 thoughts on “California College Professor Is Hit With Sexual Harassment Charge After Publicly Opposing Gay Studies Program

  1. I have mentioned before in another thread that an investigation can in itself be a form of punishment or retaliation.

    In the hypothetical example of a malicious prosecution the subject of the investigation is forced to endure significant cost, loss of reputation, and be placed into fear of her career or freedom during the entire course of the investigation while the institution involved can just throw money at the issue, have others do the dirty work, and go home each day with the pleasure of having worked over a political or personal nemesis.

    I have seen this type of thing happen personally with several people I know and in a few of these cases the agency paid out dearly, in one case over a million dollars in damage payouts and legal fees. But the thinking doesn’t seem to have changed in the minds of the powers to be despite all this.

  2. From a free speech perspective he had every right to write the letter and it certainly wasn’t sexual harassment to question the possible nepotism at work.
    However, I’m not at all clear if we have all the facts and context of this case, something (I don’t know what) seems missing.

  3. Darren, You are correct. I did investigations for private companies and the public sector. On only one occassion was I asked to do an investigation[disability claim] by a private company that I learned, during the course of the investigation, was really about union negotiations. The subject of the investigation was a union leader and negotiations were underway. I recused myself. However, public sector would routinely try and intimidate employees w/ investigations involving disability/worker’s comp claims. I had to be diligent and work sources to weed those out. Again, it would be public sector management trying to intimidate union employees. One time I was asked by a client to do surveillance on a worker’s comp claim. This was a public sector risk management administrator. She was so blatant when assigning the case she said, “Don’t worry if he spots you doing surveillance, actually let him spot you.” I declined the case and never worked for again. She stopped after a few tries.

    This California Professor case shows how pc is running amuck in our culture. What’s most disturbing is it’s so common on campuses, where the free flow of ideas should be encouraged, not supressed.

  4. I applaud Professor Jay Rubin for his courage. Certainly he knew that questioning both the need for and the suggested nepotism involved in this program was going to be a political hot potato on several fronts. By going public first, he displayed a fairly good judgement of what would happen once his objections were voiced and sure enough, he has been muzzled. But the word is out there and I suspect he is now prepared to handle whatever the Administration throws at him which they will have to do publicly whether they want to or not.

    Jay Rubin is a pretty smart fellow.

    I think the Administration should closely question the ethics of their head librarian.

  5. Since this is clearly protected free speech and not sexual harassment but a question of educational practice and priority based on the valid ethical question of nepotism, I want to know why the administration isn’t vigorously pursuing investigating the head librarian. I’d also like to know if the administrative personnel responsible for determining the focus the investigation are also responsible for the seemingly one sided gag order. I’m with Mike. There seems to be something going on here that isn’t exposed in the facts revealed to date.

  6. Professor,

    Good job of investigation and a good choice to illustrate the influences we all are subject to as employees, etc. This blawg is but another example of this problem, but sancrosanct ground is just that. Keep up the good work. Exposing academia is a worthy cause. Prime breeding grounds for conformity.

  7. Darren,

    Thank you. Investigation? A proven method of breaking the camels back. Conformism rules supreme.
    When you got to the top, use it. And they do, increasingly. Does the average citizen feel intimidated by the war on terrorists NDAA, etc. Not if he is watching TV and softing.

  8. Am I the only one who feels it is grounded centuries ago in religion? Mind control, word control, behaviour control, knowledge control, etc…..

    What did emperor Constantines wife do? Close the greek academies, hundreds of springs of free thinking. She also razed the local religions’ temples. But that is an aside.

    This Rubin has balls and ethics, and should be elected head of his university by the board of directors.

  9. From article: “the new LGBT course at College of Alameda will be taught by, his merits aside, Randy Connor, the domestic partner of College of Alameda’s head librarian who helped develop the new program.”

    The use of “his merits aside” is interesting, was he qualified or not?

    It would be interesting to know what the selection process consisted of. This issue seems to be the nut of the dispute, everything else appears to be positioning by the University. It looks like retaliation to me.

    That being said, nepotism is not an issue a university is unfamiliar with, is that not the heart of a legacy program? Would nepotism in hiring or assignments be a surprise in such a setting? Not to me.

  10. nick spinelli: “The librarian is gay, he’s part of the pc invisible shield. A protected class, as it were.”

    yea, yea, being gay is such a walk in the park that if I were younger I’d sure convert, I’m surprised everyone hasn’t by now. If I could I’d turn black/Alaskan native, female, handicapped, gay, Muslim ’cause ya’ know, them protected groups sure have it made.

  11. Many programs are being cut, but the librarian creates a program that the school decides to add and his significant other is hired to run it. And the whistleblower is the one undergoing an investigation. That does tend to be the trend these days.

  12. lottakatz, I did not imply, nor do I think, being gay is “a walk in the park.” Pardon me for stating the blatantly obvious here.

    SWM, You can always be counted on to be in favor of pc. Always trying to be positive, I’ll say you’re reliable.

  13. Nick, I read what’s there and between the lines too. Sometimes there’s a wealth of tone and inference in the white space and word choices. Sometimes not.

    Looks like you do too since SWM’s statement was a statement that one gay person was not protected (beaten to death for being born gay). That’s not “PC”, that’s an example of your argument being less than 100% correct but alludes to a history of less than full protection by its context. That she supports “PC” is a judgement based on her and your politics. Like the below article states, “PC” is a pejorative term employed by the right. You may not know that.

    From Wikipedia on Political Correctness:

    Current usage:
    “Widespread use of the term politically correct and its derivatives began when it was adopted as a pejorative term by the political right in the 1990s, in the context of the Culture Wars. Writing in the New York Times in 1990,[9] Richard Bernstein noted “The term ‘politically correct,’ with its suggestion of Stalinist orthodoxy, is spoken more with irony and disapproval than with reverence. But across the country the term p.c., as it is commonly abbreviated, is being heard more and more in debates over what should be taught at the universities.” …. Within a few years, this previously obscure term featured regularly in the lexicon of the conservative social and political challenges against curriculum expansion and progressive teaching methods in US high schools and universities.[10] In 1991, addressing a graduating class of the University of Michigan, U.S. President George H. W. Bush spoke against “a movement [that would] declare certain topics ‘off-limits,’ certain expressions ‘off-limits’, even certain gestures ‘off-limits'” in allusion to liberal Political Correctness.”

    Their entry on Dog-whistle politics is interesting too:

  14. lottakatz, PC is a term used by people who truly value free speech, left/center/right. PC puts limits on what speech is “acceptable” and creates protected classes of people. You can make fun of and ridicule fat people because they are not a protected class. It’s politically correct to deride fat people and tell fat jokes. Life’s pretty freakn’ hard for fat people, but that doesn’t matter, it’s always open season on them. You’re in a bubble or denial if you think pc is only a term used by conservatives. And thanks for the Wikipedia reference..always cutting edge.

  15. Nick,

    You’re right PC is now in general use. Its history, however, is as a meme created by right wing think tanks, such as ALEC, to neutralize the struggle by people against oppressive bigoted stereotypes. They succeeded and in the process made bigotry acceptable again, as you can see from the plethora of ridiculous, bigoted remarks that are now acceptable. Certainly, some on the Left in their quest for “purity of thought” have done some things that are almost self parody, but the truth is that PC is a propaganda meme that’s taken hold. I try to avoid being a tool of the propagandists, but you can make your own choices and by them define yourself.

  16. nick spinelli,

    “PC is a term used by people who truly value free speech, left/center/right.”

    “SWM, You can always be counted on to be in favor of pc.”

    From those two statements written on the same thread in regards to the same material I can only surmise that nick spinelli was complimenting SwM for always valuing free speech.

  17. SwM,

    Elaine really bugs him and looking over last night’s thread, bkath bugged him … tonight’s your night to shine.

  18. SwM,

    I have the app … I think … it states that you and Slarti play.

    I went to the dentist today for a crown build and my mouth is really sore so I’m going to wait till tomorrow evening to tackle Scrabble.

  19. Nick s, “lottakatz, PC is a term used by people who truly value free speech, left/center/right. PC puts limits on what speech is “acceptable” and creates protected classes of people.”

    Then they’re/you’re using it wrong. :-)

    Wikipedia being ‘cutting edge’? I don’t know about cutting edge but Wikipedia is a good general encyclopedia and last I read an assessment of its scientific and technical entries by some learned organization, it ranked right up there with textbooks. I spent much of my youth reading encyclopedia entries and I enjoy and respect Wikipedia. I’d point anyone to Wikipedia as a good reference source regarding general knowledge.

  20. LottaKatz:

    I use wikipedia daily; one of the best sites on the web. It somewhat reminds me of how the internet used to be, a non-commercial collection of information where others contributed their part for the common good of all. It is probably better as it is now than then, but it was surely a more pure time. That is until AOL hooked into it and thousands of Lamers invaded. There were many a good people who subscribed to AOL but it seemed at the time that nearly all the internet riff raff germinated from AOL. (just my biased opinion)


  21. Darren, For a time way, way back, long before Wikipedia and the structured information aggregators/repositories, I subscribed to a site that was titled something like ‘Among All Of Us We Know Everything’ and was a Q&A site that hoped to build an archive of shared knowledge out of real time crowd-sourced problem solving: how does a transmission work; how do I get a stuck jar lid unstuck; what was the big deal with Archduke Ferdinand getting shot; what is a slime-mould? Ask anything and someone would know the answer. How could it be otherwise?

    The answers, from the most simple to the most complex explanations of the underlying principles at work from the potentially millions of people on the Internet could transform the way knowledge was assembled, stored, and disseminated as well as be a force for good and enlightenment in the world. The mission statement said things like that. LOL, the optimisim was staggering and actually, eventually, it did kind of work out that way.

  22. Nick,

    When one charcterizes another’s words with a propapagandistic meme they are engaging in ad hominem attack, rather than discussing and/or debating. They are making no logical points, merely name calling. I have gathered that you are more able to discuss, rather then dismiss via characterization, am I mistaken?

  23. Alameda Journal

    LGBT-studies deal seems a bit too cozy
    Left unmentioned in the Jan. 27 article about College of Alameda’s new “Introduction to LGBT Studies” course is that the program, its merits aside, was pushed through the approval process over the objection of many faculty members.
    In a time of state budget cuts, it seemed irresponsible for interim Vice President of Instruction Rebecca Kenney to push the development of a pet project while other disciplines were seeing sections cut and adjunct instructors were losing their jobs.
    What’s more, though the course will be funded through a partnership with online-education partner Ed2Go, it’s important to note that the new course will not be an online offering. Furthermore, many faculty members were unaware of Ed2Go funding opportunities until after the new LGBT course had been announced.

    Even more troubling is the fact that — with all the talented gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender academics in the Bay Area who are currently unemployed — the new LGBT course at College of Alameda will be taught by, his merits aside, Randy Connor, the domestic partner of College of Alameda’s head librarian who helped develop the new program.
    Perhaps the next program to be developed at College of Alameda could be “Introduction to Nepotism Studies.” There’s clearly a need for that, too.
    Jay Rubin
    San Francisco
    Twinkies, anyone.

    When I worked at Dean Foods in Albuquerque there was nepotism. Everybody resents it.

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