Dr. Peterson and Dr. Webb are accused of minor policy violations at best. Dixie State has violated many of its own policies while trying to terminate both Professors. This page outlines the specific policies both men are accused of breaking, as well as the policies Dixie State University has broken in the meantime.
Why is Dr. Ken Peterson being fired?
We know the specific allegations Dr. Peterson has been charged with only because he publicly published his "Notice of Dismissal and Termination of Appointment." You can read the entire letter here but below is a summary of the policies he allegedly violated:
- DSU Policy 641: Specifically 4.3 and 4.3.4
- DSU Policy 633: Specifically 22.214.171.124.5, 126.96.36.199.4, 188.8.131.52.2, 184.108.40.206.19, 220.127.116.11.1, 18.104.22.168.5, and 22.214.171.124.9.
- DSU Policy 304: No specific subsection is specified.
It's important to note that no factual evidence is listed, and no accuser is ever named. This is a violation of DSU Policy. Every single one of the allegations listed can be classified as hearsay.
Why is Dr. Glenn Webb being fired?
The specific allegations against Dr. Webb are not publicly known, as he has not publicly released his "Notice of Dismissal and Termination of Appointment" letter. Family members of Webb have stated that the main allegations surround a single sentence he wrote to his son serving an LDS mission overseas. That sentence contained his impression of how a tenure review had gone for another faculty member. According to those family members, the name of the faculty member wasn't mentioned, and the email in question never circulated outside their immediate family members.
With that in mind, it seems likely that Dr. Webb was terminated for similar alleged policy violations to Dr. Peterson, considering they were fired on the same day from the same department.
What policies has DSU violated?
Multiple policies have been violated by DSU while they have tried to terminate these two Professors:
1. DSU Policy 371 4.4.1: "The Faculty Review Board chair shall schedule a meeting not more than twenty (20) business days after the receipt of the request and send written notice to the dismissed faculty member. The notice shall include the names of the four faculty members selected as panel members."
According to DSU Policy 371, when a tenured faculty member is issued a notice of termination, the faculty member in question has 30 calendar days from when they receive the notice to file an appeal with human resources.
Both Dr. Webb and Dr. Peterson received notice of termination on March 2nd. Dr. Webb submitted his appeal on March 27th, and Dr. Peterson submitted his appeal on March 28th. Both men submitted their appeals within the 30 calendar days specified in policy.
After the appeal is received, a faculty review board is assembled, and the faculty review board chair must "schedule a meeting not more than 20 business days after the receipt of this request."
Twenty business days after Dr. Webb submitted his appeal would have been April 24th. No hearing had been held or even scheduled at this time. The same goes for Dr. Peterson, whose twentieth business day was April 25th.
May 10th and 11th is when they were notified of their faculty review board hearings being scheduled. They were scheduled for May 29th for Peterson and May 31st for Webb.
2. DSU Policy 371 4.2.4: "Dismissal notices shall originate in the office of the Vice President Academic Affairs. Any such notice shall contain a statement of the cause(s) of the proposed dismissal with supporting detail, including the name(s) of the person or persons making the charge(s) and the nature of the factual information, as well as an outline of the procedures available to the faculty member if s/he wishes to contest the information before a Faculty Review Board."
In the case of Ken Peterson, his dismissal notice contained no names of the person or persons making the charges, and contained no factual information that couldn't be dismissed as hearsay.
3. DSU Policy 633 1.3: "DSU is committed to conducting its affairs according to the highest ethical principles, including compliance with all laws, regulations, statutes, and policies designed to promote and ensure high ethical standards."
Doajo Hicks, legal counsel for DSU, is quoted as saying "The university is not a court of law, and we are not bound by the rules of civil procedure," DSU general counsel Doajo Hicks wrote in an email. "If an investigation is substantiated, it doesn't matter if the initial complaint was based on hearsay."
While partially true, the only rules of civil procedure DSU is not bound by is the submission of evidence to the faculty review board, as stated in DSU policy 4.4.4: "Review Board meetings will be held in accordance with generally accepted standards of procedural due process. Information of the sort upon which responsible persons are accustomed to rely on in the conduct of serious affairs may be considered, and is not restricted to information which would be admissible under the strict rules of evidence of a court of law."
DSU is absolutely bound by the rules of civil procedure, just not where evidence is concerned.
4. DSU Policy 633 4.2.1: "Members of the faculty retain all legal rights and privileges afforded to them by the constitutions of the United States and the State of Utah. Faculty members will not be subject to punishment or reprisal for the legal exercise of such rights and privileges."
Ken Peterson's constitutional rights have been violated, as stating an opinion about the President of a government institution is covered under the first amendment. By terminating him because of his opinion, they are violating not only their own policy, but the United States constitution.
5. DSU Policy 371 4.1: "Dismissal for cause may be imposed on a faculty member in the following circumstances:
4.1.1 Professional incompetence as defined in DSU Policy 633: Faculty Rights & Responsibilities.
4.1.2 Unwillingness or refusal to meet his/her responsibilities to the University.
4.1.3 Serious misconduct or unethical behavior.
4.1.4 Serious violation of University rules and regulations.
These are the reasons DSU believes are worthy of termination. None of the allegations against either men fit under any of these reasons.
6. DSU Policy 371 4.2.2: "Until the final decision upon termination of an appointment has been reached, a faculty member may be suspended temporarily, or assigned to other duties in lieu of suspension, if immediate harm to the faculty member or others is threatened by his/her continuance. Compensation will continue during the period prior to final decision by the President."
Both Peterson and Webb were banned from campus starting on March 2nd. There was no evidence to support that these men were any kind of threat.
7. DSU Policy 371 4.4.4: "Review Board meetings will be held in accordance with generally accepted standards of procedural due process. Information of the sort upon which responsible persons are accustomed to rely on in the conduct of serious affairs may be considered, and is not restricted to information which would be admissible under the strict rules of evidence of a court of law."
See #3 above for explanation.
8. DSU Policy 371 4.4.5: "The Review Board may consider any information which the panel believes is of value or import in determining the issues involved. Every possible effort will be made to obtain the most reliable information available. The Review Board panel shall make its findings and recommendations based only on the information presented by the parties at the reviews."
On June 5th, 6 days after Peterson's faculty review board hearing was held and concluded, he received notice that his review wouldn't be considered "closed" until June 15th. Policy clearly states only the information presented at the reviews is admissible. Webb also received the same information, 4 days after his own faculty review board had been concluded.
9. DSU Policy 372 6.1: "An employee may be recommended for dismissal according to the above procedure or for serious misconduct, without the above preceding First and Second Level Corrective Discussions, including, but not limited to, the following job-related reasons (also see 373 Termination and Reduction in Workforce):
6.1.1 Fraud, including falsification on employment application.
6.1.2 Misuse of University property or funds.
6.1.3 Violation of statutory requirements of institutional regulations and policies, such as regulations related to discrimination or harassment.
6.1.4 Conviction of a crime by a court of competent jurisdiction.
6.1.5 Lewd, threatening, abusive or violent treatment of the public, students, or other employees."
No procedure was followed from "First and Second Level Corrective Discussions" as outlined in DSU policy 372. In order to skip those procedures, DSU must justify it by classifying the allegations as serious misconduct. The reasons for termination known regarding Webb and Peterson do not seem to fit the extreme and serious nature of the examples listed in DSU's policy.
10. DSU Policy 110 4.4: "Due Process – Due process of law is recognized as essential to the proper enforcement of University rules, and accordingly no disciplinary sanction may be imposed on a member of the University community or an organization by or in the name of the University except in accordance with the written regulations, policies or procedures of the University and the Constitution of the State of Utah and the Constitution of the United States."
Due process means "a course of formal proceedings (such as legal proceedings) carried out regularly and in accordance with established rules and principles." By violating as many policies as they have during these proceedings, both Webb and Peterson have been denied due process.
11. DSU Policy 110 126.96.36.199: "Every faculty member has the right to academic freedom and the right to examine and communicate ideas by any lawful means even where such activities generate hostility or pressures against the faculty member or the University."
12. First Amendment Violation: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
In the case of Dr. Ken Peterson, the allegations listed in his notice of termination include many things he supposedly said. No proof is provided, nor any witnesses or accusers named. Of the 13 numbered allegations, five mention slandering other employees, including President Richard "Biff" Williams.
In general, the First Amendment guarantees the right to express ideas and information. On a basic level, it means that people can express an opinion (even an unpopular or unsavory one) without fear of government censorship.
Slander is not included under free speech, but what is the definition of slander?
- n. oral defamation, in which someone tells one or more persons an untruth about another which untruth will harm the reputation of the person defamed.
In order to be considered slander, the statements made must be untrue. No proof that his statements were true or untrue were included in his termination notice, and burden of truth is placed on the university when terminating an employee according to DSU Policy 371 4.4.12: "The burden of proof rests with the institution, and shall be by a preponderance of information and satisfied only by information in the record considered as a whole."