I was fired from my position as an adjunct professor of English at Kean University in Union, New Jersey, which I had held for ten years, for complaining about how I was treated as a student in Kean’s MA in Writing Studies Program. Although I was, like all of us, an “at will” employee, who could be fired for any reason or no reason, the law in New Jersey says that I could not be fired for the wrong reason. You all understand the concept of being fired for the “wrong reason”—like if I were fired because I was African American or gay.
How about if, as a student, I was the victim of bullying by the director of my graduate program? What if I complained to administrators who, as is increasingly typical in hierarchical institutions—think of the Catholic Church rallying around a priest who molests children, or the military mistreating the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of an officer—tried to blame me—the victim? What if they fired me even though I was one of the most highly regarded adjunct professors at the university?
Obviously, my situation is more complex than a short summary will convey—the lawsuit I have filed contains 31 counts ranging from violation of my rights as a student to defamation; the evidence is contained in over one hundred E-mail exchanges; the defendants range from two university vice-presidents—one the chief counsel for the university—to a secretary in the office of the Dean of the College of Humanities, and include the chair and assistant chair of the English Department and the Assistant Director of Research and Sponsored Programs.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services is taking my allegations seriously. Its investigation is continuing. If violations of my rights as a research participant are proven, HHS can revoke Kean’s ability to conduct any research, which would effectively shut the university down.
If you think about how the progressive agenda has been advanced in the last 65 years, it has not been through negotiation, the ballot box, or the various legislative bodies; it has been through the courts.
Civil Rights, reproductive rights, equality without regard to gender or sexual orientation—all of the great successes have come from lawsuits filed in courts of law.
Regardless of what HHS does, my lawsuit holds the potential to do what none of us have been able to accomplish through contract negotiation or job actions: create a judicial remedy for abused adjunct faculty where none has previously existed.