Professor under investigation not teaching this semester

Esteban Ramirez

To read the story on a CSUB student filing a complaint of retaliation against Elizabeth Jackson, click here.

 

Senior Staff Writer

 

Communications professor Elizabeth Jackson, who has been teaching at CSU Bakersfield for the past 27 years, is not teaching any classes this semester.

This past November, The Runner reported CSUB alumnus Shad Williams, 25, filed a complaint of retaliation against Jackson for the video “Teaching While Black,” which she posted on YouTube in September.

In the video, she discussed in a spoken-word-poetic-rap format what it is like teaching while black and talked about institutional racism and individual incidents when students filed complaints against her.

Williams said Jackson attempted to appeal the complaint of retaliation but was denied.

Communications professor Elizabeth Jackson has been teaching at CSUB for the past 27 years.
Photo by CSU Dominguez Hills

“She tried to appeal the CSU findings that she was guilty of retaliation toward a student, and the CSU denied her appeal,” Williams said. “I can only assume that the reason why she is absent from teaching is because it’s a part of her [action].”

 The Runner attempted to contact Jackson through email and phone, but she wasn’t available to comment on the appeal. 

On the course schedule for spring 2017, Jackson is not listed as the professor for any class.

 According to Communications Department Chair Judith Pratt, some classes were canceled this semester.

Pratt stated in an email one section of negotiations was canceled. Two sections of film and society were canceled, but communications professor Mary Slaughter is teaching art of film, which Pratt states is a substitute for film and society.

Film and society is normally taught by Jackson, most recently last semester.

Another course Jackson normally teaches is intercultural communication but that class was not canceled.

Instead it is currently being taught by communications lecturer Chris Cruz-Boone.

Cruz-Boone stated in an email she was asked to teach the course without any context provided regarding the previous instructor of record.

CSUB administrators have not confirmed or denied whether the complaint is the reason why Jackson is not teaching any classes this semester.

Williams said he was told by a CSUB administrator, who he chose not to name, to check the courses to find out if Jackson was teaching this semester but the administrator did not say why Jackson was not teaching.

“From what I collected, she’s no longer teaching this term,” he said. “I don’t know the estimate of her arrival or even if there is an arrival for her to come back.”

Williams said he has been dismissed out of the whole situation because it is now between Jackson and the campus.

CSUB’s Vice Provost David Schecter said he could not discuss it because it was a personnel matter.

The Interim Dean of Arts and Humanities Liora Gubkin stated the same in an email.

The Runner sent a public records act request to Director of Public Affairs and Communications Michael Lukens, but he replied that the school is unable to comply with the request, due to Government Code Section 6254. He said the code states the school can’t disclose personnel, medical or similar files since it would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.

However, California Newspaper Publisher’s Association Legal Counsel Nikki Moore said his response to the PRA request was very simple and doesn’t comply with the Public Records Act.

“They have a duty to assist you in locating records that are responsive to your request that could be disposable,” said Moore. “The exemption of it requires that they do a balance of interest. The public interest in non-disclosure must clearly outweigh the public interest in disclosure of the record. Nothing indicates in this two-sentence response to me that they did any balancing. They simply said there is a personnel exemption and we are exerting it.” 

Moore said the rule is that an agency has the right to refuse disclosure to keep information confidential because it would be an unwarranted invasion of privacy.

However, Moore said when the instances of misconduct are acted upon on an individual, such as a suspension or a firing, she said there is a right to that information, and release would not be an unwarranted invasion of privacy.

Therefore, if Jackson has been suspended for this semester or even fired, it would not be an invasion of privacy for the school to release the information.

Student Press Law Center Executive Director Frank LoMonte stated in an email to The Runner as long as there is any element of public concern involved in the firing of a state employee, there should be no legal reason the agency can’t discuss the removal.

Additionally, if the discipline has to do with the performance of official duties, then it is not an invasion of privacy.

For example, in 2005, former Jefferson High School principal Norman K. Morrow filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Unified School District for claiming the employer invaded his privacy by discussing the reason for his firing with The Los Angeles Times.

The court threw out his claims and ruled in favor of the school district.

The case stated the plaintiff had to prove public disclosure of a private fact, which would be offensive and objectionable to a reasonable person, and which is not of legitimate public concern.

Morrow stated to the court of appeal that the district not only invaded his privacy but defamed him as well.

The court found the challenged statements made by the district were constitutionally protected, revealed no private information and the trial court did not abuse its discretion in making its evidentiary rulings or in ordering attorney fees.

LoMonte said if the reason the person is no longer teaching is due to health issues and they’re not a very prominent authority figure, then the college really can’t get into those private details.

But if it concerns, performance of official duties, then discussing those details is not out of line.

As the investigation for Jackson continues, more information will be provided when it becomes available.  

“I am still anticipating the end result to see what CSUB really does,” Williams said. “From there, then I can make my decision of how I move forward when I see how the campus actually handles the situation.”