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Report: Maschner Resigns from USF

USF's Dr. Herb Maschner

Dr. Herb Maschner reportedly has resigned from USF, according to media reports. Photo courtesy of Idaho State University.

Beleaguered University of South Florida professor Herb Maschner has tendered his resignation, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

In a story posted online Friday under Claire McNeill’s byline, the 58-year-old Maschner will resign on October 31, 2017.

“In the resignation paperwork, USF says it has no reason to terminate Maschner for misconduct. Both parties agree there was no wrongdoing.”
– “USF scientist resigns, ending a short tenure filled with turmoil,” Tampa Bay Times

In January 2017, the Idaho State Journal reported that Idaho State University had paid $170,000 to a woman to settle a sexual harassment claim against Maschner while he was employed at ISU.

“The [University of South Florida] didn’t know that Maschner had violated Idaho State policy for sexually harassing a graduate student until Maschner approached USF three years later, as an Idaho newspaper readied to publish a story.”
– “USF scientist resigns, ending a short tenure filled with turmoil,” Tampa Bay Times

Now the Facts will report more details as they become available.

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A Working Journalist Once More

http://www.lcsun-news.com/story/news/local/new-mexico/2017/08/20/looking-back-mesilla-played-small-role-civil-war/582020001/

Doña Ana County residents who fought for the Union Army are remembered on the Veterans Wall at Veterans Memorial Park in Las Cruces. (Photo: Samuel D. Bradley/For the Sun-News)

In addition to continuing to post here, I have started working as a freelance journalist in Southern New Mexico. My first piece appeared in yesterday’s Las Cruces Sun-News.

What is old is new again. Following my undergraduate degree and an internship in California, I began my career as a reporter at the Sun-News on September 2, 1997.

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AEJMC Update: I’m Not Dead Yet

Monty Python and the Holy Grail DVD coverAs seems to almost always be the case, no one intends to step away from a blog for five months … it just happens.

As many of my friends and colleagues from the past two decades converge upon Chicago this week for the annual meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, it seemed a good time to provide an update more broadly to the many questions I’ve fielded privately.

By the time the conference comes to a close on Saturday, my wrongful termination saga with the University of South Florida will have nearly completed 18 months.

Injustice, then, is now a toddler.

Progress Slow, Costly

If you ever find yourself entangled legally with a large organization—especially when none of the individual adversaries against you has a personal financial stake—expect glacial progress and voluminous expenses on your part.

As both parties are bound to the Collective Bargaining Agreement between USF and the USF chapter of the United Faculty of Florida, we have been held to a process.

Here’s What You Missed in 2 Minutes

I have filed three separate grievances outlining the illegality (and unconstitutionality) of USF’s termination of a tenured professor based upon different provisions of the CBA.

Hopefully you’re not surprised, but the people who did the terminating were not persuaded by these arguments and rejected them. In serial order, of course. One … at … a … time with typically 30 days waiting built in at every step. Time means money, and their attorneys are paid by the State of Florida.

Then—according to the rules—we had to ask USF to reconsider their rejection … twice.

So we basically say—to the exact same people who made the original flawed decision, “We know you’re pretty sure of yourself, but here are a few things you might want to consider.”

And they say, “no” … a month later.

Then we go slightly down the hall from the exact same people who made the original flawed decision, “We think your bosses made some mistakes. Here are a few things you might want to consider.”

And then he says, “no” … a month later.

Three grievances each with one original decision and two “appeals.” That’s where we stand. Nine individual steps. About to begin the next step.

Looking Ahead to What Must, Will Be Won

Legal fees already in the five figures and climbing. But this is a fight that cannot and will not be lost. For three reasons.

  1. I did not do the things that the Tampa Bay media and USF claimed that I did.
  2. USF’s decision—no matter how flawed in its internal logic—was based upon documentable lies by USF employee(s) trying to cover her/his/their hind ends.
  3. If allowed to stand, this termination would amount to the greatest single deterioration of tenure rights of which I am aware.

So no matter what it takes, prevail we shall.

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Character Assassination Could Happen to You

Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it
TAMPA—If you are a tenure-track or tenured professor, this post is especially important to you.

Because one bad precedent can strip you of rights you thought you earned.

Imagine a low-point in your life. A really low point.

For me, that was my divorce. Close to five years later, most of the wounds have healed.

But the story hasn’t.

That’s because one outsider decided to exploit this most private and painful time for political leverage.

This person pried deep into my private life at its lowest point, collecting tawdry gossip and hearsay with no regard for separating fact from fiction.

Although I was told some small excerpts of the sleazy claims, I never was told that a J. Edgar Hoover-like blackmail dossier had been stashed away in some filing cabinet.

One Coward Was Not Enough

When your luck hits a bad streak, probability suggests that streak will end.

As anyone will tell you (unless they’re trying to save their own rear end for lying), I made no secret of this character assassination that surrounded my divorce.

Still, one coward tried to use this information in a felony extortion demand (which, no surprise, said coward calls a misunderstanding).

And from the hidden filing cabinet came the “Hoover” report. I can make one clear statement about that document: the parts that are relevant are not true, and the parts that are true are not relevant.

When the university tried to look into the “Hoover” report, honesty again was perilously avoided. They said they wanted to look into hiring practices and invited a handful of witnesses. Because the purpose of those interviews was hidden, no one came prepared to answer the questions they would actually be asked. This is handy when the interviewer already has reached a conclusion.

Exactly one person knew the gist of the “Hoover” report but had not informed those up the line. Come interview time, this person lied over and over again in a game of covering one’s own ass.

So there were offsetting versions of events. A stalemate.

To be clear, nothing close to anything that had ever been upheld as a grounds for firing a tenured professor.

But the university could not have been interested in the truth, because they merely had conflicting reports. In time, of course, countless documents and witnesses would verify my version of events. Not one single document can verify the other side, of course, because it is all lies.

This Could Happen to You

If you have any skeleton in your closet, and you risk speaking truth to power, you, too, could have a “Hoover” report. And once that exists, people will give great deference to those claims because they are written down—even when the overwhelming majority is some mixture of nonsense and lies.

And lest you feel safe because you haven’t done the things that I have been accused of doing, just remember that I haven’t done most of them, either.

If this stands, firing a tenured professor will be remarkably easier anywhere than it was a year ago.

Any donation—no matter how small—to the Legal Aid Fund will help ensure this does not happen.

If you are a faculty member anywhere, you have a dog in this race.

And when we win, your contribution will be paid forward to the AAUP Legal Defense Fund in case you ever end up on the wrong side of power.

This is not about me. It is about all of us.

My sincere thanks to those who already have donated.

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Please Donate to Tenure Legal Aid Fund

Tenure is vital to academic freedom
TAMPA—I need your help.

There’s no other way to put it.

More importantly, the entire system of academic freedom in this country needs your help.

If you want to ensure a world where university professors can research and teach in an environment that values knowledge above all, now is the time to act.

I greatly appreciate the individuals who donated to the Public Records Fund, and your generosity helped offset more than half of my personal expenses in seeking public records.

But now the stakes are much, much higher.

Academic Freedom Matters to Us All

Although my saga has now been ongoing for more than a year, we are now in the expensive part of the fight.

In the past year, I have yet to find a single case in all of American jurisprudence where a tenured professor was dismissed on the kind of trivial allegations trumped up by USF—not even remotely.

To put it bluntly, the action attempted by USF would reduce the protection of tenure to noting, equating it with at-will employment in a right-to-work state.

If unchecked, this one hasty act by an administration trying to save face could do more damage to tenure that any other single act in the history of tenure.

This precedent cannot stand. This precedent must not stand.

Rights Are Free; Protecting Them Isn’t

My current legal expenses already have run into five figures. I have emptied every retirement account and paid the stiff penalties that accompany those withdrawals.

The U.S. Constitution gives us many rights; however, it provides no mechanism to fund the defense of those rights.

Without fail, when I tell this story to an academic, that person says, “But they can’t do that.”

And I am forced to reply, “They can’t, but they did.”

And that have a cadre of attorneys on full-time salary paid by the taxpayers. It has not cost one of them a cent.

As our nation has witnessed, the courts are the check on abuses of power by the state. But courts are not free, and good legal counsel is not inexpensive.

If you want all of the details, you can look back through past posts on the subject using the tags to the right.

But the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that when agreements are written as they are at USF, tenure represents a ”property right“ under the Fourteenth Amendment.

That means that it should have been as difficult for USF to take away my tenure as it would have been to seize my house, bank account, or vehicle.

Yet they merely wrote a letter.

And if this precedent is somehow allowed to stand, it will be that much easier for the next academics-hating politician to take away your tenure or remodel our system of higher education where your children or grandchildren will not have the opportunity to learn.

Lest I need to remind you of that current political climate:

“The fight against the education establishment extends to you too. The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think.”
– U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on Feb. 23, 2017

Any Contribution Will Help

Since this blog began in July 2016, there have been tens of thousands of unique site visitors. If each of those visitors contributed $1, it would change the world.

There are many great causes in need of money now. I understand that. When arsonists hit a local mosque last Friday, I scraped together $5 to help rebuild. It wasn’t much, but it helped them reach their goal.

Any amount helps.

When the Public Records Fund opened, some people donated $100, some $50, some $20, and some in the single digits. I understand that you might not have much to contribute. But $1 really will make a difference.

And I will pay it forward. When my case ultimately triumphs, your donation will be forwarded to help fight for academic freedom and tenure (or a cause of your choosing).

An Offer to Multiply Your Impact

This fight is not easy. It has not been easy. But the United States Constitution is on our side.

Tomorrow will begin my ninth month without a paycheck. This despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court has said in cases such as mine, the employee should be suspended with pay rather than be fired without any kind of hearing.

To-date, USF owes me about $100,000 in back pay alone. This is separate from the $3 million to $4 million in damages they have done to my reputation.

Without boring you with details, in the coming months an impartial arbitrator will be asked to decide on my request for what is known as a “make whole” order. If granted, this would provide me all back pay (with interest) and restore me to my rightful position as a tenured associate professor at USF. As you might imagine, I also have asked for damages.

If you donate to this Legal Aid Fund, here is my pledge to you: When the back pay is awarded, I will forward all money donated to this fund plus an additional 50% (up to $5,000) in your name to the AAUP Foundation’s Legal Defense Fund.

Although I have not yet received any aid from this fund (or any other), I believe it represents the frontline in fighting for our universities.

If you prefer a different charity, you can indicate that in PayPal or on your check or money order, and your contribution plus a matching amount will go there.

Finally, I will forward the receipts (in your name) to you, as unlike Now the Facts, the AAUP Foundation and most charities can afford official IRS charitable status, making the contribution tax deductible.

I make this matching offer to show how strongly I believe in the cause.

Please consider clicking the Donate button at right or mailing a check or money order to:

Sam Bradley/Now The Facts
PO Box 9412
Tampa FL, 33674

Your support is greatly appreciated. Together, I believe we can protect the integrity of our institutions of higher education for years to come.

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Beware the Ides of February

Wood cutting of stabbing of Julius Caesar.

Julius Caesar died from a betraying knife. My proverbial knife, however, was right in the back. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

TAMPA—Julius Caesar may have had to be wary of the middle of March, but it seems that I should taken vacations during the middle of February.

Several days have passed since the last post here, as I have been busy with my ongoing legal battle.

I also have not had much positive to say during the past week, as it marks anniversaries in both infringements upon my Constitutional Rights, one in 2013 and one in 2016, discussed here.

“When protected interests are implicated, the right to some kind of prior hearing is paramount.”
– U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Potter Stewart in Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 569-570 (1972).

Reminders About the USF Case

Lest anyone forget the unequal protection particulars:

I was first informed that a University of South Florida employee was attempting to extort the university using my reputation as leverage on Feb. 19, 2016. Although I have reported the second-degree felony to multiple state agencies, a year later, USF has yet to report the crime, according to all records I have accessed.

After the precise actions foretold in the extortion threats occurred, USF placed me on paid administrative leave on March 23, 2016. I have been able to obtain no evidence of discipline to the other employee.

From April 5, 2016, to April 8, 2016, “interviews” were conducted by contracted attorney Thomas M. Gonzalez. Everyone to be interviewed was specifically told, “This is not a disciplinary review,” it was, in fact, a disciplinary review.

Despite multiple unequivocal rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court that a pretrial hearing is required, USF Provost Ralph Wilcox wrote a letter announcing my termination on June 29, 2016.

There was no pre-termination hearing, as required by the Constitution. Since that letter was penned, 241 days have past, during which I have received no income. There still has been no hearing. The Supreme Court has ruled that the preferred option is to allow the employee to continue to work while awaiting a hearing. Even if that is not possible, however, payment is required.

“Finally, in those situations where the employer perceived a significant hazard in keeping the employee on the job, it can avoid the problem by suspending with pay.”
– U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Byron White in Cleveland Board of Education v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532, 542 (1985).

No hearing. No pay. No Constitutional rights. No justice. Eight months.

Meanwhile at University of South Florida

Former regional vice chancellor of academic affairs for the USF St. Petersburg campus, Han Reichgelt, stepped down from his administrative position on Feb. 27, 2015, but Reichgelt remains “a [well paid] professor of information systems management,” according to excellent student journalism by The Crow’s Nest.

Han Reichgelt

Han Reichgelt, former USFSP regional vice chancellor of academic affairs

Reichgelt’s sudden administrative resignation came following a complaint to USF’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equal Opportunity, according to public records first obtained by The Crow’s Nest.

Although the public documents released by the university omit specifics, sources close to the investigation have confirmed to Now the Facts that the allegations were related to the university’s policy on sexual harassment. The allegations have neither been substantiated nor refuted by either USF or Reichgelt.

Unfortunately for all involved, another high profile case involving sexual harassment would break at USF following my unconstitutional termination.

USF's Dr. Herb Maschner

Herb Maschner, former director of the USF Center for Virtualization and Applied Spatial Technologies

This time, news broke that a high-profile director on the USF main campus, Herb Maschner, had been accused of sexual harassment while at his former employer, Idaho State University, and that the complainant would sue the university in December 2016, according to the Idaho State Journal.

This revelation led to the university removing Maschner as Director of the USF Center for Virtualization and Applied Spatial Technologies; however, he would continue to hold on to his lucrative professor position, according to The Oracle, the student newspaper at USF.

Rather than going to court, Idaho State University settled the lawsuit with Maschner’s victim for $170,000, according to the Idaho State Journal.

Court documents provide graphic detail of the abuse of a female subordinate employee, who “had just lost an infant daughter,” according to the Journal.

Since the Maschner story first broke, the Now the Facts Anonymous Tips box has been flooded with information about, Maschner, and additional Public Records Requests are currently being prepared.

Slowly But Surely

My case against the university proceeds forward. Slowly and expensively.

The response to the public records request fund has been exceptional—and much appreciated. Next week will launch a legal defense fund to help fight this injustice. There will be a fun twist. Stay tuned.

Both these men remain employed. The Supreme Court has clearly said that I should have remained employed or suspended with pay pending a hearing. That didn’t happen.

Instead, it has been 241 days without pay. And to the best of my knowledge—which includes multiple public records requests about myself, I have never been accused of sexual harassment in any venue at any time in any state.

How sad are the state of affairs when all facts suggest that committing sexual harassment would have saved my job?

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New #Resist Shirt Available

Racial Justice / Resist T-shirt
I haven’t only been blogging. I have been working on some shirt designs, too.

If you are interested in racial justice, you may find this shirt of interest.

It is available on Spreadshirt.

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Biological Bases of Fear in Politics

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself

Although it made for effective political rhetoric, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous quotation doesn’t quite square with science.

TAMPA—Fear serves as a primary motivator of human behavior for good reason—if you do not adequately avoid threats, you cease to be a human being.

Threats, Opportunities, & Survival

For every member of the animal kingdom, survival boils down to a rather simple strategy: maximize opportunities and minimize threats.

Yet as simple as that may seem, the desire for opportunities and the fear of threats varies widely from person to person. These differences lead some people to take far greater risks than others.

Perhaps not surprisingly, these individual differences have been shown by science to correlate with complex social behaviors.

Mapping Biology to Society Quite Indirect

One of the reasons it is easier to be a politician than a scientist or a science writer is because with science, the devil is always in the details. And hashing out the details gets wonky in a hurry.

Take, for instance, political party identification. For any given person, a huge variety of factors affects this identification—including strongly the party identification of those who raised you.

Donkey and ElephantPolitical parties are social constructs that represent some amalgamation of broad ideology with the particular interests of those in power controlling the parties.

Given this, it should come as no surprise that science is able to better explain identification with an ideology than with a political party.

Further, if you can get a better handle on which aspects of an ideology result in the identification, you can far better explore the factors that correlate with, predict, and follow from that identification.

But that makes for far more boring headline.

Popular Understandings of Human Motivation

Almost everyone reading this will have heard of “fight or flight” or “approach and avoidance.” Those represent straightforward notions, and they are relatively easy to understand.

Each paints two diametrically opposed choices: you go one way or the other. Just like an arrow with two ends.

Arrow

You have one body, so you can go in only one direction given the laws of physics.

Yet as scientists continued to dig deeper into the mysteries of the human mind—not surprisingly—the underlying reality turned out to be much more complicated.

‘Risky’ Behavior Reveals a Single Arrow’s Flaws

Consider something very benign, which has no serious appeal and poses no serious threat. I have often used the example of a kitchen stool, or, for example, why so few people watch C-SPAN.

Kitchen stoolLet me try to illustrate this with what I hope will be a straightforward example.

With a single approach/avoid arrow and a very neutral object, there is no motivation to approach or avoid it, so one would fall in the middle of that arrow.

Now consider some “risky” behavior that carries with it both strong appeal and a good deal of risk.

Unprotected sex is one example. Recreational drug use is another.

For recreational drug use, one might be allured by the social conformity of the group at a party and any pleasurable effects of the drug. Concurrently, one might be repelled by health dangers and potential legal consequences.

Here one also is caught in the middle of the approach and avoid arrow, yet it goes without saying that this is an altogether a different experience.

Two Systems Must Produce One Result

As it turns out, scientists have revealed a great deal of evidence that the simple approach/avoid model poorly explains what happens in the human nervous system.

Rather than a single push/pull system, thousands of studies point toward two separate systems: an appetitive system that regulates the desire to approach and an aversive system that regulates the desire to avoid.

Two arrows

The two systems compete for control, and whichever system is most active governs action. When appetitive activation is greatest, the inclination is to approach. When aversive activation is greater, the inclination is to avoid.

Returning to our neutral, boring object, neither system is activated, so there is no motivation to do either.

PillFor the risky situation, both systems are similarly active, so there is, in effect, a tie between them. It is difficult draw.

Note how the simple switch to two competitive systems now clearly illustrates why the neutral and risky situations immediately seem so different despite the fact that they both fall in the middle of the single approach/avoid arrow.

Which System Wins at Any Given Moment

If these two systems, appetitive and aversive, were perpetually deadlocked, you would be perpetually frozen, and that likely does not resemble your personal experience.

Using data, scientists have developed models that suggest that these two systems ramp up differently depending upon the intensity of the situation.

HikerWhen the world seems fairly calm and safe, the appetitive system enjoys an advantage. This makes a great deal of sense biologically. Without this advantage, no one would explore their world, so they would never find food, water, or potential mates. We call this advantage of the appetitive system positivity offset.

However, if they appetitive system always enjoyed the advantage, you would walk straight into every danger in the world. In short, you would soon be dead.

Skull and crossbonesThe check on this is that as the environment becomes more intense, the aversive system ramps up more quickly. If you’re mathematically inclined, one can say that the slope of its activation function is steeper. We call this negativity bias.

Taken together, the positivity offset and negativity bias serve to allow humans and animals to be generally exploratory in nature yet avoid dangers and threats.

The important thing to note that is our research and that of others provides strong evidence of significant individual differences in both positivity offset and negativity bias.

Equally as important, our data showed that the two factors were independent. That is, people with a high negativity bias might have either a low positivity offset.

Examining the Two Factors Together

All other things being equal, those with a high positivity offset will have above average approach tendencies. Even as situations become more intense, these individuals still will feel drawn to approach.

Likewise, all other things being equal, those with a high negativity bias will have above average avoidance tendencies. Even when situations are relatively less intense, these individuals will be inclined to avoid.

Because empirical data showed these dimensions to be relatively independent, it becomes much more explanatory to consider individuals that are high or low in each of the two dimensions.

When divided into “high” or “low” on both negativity bias and positivity offset, we got roughly four equal groups of people. Here is our name for each group and a summary description.

INACTIVES: Individuals with both a low negativity bias and a low positivity offset exhibit the least reaction to the external world. Opportunities do not especially excite them, and risks do not especially frighten them.

RISK TAKERS: Given that our research was designed to help craft better health communication messages, this group was of greatest interest. High in positivity offset, these individuals are driven to experience life, and this drive is only slightly tempered as risk increases. Not surprisingly, these individuals reported the most tobacco, drug, and alcohol use.

RISK AVOIDERS: At the very opposite end of the spectrum, individuals with a low positivity offset and a high negativity bias feel less pull toward opportunities in the world, and they are quick to withdraw when any risk presents itself.

COACTIVES: Finally you have the group with a high positivity offset and a high negativity bias. They charge out into the world seeking experience and opportunity, just like risk takers, but that drive has a serious limit. As soon as the likelihood of risk increases, the opportunity loses its appeal

Physical, Behavioral Differences Among Types

In addition to their likelihood to smoke, drink, or take drugs, individuals falling into these groups exhibited both behavioral and physiological differences. That is, their bodies responded differently to pleasantness and unpleasantness.

For example, when shown a series of pleasant and unpleasant photographs, risk avoiders were especially fast to click past extremely unpleasant photographs.

These differences manifested in their physiology, too. As might be expected, those high in negativity bias exhibited increased levels in multiple physiological changes associated with avoidance.

These physiological differences are crucial to understanding this issue. If you are an individual with high negativity bias, unpleasant things are bad to you precisely because they feel bad to you. Even if often subconscious, these physiological changes associated with flight are registered in the mind, and they affect ongoing cognition.

Restated, this is not a carefully reasoned, logical choice. This is, “This feels bad, and I am getting out of here.”

Bringing It Back to Politics

As I first wrote last week, at the same time we were working on this research designed at designing better health prevention messages, other researchers were examining how these concepts related to underlying political ideology.

As a reminder, political party identification is extremely complicated and only partially affiliated with underlying ideological values.

Variables such as education and socioeconomic status also play large roles.

Furthermore, you are a product of your genes, your environment, and how your environment affected your gene expression. So who you are was never predetermined.

Thus, there almost assuredly never will be physiological measures that associate as strongly with party identification as with basic conservative or liberal ideology.

And as a final qualifier—reminder here that with science, the devil is in the details—this also is not simply asking people to check conservative or liberal. Effective measures ask participants to rate their agreement with several statements, some of which stem from liberal ideology, and some of which stem from conservative ideology.

The words, as labels, are also highly charged, so their use skews responses.

Despite Qualifiers, Correlations Exist

Admittedly that was a long list of qualifiers. Yet understanding that basic concepts should make it at least plausible that those individuals with a greater negativity bias would tend to show greater agreement with these kinds of statements:

  1. Society works best when people realize the world is dangerous
  2. Society works best when people take primary responsibility for their welfare
  3. Society works best when those who break the rules are punished

Accordingly, people who respond with a high level of agreement with these statements, which derive from conservative ideology, are more likely to be Republicans than Democrats.

Just as is the case that designing anti-tobacco messages should differ based upon your audience, feal appeals work differently with different audiences.

Fear appeals work best on individuals with a high negativity bias. On the aggregate across a national population of more than 300 million people, individuals with a high negativity bias are going to be overrepresented in the group of people who agree with conservative ideology. And among these people, Republican party identification will be represented in greater numbers.

However, this is far from invariant, and there is no direct causal link. Trying to make predictions for a given individual likely will fare no better than a coin flip. For a national election, however, these trends will manifest themselves in a mass population.

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