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Faculty, staff condemn administrator’s removal

Some+faculty+and+staff+say+President+Elliott+Hirshman+unjustly+removed+Joanna+Brooks+from+her+position+as+associate+vice+president+for+faculty+advancement.
Some faculty and staff say President Elliott Hirshman unjustly removed Joanna Brooks from her position as associate vice president for faculty advancement.

Some faculty and staff say President Elliott Hirshman unjustly removed Joanna Brooks from her position as associate vice president for faculty advancement.

Some faculty and staff say President Elliott Hirshman unjustly removed Joanna Brooks from her position as associate vice president for faculty advancement.

by Chris Bremer and Will Fritz

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San Diego State’s firing of an administrator led to more than 300 signatures from faculty and staff petitioning that she remain.

Joanna Brooks was released in June from her position as associate vice president for faculty advancement by outgoing SDSU President Elliot Hirshman.

A press release from SDSU faculty and staff described the action as  “one of (Hirshman’s) last acts of unchecked power before leaving the school.”

Citing confidentiality in relation to personnel matters, SDSU Media Relations Officer Katie White said she could not give out information on the circumstances surrounding Brooks’ removal.

“Joanna Brooks is currently on paid administrative leave, allowing the established process for personnel matters to be followed,” White said. “The Provost has appointed Emeritus Professor Bill Eadie to run the Office of Faculty Advancement in the interim which will ensure continued support for our faculty.”

Brooks’ removal was met with backlash, sparking a petition  urging intervention from Interim President Sally Roush, who took over for Hirshman in July. “I want them to reinstate her,” said Doreen Mattingly, professor and chair for SDSU’s Department of Women Studies. “Really, that’s what we want, there was one administrator that people respected and trusted and felt was working on their behalf.”

Brooks was released without warning, and was escorted out of her office in front of her staff upon receiving the news, Mattingly said.

“On his way out, President Hirshman essentially fired her — I think technically he put a lot of pressure on the provost to fire her,” said Jennifer Imazeki, an SDSU economics professor, referring to Provost Chukuka Enwemeka.

There was never an official announcement from the Provost’s office on the matter.

“The silence leaves faculty to wonder, ‘Is this a campus where if you stand up on principle, there will be a vendetta against you?’” Mat tingly said.  “Is this a way of telling other administrators who take a stand or make a mistake what the outcome will be?”

Mattingly said Brooks was considered by many to have been doing an extraordinary job before she was fired, Mattingly said.

“I just find it surprising that she could have done something worth taking her out of the position without (first) being disciplined or mentored into not making that mistake again,” Mattingly said.

Gene Lamke, professor emeritus in the Hospitality and Tourism Management department, said he held Brooks in high regard and was shocked at her firing.

“I think she understands how valuable faculty are to the university,” he said. “And I think she understands what the university’s role is relative to faculty.”

Brooks is described as a nationally recognized scholar, according to the SDSU faculty and staff press release. She has written for the Huffington Post as well as the Washington Post, and has appeared on MSNBC, NPR and the Daily Show, her SDSU biographical page says.

The petition describes Brooks as having made meaningful change in her two years as associate vice president for faculty advancement.

“She worked tirelessly to ensure faculty were heard, well-informed on subjects that mattered, and given the impression that fairness and equity were at the forefront of their concerns,” the petition said.

Imazeki believes past conversations the Provost and former President Hirshman had with Brooks may be related to her removal.

“She was told on a number of occasions that she was too close to the faculty, which is an odd thing to say about a person whose job is to support faculty,” Imazeki said.

Lamke said this was his understanding of Brooks’ firing also.

“Whether or not she was too much pro-faculty, I would have no idea,” he said. “I thought she was doing exactly what she ought to in that position.”

Others believe Brooks’s firing is more personal.

“I don’t think that the former president really respected high level women that much,” Mattingly said. “He did wait until he was walking out the door to do it. He didn’t do it earlier when he could be there to make sure the transition was smooth and that someone else was there.”

Brooks made several changes in her capacity as associate vice president, including implementing faculty diversity initiatives adjusting the retention, tenure and promotion process, which were received positively, Imazeki said.

What Imazeki finds most odd, however, is the way SDSU dismissed Brooks.

“Normally when people leave their position there is some sort of ‘Thank you for your service’ thing, and there has been nothing like that from the administration,” Imazeki said. “And so many faculty think so highly of her and the job that she was doing.”

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