Gag order lifted from UH professor
The University of Hawaii has agreed to lift a gag order imposed on one of its tenured professors while the school investigates allegations that he bullied, harassed and intimidated faculty, staff and students at the College of Education.
Michael D'Andrea, a professor in the Department of Counseling Education, College of Education, had sought a restraining order against the university after he was banned from campus effective March 2 and prohibited from talking to any former or current students or anyone at the Manoa campus about the grievances against him.
D'Andrea alleged the university was retaliating for his outspokenness on a number of controversial topics, including the war in Iraq and the Navy Research Lab proposal, and for initiating complaints on institutional racism.
More than halfway through a hearing yesterday before Chief U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor, attorneys for the university offered to restore D'Andrea's ability to speak to students, staff or faculty about the grievance process and complaints against him, his attorney Eric Seitz said.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit earlier this month on behalf of D'Andrea alleging that the restrictions were overbroad and violated his academic freedom.
"They can define terms of his employment, but our concern is this order went way beyond and affected his ability and opportunity to communicate and associate with people outside work," Seitz said.
University counsel Gregory Sato argued in court that the restrictions were necessary to ensure a safe and secure environment for students, faculty and staff.
Interim Chancellor Denise Konan was aware of repeated complaints about D'Andrea's bullying and intimidating conduct against students, staff and faculty. The university had tried mediation and imposed suspensions on D'Andrea, but he was unwilling to take responsibility for his conduct or to change. "She was afraid of further and escalating violence," Sato told the court.
Sato said he was referring to verbal or physical intimidation by D'Andrea such as yelling, threatening gestures, disruptive hostile actions and verbal statements intended to cause mental harm. The incidents did not involve the threat or use of firearms or knives, he said.
A former graduate student and graduate assistant in the College of Education testified yesterday that she felt "very threatened" after she received a letter from D'Andrea that was sent to her home after she was interviewed by school officials about grievances made against D'Andrea by other individuals. She also maintained she was given the "stink eye" and snubbed by other faculty.
Seitz said later that the letter was a "respectful letter" that requested they meet to clear up the matter with the assistance of a third party. "That's as intimidating as it gets," Seitz said.