By Ronald W. Weathersby
Dr. Jane Davis, who brought allegations of wrongful student grade changes at Tennessee State University was arrested this morning and charged with a class B misdemeanor for “disorderly conduct by disrupting meeting or procession.”
Davis says she was attempting to ask TSU interim President Dr. Portia Shields the purpose of the meeting and why she did not have a role in the proceedings. She says that Shields alerted campus police to remove her from the meeting.
“I asked her was this a Faculty Senate meeting and she would not answer,” Davis told the Tribune in a telephone interview. “She asked me to be quiet and made it clear she wasn’t going to let me speak.”
When Davis refused to stop speaking campus police moved in, handcuffed and removed the English professor who earned a Ph.D. from Stanford.
TSU issued a written statement which read in part:
“During the special meeting of the faculty senate called by the President of the University, Dr. Portia Shields, Dr. Jane Davis, faculty member and chairperson of the faculty senate, was arrested by campus police for disruptive behavior and verbally assaulting the President after continually being advised to remain calm. After several attempts were made by the President to calm Dr. Davis, she was asked to leave the room, which she refused to do, and continued being disruptive and confrontational.”
The list of people who were invited to the meeting this morning was characterized as “rather odd at first glance.” by a faculty member who wished to remain anonymous. “There are several members of the Executive Committee included, but not all, and I’m pretty sure that some of the people called are not members of the Executive Committee.”
They went on to say that, “Although the Senate has 30 members, only about half that many (were invited). I’m not sure if this indicates that the administration is trying to intimidate a handful of people or is so out of touch with the Senate that they don’t know who is and who is not on the Senate.”
Davis and Shields have been at odds with one another since the grade changing allegations surfaced on June 27, 2012 with concerns that Associate Vice Provost changed 270 grades of “Incompletes” to letter grades in two pilot math classes. University officials said they made a mistake when students were inappropriately assigned an “incomplete” although they earned a passing grade in the course but didn’t complete all of the learning-support requirements. TSU corrected the mistake. According to the internal audit report.
During a two-hour hearing called by Senate Higher Education Subcommittee Chairman Senator Jim Summerville (R-Dickson), last week TSU academic and administrative officials, internal audit staff, and TBR officials provided testimony to address allegations of wrongful and inappropriate grade changes by University administrators. Although the Subcommittee’s report has not been released TSU administrators were observed cheering, singing the school’s fight song on a university bus outside Legislative Plaza and interim President Dr. Portia Shields danced on the bus.
However two days after the hearing during a meeting of faculty, staff, and administrators to open the new school year Shields began a discussion of the allegations of improper grade changes which led to the Senate hearings. According to sources inside the meeting, Shields singled out Professor Davis as having damaged the reputation of the TSU “family” and violated the “spirit of unity” that she wished to foster at TSU. She then allowed Dr. Oscar Miller to make a statement calling for the removal of Dr. Davis as Senate Chair and the dismissal of the Faculty Senate’s executive committee. Dr. Miller also recommended that all senators complete training on proper protocol.
Additionally the meeting agenda excluded Davis despite the inclusion of the Staff Senate chair and the Student Government Association president.
More details in this week’s print edition of the Tennessee Tribune.