Dean of Libraries Settles Discrimination Charge with NDSU

MATAYA ARMSTRONG | THE SPECTRUM
MATAYA ARMSTRONG | THE SPECTRUM

A settlement with the former NDSU Dean of Libraries will cost the university more than $300,000 in salary and ben­efits rather than fight a charge of discrimina­tion filed by the former dean.

Documents reviewed by The Spectrum revealed that the university intended to fire Michele Reid, who had been the dean of li­braries since 2008.

The Forum reported that more than 30 employees left the department, in many cas­es because of Reid’s leadership.

But Reid filed a charge in October claim­ing the school was discriminating against her based on her sex and retaliation for her filing an open records request.

In her complaint, she said in March 2012 NDSU Provost Bruce Rafert told her “he had received a packet of written materials that he claimed had come from a ‘substantial percentage of library staff.'”

The documents revealed Reid was not well-liked by many members of her staff.

Reid could not be reached for comment but in her charge she said the complaints that described her as “rude, a poor communicator and a tyrant” came from “three socially con­nected paraprofessional staff with a history of disruptive behavior who bore a grudge originating in the reorganization of the li­braries and renewal of staff I had been hired to undertake.”

As a part of the settlement agreement, Reid ended her time as dean of libraries on Dec. 31 but will remain a full-time univer­sity employee, with an office in Morrill Hall.

She will earn $166,954 in 2014 and $125,000 in 2015, according to the settle­ment agreement. She will continue to re­ceive full-time benefits while she pursues her doctorate degree.

Unhappy Staff

“Reid was hired in June of 2008 to re­organize the NDSU Libraries, remediate longstanding staffing and culture issues and establish in the libraries a customer service environment,” a letter written by Rafert said.

Rafert went on to commend Reid in his undated letter and said Reid provided lead­ership and was a consistent advocate of the NDSU libraries.

But exit surveys taken by employees retiring or leaving the university revealed many did not have a good relationship with Reid.

“The library has a very negative environ­ment right now so I would not recommend it until there is change in leadership,” one comment said.

Another said the library was “dysfunc­tional, hostile and poorly managed.”

While many on the libraries staff were unhappy with Reid, she said there were problems with the staff when she arrived.

In a message to Rafert in 2012, Reid said her staff was beyond dysfunctional when she arrived and said there was an environment in the libraries that caused students to avoid them.

Reid drew complaints since 2009, docu­ments show. The complaints and poor re­lationship with many members of her staff were a reason Rafert said Reid should be fired.

Alleged Discrimination

According to The Forum, Rafert received a package of materials from three employees who made negative claims against Reid’s leadership.

One of the complaints from a documents librarian, Kathryn Thomas, said that Reid got mad at two library staffers who tried to clean up a water leak.

Thomas said in that letter that the dean’s behavior was “rude, belligerent and ex­tremely unprofessional.”

After Rafert told Reid about the package from the employees Reid requested to look at the materials.

According to The Forum, Rafert declined to show her the documents initially but after an open records request was filed by Reid, the university turned over the documents.

Reid requested to see the documents on March 26, 2012, and the provost turned them over the following day after consulting with the university’s general counsel, docu­ments said.

Still, Reid said the provost’s initial refus­al to turn over the documents was a violation of open records laws.

Reid also considered the request for the records as a reason the university subjected her to a complete performance review.

She complained to NDSU President Dean Bresciani in May 2012 that no one in her position had ever been subjected to such a review.

The university claimed that the reviews are routine for everyone in Reid’s position and that she wasn’t unfairly targeted, ac­cording to correspondence from NDSU’s General Counsel’s office.

She said in her complaint that Bresciani said it was within policy for Rafert to con­duct the review.

After the meeting with the president, Reid said she was sent a letter by the uni­versity’s General Counsel that told her that she violated policy by going to the president instead of dealing with Rafert. She said they also advised her to apologize to the provost.

Reid said that response constituted retali­ation, a claim the university denied.

In other documents reviewed, the univer­sity said it “was unclear what actions NDSU is alleged to have taken to warrant filing of the charge.”

NDSU also adamantly denied it discrimi­nated against Reid because she is female.

The 360 Review

Reid’s charge of discrimination did not stop the university from conducting its 360 review.

In the review Rafert, who once praised Reid, recommended she be fired.

“There exists no rationale for the uni­versity to extend her term appointment as a Special Faculty,” Rafert wrote in Decem­ber. “Because of the current relationships between Dean Reid and Library staff her continued employment as Dean of Librar­ies should be terminated effective immedi­ately.”

Many comments compiled in the review process were negative.

“The Dean does not exhibit a positive attitude, nor has she set a good exampleto library staff,” one comment said. “She does not promote teamwork or a environment built on trust.”

“Dean Reid’s leadership is strongly lack­ing. I feel that she is out to protect herself, only, at all times, and would crucify anyone if she had to. Her management approach is intimidating and non-productive,” another comment said.

But many of the survey’s respondents said Reid was an advocate for the library, de­spite the university not investing enough re­sources into the department.

“(The) Dean is ham­strung, checkmated, by un­willingness of (university) administration to fund the library properly, especially for collections and elec­tronic databases. This has a major negative effect on faculty research and student service, and none of this is the Dean’s fault,” a com­ment said.

While there were many positive comments regard­ing Reid’s leadership, man­agement style, communica­tion and interpersonal skills, there were more negative comments.

There were 98 respon­dents to a survey conducted by the 360-review commit­tee. The responses were gathered from March 19 through March 28, accord­ing to a draft report.

The survey showed 37.5 percent of the survey’s re­spondents viewed Reid’s leadership positively.

One comment the com­mittee said provided good insight on Reid’s leadership style was:

“I feel the dean excels at providing vision, and for the most part she provides a strong and quality vision for the future of the library. However, the environment that is resultant from her style of leadership facili­tate fear and not trust. This doesn’t not allow for public disagreement and discus­sion,” a portion of the com­ment said.

The survey also showed that 30 percent said she was an effective manager, whereas 45 percent said she was not.

More than half of the re­spondents did not view Reid as an effective interpersonal communicator, the report said.

University Response

NDSU did not have a lot to say concerning the situa­tion with Reid, nor did they provide a reason for the set­tlement.

“I am sending the same statement NDSU provided to The Forum: ‘This was an employment matter concluded after extensive negotiation,'” said NDSU spokeswoman Anne Robin­son-Paul.

The university appointed Michael Robinson as the in­terim dean of libraries on Jan. 17 and they said they are conducting a nationwide search for a new permanent dean.

Robinson declined to comment for this story.

 

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