UNH, trustees seek to reverse arbitrator's decision to reinstate professor
DURHAM — The University System of New Hampshire Board of Trustees and the University of New Hampshire have filed a complaint in Strafford County Superior Court seeking to reverse an arbitrator's decision that could require them to reinstate ousted professor Marco Dorfsman of Durham.
Dorfsman, an associate professor in the College of Liberal Arts and chairman of the Languages, Literatures and Cultures Department, was relieved of his duties at the end of the spring semester after admitting to intentionally lowering the student evaluation scores of a junior colleague to below acceptable levels.
The university administration determined that Dorfsman had committed an act of moral turpitude, a fact that a committee of faculty members agreed with and which can result in dismissal under the collective bargaining agreement with the American Association of University Professors, of which Dorfsman is a member.
Recommendations were made by the faculty committee to Provost John Aber, who determined Dorfsman's dismissal from the university was justified and in its best interest.
In May, UNH was notified that Dorfsman had initiated an expedited grievance process, which culminated in a hearing before an arbitrator on Aug. 28 and 29.
On Nov. 14, the arbitrator issued a decision affirming UNH's finding that the conduct represented moral turpitude, but determining that UNH nonetheless lacked the authority to dismiss Dorfsman upon the application of a just cause analysis.
On Friday, Dorfsman notified the university that he would seek to continue the arbitration process toward reinstatement.
That same day, the USNH Board of Trustees and UNH filed the court complaint and a motion to stay the arbitration process pending resolution of the appeal.
According to the complaint, the university system alleges the arbitrator was not authorized to "substitute his own brand of 'industrial justice' for UNH's determination after finding the misconduct constituted moral turpitude," a just cause standard for dismissal under the collective bargaining agreement.
The university states through its attorneys that the arbitrator exceeded his authority by awarding reinstatement after making a finding of moral turpitude and believe that portion of the award and decision should be vacated.
According to the motion to stay, although Dorfsman has been relieved of his teaching, leadership and service obligations, he continues to draw his salary throughout the grievance and arbitration proceedings.
The university also argues that Dorfsman's presence on campus and resumption of duties would, at the least, create the appearance that UNH condones acts of academic and professional dishonesty by its professors.
They say it could also create a large degree of unnecessary intradepartmental strife, as the junior colleague still works at the university, and other junior faculty members have voiced opposition to the use of any evaluation materials Dorfsman could have had access to in lecturer promotion and retention decisions.
As of Monday, a judge had not yet reviewed the complaint and motion to stay.