Letters from the Editor: A few questions concerning complete confidentiality
Danny Fisher / Editor-in-Chief
The University of Alaska Fairbanks has issued no official statement concerning the Jan. 13 termination of adjunct metalsmithing instructor Jack Finch’s contract. Finch’s responsibilities, which included teaching beginning, intermediate and advanced art classes at near full capacity, have been divided between Patricia Carlson and Leif Johansen, who are listed on UAF’s employee database as temporary faculty and mechanical technician, respectively.
In response to their instructor’s dismissal, art students have banded together in an attempt to have Finch reinstated, using a facebook group of more than 60 members to organize and call meetings. A petition directed at Interim Chancellor Mike Powers and initiated by Autumn Fish, a biology student, was circulated last week. Fish used an image of a heart locket she made in one of the instructor’s classes as the feature image for the petition. Other students have written letters to UAF administrators expressing their appreciation of Finch and their concern at his absence.
Students are concerned – even angry. Yet the official reason why Finch was dismissed remains shrouded in a veil of “confidentiality.”
Confidentiality is sometimes meant to preserve the privacy of any parties involved in an employee’s dismissal. Other times, it is intended to protect those involved in a case of misconduct. However, the value of UAF’s secrecy in this particular case is questionable at best.
When such an impassioned group of students is deprived of a faculty member who has fueled their inspiration and led them through the challenges provided by a difficult craft, they are going to act. Refusing to provide them of any context for the decision leaves them in a position where they will cling to any information they are allowed, and for the past week, the information they have been allowed has consisted in great part of rumors.
If any one party involved with Finch’s dismissal were to provide insight, students would then be operating with only one perspective. If that perspective favored Finch, it would seem an awful lot like administrators are trying to cover their asses.
The main problem is that an absence of an official statement from UAF leaves far too much room for speculation. Assumptions will be made about Finch, the art department, CLA Dean Todd Sherman, and all other officials, professors, adjuncts and students involved. These assumptions could be far more damaging to peoples’ reputations than the shred of truth the university would have to release in order to put the minds of the concerned at ease.
So here are the questions I’ll offer. Is the tactic of complete confidentiality being employed by UAF at this time beneficial or harmful? Is the principle of potentially protecting the privacy of one party worth the reputation of another? If someone is at fault, should their character not be defamed for it? Finally, is it really impossible to provide some amount of context for Finch’s dismissal without threatening the security of another individual?