One flew over the cuckoo?s desk

Posted: Sep 27, 2004 12:00 AM

Author?s Note: In a recent interview with our local New York Times affiliate, Dr. Lynne Snowden characterized me as a ?pathological liar? who is ?mentally unbalanced.? I offer the following chapter from my book ?Welcome to the Ivory Tower of Babel as a rebuttal. Since the events described in this chapter, Snowden has been voted out as Faculty Senate President. She has also been voted out of the Faculty Senate altogether. Furthermore, a taxpayer funded SBI investigation has determined that her subsequent claims that people  were breaking into her office to spray tear gas were unfounded. Nonetheless, she still teaches ?Counter-terrorism? at UNCW. Dr. Cecil Willis was recently promoted to the office of the Provost. He remains one of the most respected members of the university community.

Dear Director of Human Resources:

I hope you have a few spare minutes because you are not going to believe this one. I know that you?re busy but it would be wrong to keep this information from you. I think you may also be legally obligated to conduct some sort of investigation into the allegations I am about to share with you.

The first week of December I went to my mailbox and found the following memo:

December 2, 1999
To My Colleagues in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, & Criminal Justice:

You have been asked to debate the possibility of giving Dr. Cecil Willis another four-year term as Chair of our department. Unfortunately, I will be unable to attend today?s meeting because of my Faculty Senate duties. However, I have important information concerning Cecil?s qualifications and some questions about his prior actions that should be answered in open forum before you make this decision. I would therefore like to request that you either postpone today?s discussion or schedule a second meeting where his candidacy would be the sole topic of discussion.
 Thank you very much for your help and attention to this matter.

 Lynne L. Snowden

As you can imagine, this memo was the talk of the department for the rest of the day. When the department met that afternoon, we debated whether one faculty member could postpone such an important meeting on such short notice. But Cecil graciously agreed to have that second meeting where his candidacy would be the ?sole focus? of discussion.

When we reconvened on December 16, about two-dozen sociologists, anthropologists, and criminologists sat awaiting the entry of Dr. Snowden, our faculty Senate President. When she made her entrance, she had copies of a series of accusations printed out for everyone present. The materials she distributed are reproduced below in their entirety:

To my colleagues in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, & Criminal Justice:

Today I wish to bring information concerning our Chair, Cecil Willis, to you. In part, I do this because I have studied hate crime and discrimination for more than 15 years, and I know the only way to stop such behavior is to confront it and bring it out in the open. Another reason is the ever changing legal structure which surrounds harassment, and finally Cecil?s behavior toward me seems to be growing worse and has become a personal burden which I can no longer bear alone.

Please understand that I only wish to bring this matter to your attention. It is very difficult for me to recommend a course of action because, if Cecil is not re-elected as Chair, it is more probable that he will retaliate against me than if he is. There are three matters that should be discussed:

1. Two women, who are no longer with the department, reported to me that (sic) experienced harassment from Cecil. While I do not wish to speak for them, it is necessary that you understand I am the third such case in as many years.

2. Recently, I and a colleague wrote a paper on sexual harassment that will be published next year in the Police Chief. In going through the literature, I found that all of us could be held vicariously liable iif (sic) an employee is the ?target of crude and offensive sexually harassing behaivor (sic) and has a policy of prohibiting such conduct? (Gunta & Peters, 1998). As Faculty Senate President, I could certainly be held liable if I hid such information from you when a meeting had been scheduled expressly for the purpose of discussing Cecil?s fitness to remain in office.

3. Following my statement, I have listed examples of the things that have occurred in the workplace since I went up for tenure two years ago. Some of them by Cecil, some at the hands of person?s (sic) yet unknown, although the police are still investigating the matter. Please realize that I believe, as a criminal justice professional, that it is always better to help people control themselves rather than to impose force from the outside. This situation is a problem that we should solve ourselves. For your information I have also attached the first 2 pages of an article which defines various protected classes and contains the reasons why I feel my experiences are harassment.

We all sat in stunned silence after hearing Snowden read her memo openly accusing Cecil of sexual harassment. In addition to foregoing the normal procedures, she had just informed us that she had been to the police under the theory that his behavior was also criminal. The evidence she claimed to have suggesting that Willis was both a ?chronic sexual harasser? and a ?hate criminal? was on the last page of her handout which she went over point by point in front of everyone. I have reproduced it below:

 1. Use of crude hand gestures with a sexual nature.
 2. Threatening lack of promotion
 3. Making false statements regarding promotion
 4. Developing policies which only applied to me, such as only 2 DIS (Directed Individual Study projects) per semester 
5. Lack of support for publication efforts
 6. Using false information in my annual evaluation
 7. Trying to humiliate me in front of my colleagues

 Persons Unknown

 1. Mutilation of Watchband in my office
 2. Destruction of tenure documents
 3. Tampering with computer including 

 erasing bookmarks
 insertion of derogatory files
 manipulation of margins
 attempted crashes of computer
 etc., etc.

 4. Tampering with printer
 5. Note found in car

As you can imagine, the atmosphere in that room was surreal when Snowden began explaining all of the accusations on that final page. I stopped her after the first point to ask for an example of a crude hand gesture. She politely asked me to save my questions until the end.

By the time she reached the point concerning the ?mutilation of watchband in my office? she was visibly shaking and shedding tears as she waved around a plastic bag containing a watch with one side of the watchband completely cut off. ?This is a watch that my daughter gave to me,? she said. ?It is very special and someone came into my office one night and chopped off a little piece of the band after I had accidentally left it on my desk. Each time I forgot it in my office, someone came in and chopped off another piece.?

Snowden was unable to say whether the watchband mutilator was the same person who broke into her office to change the margins on her computer. Nor was she able to explain why she kept leaving her watch overnight on her office desk after someone commenced to mutilate it.

I am really concerned about this person, Sam (Sam Connally was our Human Resources Director at the time). It is obvious that these bizarre events have never actually happened. Clearly, the other members of the department didn?t believe the charges since they all voted to give Cecil another term as our Department Chair. But there is a question as to whether Snowden actually believed that these things have happened. If not, wouldn?t you agree that she is simply an evil person? If so, don?t you think that you have a moral obligation to provide her with appropriate medical attention? As it stands, do you think that she is fit to be a college professor? I look forward to the results of your investigation.