The University settled a lawsuit last week with the former head of the Planning, Public Policy and Management Department for $500,000.
Jean Stockard sued the University in June 2006 after she says she was forced to resign for blowing the whistle on a first-year program in the Institute for Policy Research and Innovation.
Administrators continue to deny any wrongdoing, but Stockard’s attorney, Craig Crispin, said the University’s half a million dollar payment – which will net Stockard close to $600,000 because of interest – is an “objective demonstration that Dr. Stockard was wronged by the administration.” The settlement avoids a trial that was set to begin on Tuesday in which Stockard sought at least $1 million.
Stockard’s resignation in February 2006 came months after she first raised concerns that an experimental program in IPRI that recruited students from around the globe was unfairly charging the scholars for services they never received.
The “Visiting Scholars” program, which was headed by professor and IPRI director Michael Hibbard, accepted five scholars, three of whom were from South Korea. Two of the scholars were sponsored by the South Korean government, and the other by the Industrial Bank of Korea.
Sun Ho Lee, Hong Ju Yang and Song Rhie enrolled in the program from December 2004 to December 2005, and were supposed to conduct research in a program that was to be tailored to the needs of each scholar.
Several months after the program began, the Korean scholars complained to Hibbard that they weren’t being offered the services they were promised when they enrolled, such as special seminars and “academic supports,” according to e-mails exchanged between the students and Hibbard. They were also required to give receipts of their University payments to their Korean sponsors. Two of the Korean scholars paid $20,000 and one paid $10,000.
IPRI delayed in issuing invoices to the visiting scholars, and when they finally did, the bills included a $5,000 charge for general support items such as e-mail addresses, library use and mailboxes.
But the invoices, which were drafted on IPRI and University letter head, appeared not to be approved by the University Business Office. When the Emerald showed the invoice to employees in the billing office, none of them recognized it.
The scholars sent e-mails to Hibbard expressing how the invoices “made little sense,” and that they were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the program.
Hibbard responded in an e-mail dated April 19, 2005 that “because the three of you continue to be unhappy with your situation here, I suggest that we agree it is best for you to leave the University of Oregon and IPRI.”
In February 2006, Hibbard told the Emerald that the scholars had misinterpreted the purpose of the visiting scholars program.
“They expected a structured training program with a set of canned experiences,” Hibbard said. “We were offering an individualized program with a set of administration and professor supports. In the end, we expected that they would operate pretty much independently, and in retrospect I think they were not comfortable with that.”
In April 2005, after appealing to Hibbard, the scholars showed Stockard the invoices and the e-mails exchanged between the scholars and Hibbard.
Like the PPPM department, IPRI is under the purview of the School of Architecture and Allied Arts. Thus, Stockard didn’t have bureaucratic control over the department but was connected to it via its relationship with AAA.
“We’re required as state employees (to stand up for those) who may have been the victims of financial wrong doing,” Stockard told the Emerald on Sunday.
Hibbard could not be reached for comment over the weekend, but in e-mails exchanged between the Korean scholars and him, he wrote that “I strongly disagree that you have received no academic support from IPRI … you have had all of these things and more.”
Stockard brought the scholars’ complaints to the attention of AAA Dean Frances Bronet and other administrators, including University President Dave Frohnmayer.
She also filed a complaint with the Oregon University System’s Internal Audit Division.
By the end of summer 2005, the Korean scholars were reimbursed for most of their expenses and had continued taking other classes at the University.
Stockard said she then put the matter behind her and went on sabbatical during fall term 2005.
While on sabbatical, the Oregon University System on Oct. 28 concluded its investigation of the program and found that “there was a lack of program documentation between the scholars and the institute, as was alleged. However, we determined that UO management adequately resolved the matter.”
On Dec. 27, several weeks after Stockard returned from sabbatical, she received a letter from AAA Dean Frances Bronet calling for her resignation.
In the letter, Bronet said “the department is eager to move forward from the problems that arose around IPRI. Faculty members have expressed concern, based on their observations of your behavior over the last few months, about your leadership in doing that.”
But the letter later said, “this has nothing to do with your reporting of concerns in IPRI. Members of the University community are expected to report concerns, and you had every right to raise issues.”
Stockard held out for several weeks before announcing her resignation. As she did so, she filed a tort document that threatened a lawsuit if she wasn’t reinstated as head. She wasn’t, and in June 2006 she filed suit.
“The situation was just very, very difficult,” she told the Emerald on Sunday. “It was just emotionally something I couldn’t continue.”
Stockard retired as a full-time faculty member at the end of the 2006-07 school year, although she had originally hoped to teach at least part-time until 2013.