Robins Interview (FOIA)

Here is a link to the transcript of OFCCP interview with former Coordinator of Student Records and Registrar Kori Robins, dated February 23, 2017. A PDF with my comments is available here.

Context

According to question 27, Robins knew I was military since 2010, when I started at Duke.

Robins had previously reported to OIE that “Logan doesn’t have much teaching experience.” (OIE Final Report, p. 3) At the time I was passed over for a teaching contract, in summer 2016, I had already accrued four semesters of unsupervised teaching experience at Methodist University and one semester as a teaching assistant at Duke, having taught a total of nearly 150 undergraduate and graduate students.

Furthermore, on October 10, 2016 Clinton told me over the phone that, during her OIE interview, Robins remarked I “should be happy because [I] was compensated the same amount for half the work.” The term the EEOC has historically used to describe this kind of sentiment is Under-Utilization, which includes being seen as “able to perform only limited tasks.” 

Managerial Role

The FOIA supervisor at DoL told me one interview was redacted in its entirety because the person was not in a managerial position. Robins’ inclusion in the FOIA release, and her affirmation in question 17 as one of many “management officials” establish her as inhabiting a managerial position. Reese claims (twice) that “every manager” receives EEO training and “knows the policy.” (Reese, q.33)

“As far as [she] knows,” Duke has EEO policy (q.24), but she is more certain that “Yes” it does include veteran status (q.26) and “yes” (q.23 & 25) supervisors are held accountable to said policy. Robins, however, does “not collect vet information before or during the process” of hiring teaching assistants (q.11), which seems to violate not only federal law, but also university EEO policy and Reese’s own testimony. The only training she claims to have received was informal “on the Job Training” in hiring teaching assistants.

Despite two semesters of on the job training from both Conklin-Miller and former Dean of Academic Programs Sujin Pak, it isn’t clear if she followed any logical or consistent pattern in hiring. After all, she cites two different reasons for why I had been passed over for a contract. In response to on question, she claims it was because I was “not a doctoral student” (q.14f), but later remarks that it was because “no professors recommended” me (q.17b). Robins has therefore provided what the EEOC calls “inconsistent or shifting explanations,” an example of a fact that “May Support Finding of Retaliation.”

Retaliation Allegation

As a central concern expressed to both Davis (on February 29, following an Implicit Bias presentation) and Struble (on April 11, in his office), of potential retaliation for talking to them about my employment, question 14 is very important. She acknowledges she knew me, knew of my military status (later, in q.27), and it was she who hired me for Spring 2016. Although Struble told me by email on April 21, 2016 that he had “shared the affirmative action plan with our HR office,” Robins claims she “did not receive any info from Mr. Dan Stubble about the AAP.” (q.14d) Then, without any apparent prompting, Robins immediately connects the Affirmative Action Plan, to which she claims to have never been alerted, with whether she had any knowledge of my stated concerns “in regard to treatment of veterans” prior to “late August” (q.14d & 20b), when Reese disclosed my protected activity during his Implicit Bias presentation.

Robins clearly understands that, if she had known about me asking questions “in regard to veteran treatment,” then she would be directly implicated in failing to adhere to university policy requiring hiring managers like herself to “recruit, train, and promote” veterans like myself. She seems to realize that she has a lot to lose if it can be established that she acted upon either anti-military implicit bias or upon retaliatory intent. That is why, according to emails contained in the FOIA dump, she refused to meet with OFCCP investigators without Duke’s retained counsel present, even though she was no longer employed there.

Question 14e is so critical, then, that it merits special attention. I have captured both the question and Robins’ response for reference. Here they are;

Screenshot 2017-10-06 12.40.54

Question 14e is the only section she refuses to answer, or which OFCCP failed to record a reply. The first part is a simply Yes/No. It would be easy to just say No, even it it weren’t true, because the DoL has a history of conducting shoddy VEVRAA investigations. The problem with answering No, however, is if you knew contradictory evidence existed somewhere and the risk of it emerging through legal Document Discovery or by chance. If the answer is Yes, then she would have to also explain why she discussed my protected status but, more importantly, also why she refused to abide by the Affirmative Action Plan she knew is required by federal law. (q.23)

 


Other OFCCP interviews can be found here.

Struble Interview (FOIA)

Here is a link to the transcript of OFCCP interview with Associate Dean of External Relations Dan Struble, dated December 8, 2016. A PDF with my comments is available here.

There are a few places where he contradicts himself or others. Struble has never received “formal training” on EEO policy, despite Reese’s insistence that “Everyone” attends EEO training (q.31) and that EEO training is “required” for all employees (q.32). Additionally, Struble repeats demonstrably false claims by Reese that veteran status is included in university policy and official materials (q.28, 37) and that they are protected against retaliation in particular (q.38). Part of the problem may be that Struble is “not aware” (q.30) how EEO policy is shared around the university.

Tokenism

In question 9, Struble claims my meeting with Ellen Davis, the same day that she had Ben Reese give the first of two Implicit Bias trainings I attended in 2016, was because I was “unhappy about veteran treatment.” This is false, and treatment of veterans only came up at his invitation when I met with him on April 11, 2016. In the same question, he unwittingly affirms his own token status; Davis and Hays referred me to him “not because [he has] any responsibility for veterans” (q.9), but because his presence actually acknowledges and affirms the issues I raised. That’s precisely the problem – nobody has any professional responsibility for veterans at Duke.

Stereotyping

Question 23 demonstrates that Struble felt “Logan is very angry.” I can confirm he said this to me in his office on April 11, 2016. As an emotion, it is an internal disposition that can only be expressed credibly by the person who feels angry. Struble, however, assigned the emotion to me – he reduced the protected activity in which I was engaging, in order to protect my employment and the growing family I was supporting, to a stereotype, to just another angry veteran. In doing so, Struble made a judgement that he is not only unqualified to make but which is expressly prohibited by university policy. Struble would know this if he had been provided EEO training, training which he never received.

Despite it being required by law, and contrary to Reese’s testimony, Struble told investigators that he has not received any “formal training” (q.31) related to EEO or Affirmative Action from the University.  Had he received such training, he would have known that the Affirmative Action Plan makes clear that all decisions are to be based on “individual merit, as opposed to stereotypes and biases.” (AAP, p.15) Examples of the angry veteran abound, including articles published by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the NY Times, The Atlantic, and others. However, while nearly all interviewees insisted that supervisors are accountable (including himself, in q.26), nobody can say how (…if, or when) that accountability actually unfolds. Lucky for Struble.

Witness Coaching

In various places throughout the transcript, Struble attempts to isolate and contain the problem, to insist that only one person seems to have had a bad experience at Duke, and that somehow excuses bias and harassment. In question 11a, he felt it was important to remark, however false, that I “didn’t use other individuals who were veterans as examples” of the issues I brought to his attention. By itself, this is just thoughtless, but he goes further, into territory that suggests he has been given things to say to federal investigators.

The transcript shows, on the first page, that Struble was hired in May 2013. Despite not being on staff until after I graduated, he told investigators that “Within his time as a student [Logan] didn’t say very much that he was treated unfavorable. I can’t recall examples.” (q.11i) May 2013 is the same month and year that I completed all remaining classes for my MTS degree (I submitted my thesis in September). This is significant because he never would have encountered me “as a student.” 

So how did Struble get it in his head that I never spoke up about veterans while I was a student; is it simply hearsay, or did he phone a friend?

Dean Richard Hays, who (for reasons I do not understand) was not interviewed by OFCCP, did in fact receive multiple emails from me in the course of my studies. My Narrative Document, which was submitted as part of my complaint to OFCCP, outlined Hays’ (non)involvement on page 32;

Emails sent to Hays on November 22, 29, and December 12 in 2010 went unanswered. Although one element of Hays’ deanship focused on theology and the arts, he indicated no interest in contributing to a work commissioned by Catholic iconographer Bill McNichols which he was invited to do in an email on February 6, 2011. The subject line of an email sent to him on March 20, 2011 by the claimant read ““help make DDS a more welcome place for veterans,” to which Hays never responded.

Furthermore, Struble acknowledged in our meeting that Hays shared emails with him, so maybe they also discussed my time as a student. There are other parts of the transcript in which Struble comments on matters with which he had no firsthand knowledge, including whether I was “rejected” as a preceptor (q.17 & 18) as well as the ThD program (q.11a & i). The amount of speculation and overreach is troubling, but it isn’t unexplainable.

Question 17, after all, suggests that Duke’s retained counsel was present at the meeting and interjected at least once. What else did people employed by Duke tell Struble to say (or not say), and why? 


Other OFCCP interviews can be found here.

Davis Interview (FOIA)

Here is a link to the transcript of OFCCP interview with Professor of Bible and Practical Theology Ellen Davis, dated December 7, 2016. A PDF with my comments is available here.

Context

On November 11, 2015, I attended a worship service and reception organized by a student veteran group I founded four years prior. During the reception, I asked Davis if she knew of any veterans on faculty at the Divinity School, which she was serving as interim dean at that time. She told me she did not know of any, but would look into it and get back to me.

On February 29, 2016, Davis’ office sponsored an “Implicit Bias” presentation by Reese of OIE. I received an invitation in January 2016 from Robins, stating attendance was optional, but an RSVP was required to secure a slot. The presentation went from 10 to 11:30am, then I met with Davis for a pre-arranged meeting in her office at 2:30pm. No mention was made of veteran status in the presentation, but I was inspired to look into bias and discrimination. I found the university’s Affirmative Action Plan for Veterans and People With Disabilities and learned about protected activity in the three hours before my meeting with Davis.

I explained to Davis that I could not accept another evening precept the following semester if one was offered to me. I told her I was worried about others learning about my concerns because it could affect my employment, and I was expecting a newborn in August. The concern I expressed to Davis was that being assigned what (as far as I knew until June 2017) was the only evening precept of the semester and being assigned half the number of students as other TAs in my lecture section, seemed to undervalue the experience I brought. I told Davis my fear was that, as a contract worker in an at-will state, “the squeaky wheel gets replaced.”

I told Davis that I knew of no veterans with whom I could confide, which is why I asked to meet with her. She had not followed up with me since on our conversation in November about whether there were any veterans in the Divinity School. In the midst of making small talk about there being no faculty that veterans could seek out for mentorship, Davis remarked that she had noticed a lack of veterans in doctoral programs. I had been told by email a few days prior that I had been rejected from Duke’s ThD program, so Davis’ comment was surprising – Duke could have broken the mold (and also abide by their AAP and federal law), but had passed on the opportunity to have a qualified veteran contributing to their program.

I was surprised that an acting dean, named by the AAP (p.9) as as the responsible party for EEO and affirmative action programs, 1) noticed a lack of veterans in doctoral programs, 2) did not have knowledge of a qualified veteran’s application to her school. I know she was unaware of my application because I followed up with her a few days later to ask if she would be supportive of me if I applied a third time. She said she would.

Transcript Reflections

Question 7 is interesting because, although I only had one class with her and only passing interactions, she remembered my bachelor name, “Mehl-Laituri.” This makes the unexplained change of my contract, which likely occurred under Robins’ watch, to “Leituiri” all the more odd. (see Duke Narrative p.14) But in the same question, as well as question 17, we find that Duke’s retained legal counsel was either present at, or revised/updated the testimony of managers as they were interviewed by federal investigators.

In question 12, Davis expresses perhaps the most fair and thoughtful remark of most of the transcripts that I’ve read so far. She recalls that, as later as February 29, 2016, I did not have any allegations. Until June, when I did file with OIE, I was trying to understand what resources actually existed for veterans and how I could help make Duke a better place for my peers. This is evidenced by my three years of advocacy as a student.

Attention turns to Maberry in question 13, in which it appears as though the position for which he was hired failed to meet the standards required by law. At least one person overseeing the hiring process for the “senior director of admissions and financial aide” (a title he now holds), cannot recall if any veteran applicants were rejected. It may be that the federal requirement of including an invitation self-identify as a veteran appeared on hiring materials and Davis simply skimmed past it. Or, as has been the case in most circumstances in which I have been hired, the invitation to self-identify was either not in compliance with the law or violated the law entirely by its absence from hiring materials. Was a veteran turned down for Maberry’s position? We may never know, but we can reasonably infer that his hiring was not in compliance with either the university’s own AAP or applicable federal law.

To her credit, Davis points out that it is the responsibility of the university’s HR department and OIE to ensure compliance with the law, not her own. Unfortunately, OIE’s senior leadership will sooner alter materials after the fact rather than promote diversity and inclusion at the university or adhere to federal law protecting under represented populations. As with other interviewees, Davis insists that supervisors are “absolutely” held accountable to EEO policy, but does not provided the requested explanation. (q.24)

Question 22 stands out, given it’s context and reflections from student veterans. In it, she references a “public gathering outside the Chapel.” The event was held on May 10, 2014 and organized by Duke Divinity Veterans, who called it a “Liturgy of Confession and Reconciliation.” Duke alumni and retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey was to speak for commencement, just a few days before memorial day. Intended as “a witness of the Christian community to the seriousness of [military suicide] and a plea to General Dempsey to allow Christian communities to be a part of the solution.” Benson opposed the event, leading one student veteran to reflect

things do “not look rosie for DMC in the coming years” and with the appointment of [Benson], I think its going to be worse. Think back to the prayer we had last year in front of the chapel to call attention to military/vet suicide: she was one of the “concerned” people that wanted us to move and not disrupt the baccalaureate.

Davis’ citing this event as an example of what the Divinity School has done to support veterans is therefore misguided. Rather, it discloses the efforts of managerial staff at willfully ignoring and even actively suppressing the full participation in, and benefits of, activities at a prime contractor like Duke University.

History of Anti-Military Bias?

One remark that begs for clarity is her comment which the transcript has recorded as “I knew from years past that we had veteran students in the past and don’t always feel that their voice is prominent at the divinity school.” It is not clear if this is something she is remembering me say (I very well could have said this), or if it is something she is actually saying herself. If the transcript is to be trusted, then it is her own statement (“I knew”), but it’s very possible it can’t be trusted.

Let’s assume the transcript is accurate, and she is indeed reflecting, from her own experience, that student veterans have approached her in the past who did not feel their voice was being heard at the Divinity School. Let’s also assume that she does not have in mind any of my own advocacy, which began in 2010. Perhaps she is referring veteran activity in 2008, when a Duke student veteran committed suicide not far from East Campus.

Alex Ney’s death was the catalyst that created the organization known as Duke Vets and inspired Clay Adams to voluntarily take on responsibility for student veterans at Duke (for which he was not paid and had not oversight). In February 2009, Senior Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta promised three things would change for student veterans;

  1. formalize veterans’ programming as part of Duke’s new student orientation
  2. add military status to the admissions information collected by Duke’s schools
  3.  a campuswide half-day workshop on serving veteran students

By the time I arrived in 2010, none of the above efforts had come to fruition. But the flurry of activity surrounding Alex’s death may have been what Davis had in mind when she referred to student veterans lacking the representation they felt was fair. At least Alex got a memorial service in Duke Chapel, overseen by Benson, who was Director of Worship at the time of his death. The bottom line is

Memorial Services should not be the only way in which the voices of student veterans are given prominence at Duke University. 

 


Other OFCCP interviews can be found here.