Murray removed as CCRI chair, says action was 'retaliation'

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Steven Murray, president of the Community College of Rhode Island Faculty Union, was removed from his position as the Criminal Justice & Legal Studies department chair last month. He says the action is a result of his work with the “no confidence” vote against some members of the college’s administration.

Murray, who has been a full-time member of the faculty since 1993 and department chair since 2012, claims college president Meghan Hughes told him in an email on January 22 that he was being removed from his position “effective immediately.” He said there was no due process involved.

“The U.S. Constitution requires Hughes to provide me with ‘due process’ before she can take this type of action,” he said in an email. “None was ever provided.”

Murray was one of the faculty members who led the push for the “no confidence” vote against Hughes, Vice President Rosemary Costigan, and Dean Thomas Sabbagh in December. With the vote came 82 percent of the faculty voting against Hughes, Costigan and Sabbagh, due to their push for the January term, also known as the J-Term. The session was 12 days during winter break.

Murray claims that the reasoning for his demotion is because of his work involving the vote.

“Hughes’ action against me is clearly in retaliation against me for my work on behalf of the students and faculty as president of the Faculty Union, such as leading the no confidence vote in Hughes/Costigan and Sabbagh,” he said in an email.

He said that during his time at CCRI he has never been “disciplined.” He also said that no other faculty members have been removed from their department chair positions, to his knowledge.

“I have always received outstanding reviews by my students and faculty department members,” he added.

According to Amy Kempe, Director of Marketing and Communications for the college, Murray was removed “in accord with the requirements of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the CCRI Faculty Association, including Article XII, which outlines the requirements and provisions specific to department chairperson,” she said in a statement.

Part D of Article XII in the collective bargaining agreement, which addresses the dismissal of a department chairperson, says: “If in the opinion of the President, the Department Chairperson is not fulfilling her/his responsibilities, the President may terminate the appointment of the Chairperson. The notice of dismissal shall contain a statement of reasons.”

“Professor Murray’s employment status at the college has not changed; he remains a professor in the Criminal Justice and Legal Studies Department,” Kempe said in the statement.

The union is taking action against his removal, according to Murray. He added that the union has filed a grievance and unfair labor practice charge against Hughes’ actions. He said that he has received “tremendous” support from faculty and students, along with some members of the college’s administration.

“Further legal action will be taken on my behalf to right this wrong,” Murray wrote.

Kempe said in the statement that since this is a personnel matter, the college would not provide any further comment.

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