The rules are the rules
A Florida appeals court has ruled against FAMU in a case involving a former law school employee who was fired during Castell Bryant's tenure for breaching university policy. In a Jan. 25 opinion, the Fifth District Court of Appeal sided with an administrative law judge who concluded that Janice Costin, the former coordinator of computer applications, was wrongly fired after making changes to the law school's computer system. The appeals court agreed she should be reinstated with back pay.
According to the ruling, Costin made two changes to the system in September 2004 - after a hurricane disrupted internet service – without getting prior approval from Kenneth Perry, FAMU's chief information officer. The administrative law judge concluded FAMU failed to prove those changes hurt the school (see recommended order here). But FAMU, with interim President Bryant at the helm, continued to argue that Costin caused harm because she disregarded policy and chain of command – and that her May 2005 firing was justified on those grounds (see FAMU's final order here.)
The appeals court did not buy it: The administrative judge, it said, interpreted the appropriate state rule "as requiring an employee's deviation from university policy to result in some palpable harm to the school or one of its employees or students before a tenured or permanent status employee could be terminated (without prior discipline) based upon his or her deviation from school policy. This is a logical, plain reading of the rule."
"FAMU, however, claims to read the rule as meaning that any ‘disregard of established University policy,' no matter how slight, is itself an ‘adverse affect to the functioning of the University' (thereby justifying termination of the employee) simply by virtue of the fact that a rule has been broken. FAMU's interpretation makes no sense because it renders the standard for termination meaningless."
FAMU spokeswoman Sharon Saunders said no decision has been made regarding an appeal.
- Ron Matus, state education reporter