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Faculty union president voices displeasure and surprise about Lanning’s departure

Tracy Hodgson, President of the college's faculty union.

Tracy Hodgson, President of the college’s faculty union.

By Tavis Evans – Photo by Brad Bakke

There were whispers and rumors about where Patrick Lanning was.

But on April 8, Traci Hodgson, a history instructor and president of the college’s faculty union, was told by a colleague to look in the Bend Bulletin, where she said she was shocked to find the answer.

The college’s academic vice president was on administrative leave.

“Faculty understand that they can’t know the reason for his administrative leave. We understand employment law. But the fact that the college didn’t share with us that he was on leave feels very disrespectful,” Hodgson said.

“We should have known because he is our academic superior here at the college. All we would have expected was a statement: ‘This person is on leave; this person is taking over at this time.’ In an organization, you need to know who you report to.

“If there is a major leader missing on the academic side of the house, we should have known.”

Hodgson said that faculty members had noticed for days that Lanning was not on campus. He wasn’t attending meetings, and no one saw him in his office.

Those that did message him via email got an email in return indicating that he was in surgery, that he was traveling out of the country, or that he was sick.

“People were genuinely concerned about him,” Hodgson said, “because being gone for two months for surgery meant it must have been a pretty major surgery. So people were concerned about him.”

Hodgson said that she personally had not emailed or called Lanning since he was placed on leave.

Chemeketa’s administration did not send out any college-wide information about Lanning’s status until after the Statesman Journal printed a story about the leave, 67 days after his last appearance on campus.

Andrew Bone, Chemeketa’s executive dean, said the administration told the people who directly reported to Lanning about his leave.

“It is my understanding that Patrick’s out-of-office reply indicated that he was on administrative leave,” Bone said. “So, people who did not report to Patrick and emailed him would have received this information.

“When the college puts any employee on administrative leave, we do not make a public announcement. I understand that Patrick’s role at the college makes him more visible, but that doesn’t change our commitment to keeping personnel matters confidential.”

Hodgson initially publicly voiced her displeasure at the situation during a Board of Education meeting last week. She dressed down the administration and the board members during a three-minute speech during the public comments portion of the board meeting and then later, as part of the comments she offered as the president of the faculty union.

“I just ask all the board members to consider whether they would feel respected if one of their bosses was on leave and they were left uninformed about that fact for two months and with no information about who they should be reporting to,” she said.

She concluded her remarks with, “Are we really wanting to operate our college like Soviet Russia, where people just disappear and no one is supposed to ask any questions?”

That comment drew at least one started gasp from audience members who attended the meeting.

Hodgson, who said that she was representing the faculty’s point of view, defended the remark.

“It was a use of hyperbole, a reference to the future,” she said days later in explanation. “Do we want to run our college like Soviet Russia? It was not my intention to say that the college is like Soviet Russia.

“It was also a rhetorical question; I didn’t expect an answer. I wanted them to feel a similar emotional impact to what faculty felt when they heard this news because it was quite shocking, in the way that someone finding out that someone is missing in Soviet Russia would be shocking.”

She also said, “I do not feel like the college is run today like Soviet Russia. Also, I put a qualifier in there, in that individuals disappear. I know we don’t have any plans to repress religion or set up gulags or any of that stuff. I just meant to use hyperbole, and with hyperbole you speak beyond what reality is to get a response or make a point.”

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