Amid arbitration against the university to clear his name, former Office of Student Activities employee John Hodges, who was fired from the office in March but continued to teach here as an adjunct professor, has been terminated from his teaching post.
According to a copy of the notification letter sent from the Office of the Provost to Hodges’ home, the university maintains “the termination of your employment was justified and appropriate and should have resulted in your complete removal from Temple University employment, including any subsequent employment as an adjunct professor or in any other position.”
The notice, sent Oct. 24 and obtained by The Temple News Monday, stated Hodges may finish this semester as a computer and information sciences professor, but after that his adjunct faculty contract, which is renewed on a semester-by-semester basis, will not be continued in the spring or “in any subsequent semester.”
“Moreover, if there are any additional incidents during this semester, your employment will be terminated immediately,” the letter, signed by Provost Ira Schwartz, concludes.
Hodges was initially dismissed on March 1 from his position as night operations manager in the Student Center after student workers lodged complaints against him, saying Hodges made racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Christian comments while on the job.
Officially, Hodges violated the university’s policy against “mistreatment, negligence and neglect or abuse of clients,” which is grounds for immediate dismissal, according to Temple’s Employee Manual.
The letter says Hodges’ comments were not consistent with the university’s mission of fostering an environment that promotes diversity.
Though Hodges admits he said the remarks, he claims they were taken out of context and maintains he was instead wrongfully dismissed because he raised questions about possible unethical hiring and business practices in the Student Activities office.
An internal university audit into the Office of Student Activities concluded this summer that its director, Rita Calicat, and a former assistant director, Richard Ellerson, violated the university’s conflict of interest policy when giving relatives no-bid contracts totaling more than $300,000 over a span of approximately six years.
In an attempt to reverse the firing and clear his name, Hodges pursued arbitration through the American Arbitration Association, a national labor-management dispute resolution service that has a Philadelphia branch. Hodges, who is being defended by Temple’s American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, said his first arbitration date was Oct. 5.
During the private session, Hodges and Gary Kapanowski, president of the Local 1723 union, said the university asked for an extension, which was granted on the grounds that lawyers on both sides could reach a settlement by the next meeting.
Hodges and Kapanowski declined to comment on Hodges’ requests and university officials, including Schwartz and Gregory Rost, chief of staff to President David Adamany, declined to comment on the arbitration, saying they cannot discuss pending litigation.
The next meeting came on Oct. 21, Hodges and Kapanowski said. But there was no deal.
“The university is going to go ahead against John; they are going to put on a full case against John Hodges,” Kapanowski said. “And that’s an outrage to us. … It was a betrayal of trust. We were expecting everything to be settled on the 21st.”
The next arbitration date, when both sides will begin testimony before a judge, is Jan. 13. The proceedings could take months because, unlike trial cases, independent arbitration hearings are not held on consecutive days. Rather, dates are selected when the schedules of all parties involved match up.
If the independent arbiter concludes that Hodges was wrongfully fired, Hodges could receive back pay from the time of his termination from the Office of Student Activities and reinstatement to his position if he chooses to return. Or, if the judge rules in favor of the university, he could walk away with nothing.
Either way, Hodges said he finds it puzzling that the Office of the Provost and the university’s Human Resources department would only recently learn that he continued to hold his teaching position – nearly eight months after he was initially fired.
“What do you mean, ‘It has come to your attention.'” Hodges said. “How can someone with the same name, the same address, the same Social Security number, be teaching for almost a year and you don’t know about it?”
Hodges said if the university thought he was so unruly, he would have been completely terminated in March, not almost a year later. But, Hodges said, he thought the notice would come sooner or later.
“We expected something like this was going to happen,” Hodges, 28, said of his family, which includes his wife Heather and two children, ages 1 and 3. “It was eye-opening and shocking, but we roll with the punches and move on.”
Hodges said something that particularly bothers him is that his most recent termination is not based on performance, but rather “on an incident that has arbitration pending.”
This semester Hodges teaches five introductory computer courses. Senior marketing major Patrick Unrath, who is enrolled in one of Hodges three CIS 55 classes at Ambler Campus, said last Friday that Hodges’ teaching style is both fun and educational.
Junior accounting major Amanda Dargie agreed.
“I come to his class every week,” Dargie said after Hodges’ 1:40 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. CIS 55 class at Ambler. “He’s helpful, gives time after class, is a funny guy and is very energetic.
“He should keep his job no matter what. Tell them I’ll get picket signs,” Dargie added, stomping in a half-circle in mock protest. “I’d do that for John.”
Brandon Lausch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.