No one has told Inver Hills Community College sociology instructor Dave Berger why the school has banned him from campus and placed him on “paid investigatory leave” until further notice. However, his supporters have their suspicions.
Berger is the grievance representative for Inver Hills’ faculty union. Less than one month ago, he led a vote of no confidence against President Tim Wynes, criticizing Wynes’ financial policies.
Inver Hills representatives have denied that Berger’s sudden lockout is related to his union activism. According to Minnesota State Colleges and University (MnSCU) officials, system employees placed on leave are often not informed why. This policy seeks to ensure nothing can compromise investigations into an employee’s conduct. However, in a case with as much political weight as this one, we feel it causes more problems than it prevents.
Nationwide, some higher education employees have suffered for criticizing their administrations. The president of Maryland’s Mount St. Mary’s College, for example, recently fired two tenured professors after they played roles in criticizing his policies. Widespread outrage led to the professors’ swift reappointment, but public anger over the situation has not diminished.
The incident at Inver Hills demonstrates the importance of maintaining clear channels of communication during employee investigations.
We urge MnSCU to revise its investigatory policies in such a way that, while not necessarily revealing the reason for investigations, nevertheless serves to clarify that political disagreement is never the reason behind enforced leave.