The following is a statement President Daniele Struppa sent to the Chapman University community on Saturday, Jan. 9.
On Friday, I issued a statement regarding the unrest in Washington, D.C. and the role a member of the Chapman faculty, John Eastman, played in the events of the week.
This statement prompted an understandably emotional response by students, parents, faculty, staff and alumni.
The responses I have received indicate to me that I have failed to make clear the reason for what many have called ‘inaction’ or ‘cowardice,’ or even ‘racism.’ I will try to explain my position in more detail.
Just a few months ago, when the impeachment of President Trump was the center of our attention, we all repeated an important mantra: “Not even the President is above the law.’ For most of us, this is a very important statement because it says that we all are indeed equal under the law, even the most powerful person in the country. Even the President must respect the law.
I now find myself asked by many to violate exactly that statement. I am not the Emperor of Chapman University, nor I am the Supreme Leader of Chapman University. I am the President of the university, and as such, I am bound by laws and processes that are clearly spelled out in our Faculty Manual. The Faculty Manual, despite its common name, is actually a contractually binding document that faculty, administration, and Trustees have agreed upon. This document contains the rules that determine how faculty are hired, and how they are disciplined, up to and including termination. The documents spell out cases under which such actions can be taken, and what process must be followed. The process includes a prominent role for the Faculty Personnel Committee and affords the faculty under discipline a process, and the right to grieve the decision in multiple settings.
The Manual allows for the termination of faculty who are found guilty of a felony, however, that is not the case today. The Manual allows for the termination of faculty who are disbarred, however, that is not the case today. The Manual does not allow me to decide on my own that any faculty is a criminal or that they should be disbarred and therefore fired, which is what I am being asked to do. The Manual says that if a jury finds a faculty member to be guilty of a felony, or if they are disbarred, THEN the university can dismiss them. The university has no right to substitute itself for these formal bodies.
The reason for these clauses is not to make life difficult for administrators: rather it is to protect all of our community through a fair process. When you are asking me to simply fire a faculty member without that, you are asking me to act as if I am indeed above the law. I continue to think this would be a terrible mistake for the institution, and I am troubled that so many are willing to sacrifice our process and our rules, in order to protect our reputation.
This is the hard part of being in a democracy. This is the very freedom that we fought to defend as terrorists attacked our Capitol Building. But this challenge is not new. Every time we are assaulted by terrorists, there are those who call for a suspension of the rules, for the elimination of fair process, for faster, quicker, more exemplary actions. I realize that my position has made me very unpopular with many of you. As much as that saddens me, it will not compel me to violate the rules under which the university operates.