Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
Nov. 21, 1997

Espinoza reflects on free speech, insubordination and retaliation

by Anne Dolan

Insubordination, retaliation and free speech rights were the focus of the Professional and Scientific Council members' monthly discussion with Carla Espinoza, assistant vice president for human resource services. At the council's invitation, Espinoza is attending council meetings this year to provide updates.

Espinoza said insubordination is an employee's refusal to complete assigned work responsibilities, except when a request is for an illegal act. Retaliation is a very real concern for employees who refuse to do tasks not in a written job description or not discussed as part of the employee's annual goals. Examples of retaliation might be a negative annual review or accusations of "not being a team player."

"There really is no protection if you refuse," Espinoza said, "but I'd be disappointed to hear about retaliation at Iowa State."

She said her preference for resolving these issues is a conversation between employee and supervisor, not a display of agitation played out in the workplace.

Espinoza called free speech in public higher education "a very gray area," especially for employees in P&S-type positions. Union contracts and academic freedom give clearer protection to merit employees and faculty, respectively.

"The right to free speech is an individual right and you can express personal opinions if they don't violate your responsibility to this university," she said. "The people who hire us have expectations for us."

She encouraged employees to define for themselves free speech that is consistent with the jobs they were hired to do and the people to whom they answer.

In other business, council member Jim Gaunt reported on several meetings of a joint P&S-faculty group pulled together to discuss issues of mutual concern. Teaching responsibilities at ISU was the primary issue discussed. Gaunt said faculty are not seeking a prohibition on P&S staff teaching courses, but are concerned about "end runs around" the faculty tenure system.

P&S employees, for the most part, don't feel abused when they are asked to teach and, if they can juggle other responsibilities in their departments successfully, enjoy their classroom experiences, he said.

Following are other highlights of the Nov. 6 P&S Council meeting:

The next meeting begins at 2 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 4, in the Memorial Union Gold Room.

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