A Hummel Report Investigation
The University of Rhode Island won’t talk about a veteran employee forced from his job working with gay and lesbian students, but says it has responded to concerns by those in the gay community at URI. In the second of our two-part investigation, Jim Hummel sits down with the director of the LGBT center for her take on the campus climate - and we hear from supporters of her predecessor, who say a wall of silence/indifference has gone up around their efforts to find out why he was forced out of his job.
For 17 years Andrew Winters had worked on the URI campus, advocating for gay and minority students in an atmosphere that at times bordered on hostile.
Winters had repeatedly and publicly pushed the administration to do more for gay and minority students on campus. He tells us there was a systematic effort by the administration to force him out in the first year after David Dooley became URI’s 11th president.
And that’s what happened in June of 2011 when Winters signed a separation agreement - with a hefty payout and a gag order - worried that with no job protection he might be fired and walk away with nothing if he didn’t take the university’s offer.
A consultant called Winters divisive and difficult to work with - and said everyone she had spoken with had no confidence in him. But Vice President Thomas Dougan wrote a glowing letter of recommendation when Winters was forced out calling him ``an outstanding presenter’’ with positive feedback on his symposiums.
Winters: ``We have a system in place that a lot of people know about that’s prepared to do this to people and I wanted to see it addressed.’’
And so did others, including veteran URI Physics Professor Peter Nightingale, who implored President Dooley and Lorne Adrain, chairman of the Board of Governors at the time, to revisit Winters’ case.
Nightingales: And it’s completely clear that that process of dealing with the complaints is a joke, a sick joke at that, because it turns out you have to complain to the those who actually hire the people who did this and the lawyers who take care of the details work for basically for the people who you’re complaining about. It’s a farce. They know how to smile, and then they know how to do absolutely nothing. File these complaints and we’ll deal with it. Well that was over two years ago.’’
Goff: ``I call that stonewalling.’’