Lewis Center legislative hearing — ASU additional details
Members of the Joint Legislative Ad Hoc Committee on Freedom of Expression at Arizona’s Public Universities:
Thank you for providing Arizona State University with the opportunity to present and testify before the committee. My colleagues and I did our best to answer your questions, but as you know there were some instances when we committed to follow up with you and to provide more detail. This letter is intended to do that and provide some additional clarification about comments made during the committee hearing.
1. Tom Lewis – Michael Crow communication
I misspoke regarding communication between ASU President Michael Crow and Lewis Center donor Tom Lewis. As I testified, I had no knowledge of what was communicated between the two but I believed they had spoken. That was incorrect. They did not speak.
Negotiations were underway to renew the agreement when we were informed of the decision to withdraw the funding by Mr. Lewis through an email with a letter attachment and a courier-delivered hard copy of the letter. Dr. Crow and Mr. Lewis did not have a conversation before or after Mr. Lewis decided to discontinue funding the center.
2. Examples of ASU Centers that have been dissolved which included staff positions being discontinued
Centers typically involve faculty and staff from one or more departments, colleges or units working together to conduct research or advance learning opportunities often supporting certificate or degree programs. The lifespan of Centers varies depending on the mission and funding source.
ASU currently has more than 140 centers at 14 colleges and units within the university. Some that have recently been discontinued and where staff positions have been cut or eliminated include:
- Global Pathways Institute – The institute lost its funding and three staff positions were eliminated.
- Flexible Display Center – Funding from a major grant from the US Army ended and this center was dissolved.
- Future H2O – Dissolved due to lack of funding; transitioned to an academic unit in the Global Futures Laboratory.
- Center for Sustainable Health – Dissolved due to lack of funding; the director position was eliminated as a result.
- Institute for the Science of Teaching Learning – Dissolved due to lack of funding, all non-academic positions eliminated.
- BioOptical Nanotechnology – Dissolved due to lack of funding; all non-academic positions eliminated.
3. Did ASU staff have any conversations about the firing or closure of the center with ABOR staff? What were those?
No one from ASU had previous conversations with ABOR prior to the dissolution of the center. The dissolution of the center was prompted by the donor’s withdrawal of funding and the non-renewal for financial reasons was not a decision that required ABOR involvement or approval.
4. Did students receive any emails regarding the promotion of the Lewis center event?
Typical of any Barrett event, the Health, Wealth and Happiness event was publicized through the ‘Honors Digest,’ an email newsletter that goes out every weekday to all roughly 6,500 Barrett students. It was also in the Downtown Bulletin on February 6 and advertised on all Barrett campus Instagram accounts on January 30. Paid Google advertising ran from January 23 to February 8, the date of the event. It received a total of 1,056,749 impressions and generated 4,215 clicks.
It is important to note that there were only 200 tickets designated for students and the primary audience, according to Ann Atkinson, was community members and potential donors, so Barrett also had the event listed on Ticketmaster and used paid digital ads to increase awareness.
If any fliers were removed, it was not at the direction of ASU or Barrett leadership. The event, actually, is STILL listed on the ASU Events page: https://asuevents.asu.edu/event/lewis-center-presents-health-wealth-happiness
5. Student complaint processes and hotline.
There are multiple ways for students to register complaints about conduct at the university, and this can be done anonymously if they desire. At the hearing, we discussed the student hotline which can be reached at 877-786-3385. Among the ways that complaints can be made by students are:
- Any ASU student who feels they have been harassed or discriminated or is being retaliated against can reach out to ASU’s Office of University Rights and Responsibilities. This can be done by filing a complaint in a formal report form, or by calling OURR at 480-965-5057. OURR’s neutral case managers investigate the complaints of discrimination, harassment and retaliation.
- Students can also report misconduct through the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities.
- Students can reach out to the Dean of their college, or to the Dean of Students of their respective campus by phone, email or by walking into the office in person at any ASU campus.
- Students can reach out through the Student Advocacy and Assistance office or through the hotline that was discussed at the committee hearing.
- All students can reach out to President Crow through the Office of the President. At freshman orientation each year, for example, President Crow gives out his personal email and encourages any student to reach out to him personally if they are experiencing a problem that is not being resolved.
6. Is there a process for preemptively advertising or directing students when issues arise to use the hotline or complaint processes?
As noted in the previous question, there are a variety of options available for students. They are informed in enrollment packets, in emails, and in personal orientation processes about ways to reach out when they have concerns. This information is also displayed on campus and in campus residence halls.
That concludes our follow up to what was discussed at Tuesday’s hearing.
I hope these answers provide you greater clarity and fill in the requested information I was unable to provide at the hearing. ASU appreciates the opportunity to inform you about all the work that goes into protecting and promoting freedom of speech on our campuses. It is an important part of the university experience and we are always working to improve our work to meet this commitment.
In closing, let me take this opportunity to let you know that we are in receipt and will comply with Co- Chair Kern’s request to President Crow for a report that addresses the events and testimony and any actions ASU plans to take following its review.
In addition, we acknowledge the Senator’s request for written testimony from Tara Williams, Dean of Barrett, the Honors College. She welcomes the opportunity and will provide it. You will read in her testimony that Ms. Atkinson’s hiring offer included information that explained it was a position that was dependent on the donor’s contribution. Further, you will hear that Ms. Atkinson was encouraged to look at other job opportunities at ASU and that the Dean offered to write a letter of recommendation for Ms. Atkinson to pursue other opportunities if that was her wish.
If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact Matthew Simon, ASU’s Associate VP for Federal and State Relations, at Matthew.D.Simon@asu.edu. He will work with me or whomever is needed from the university to provide you with the information you request.
Dr. Patrick J. Kenney
Executive Vice Provost
Arizona State University