An 18-month battle over wrongful termination has come to an end in what’s being hailed as a landmark decision for universities across the country.
At the center of it all is an associate professor at the University of Hawaii – West Oahu.
Monique Mironesco, who teaches political science, took on the administration, claiming the school wrongfully fired her.
In a decision reached last month after binding arbitration, she won the right to be converted from a temporary position to a permanent post.
Mironesco says she had a right to that position based on language in a contract negotiated 10 years ago between her union, the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA), and the school.
That language states that faculty members both on full- and part-time appointments will be offered multi-year contracts “where evidence of continuing need has been demonstrated by consistent funding of the position for seven consecutive years.”
When the spring semester at UHWO starts on Monday, Mironesco says she’s not sure what kind of reception she will receive from the administration when she arrives back on campus.
“The one thing I do know for sure is that UHPA will be looking over my shoulder for what happens, and for that, I’m very grateful,” said Mironesco, “because in the end, UH West Oahu is where I belong.”
Mironesco began her career at UHWO as a lecturer in 2002. She was promoted twice–to assistant professor in 2007 and associate professor in 2012. But when she applied for a permanent job in 2013, she was denied. After she filed her grievance, UHWO informed her she would be let go effective July 31, 2014.
Mironesco does not know for sure why she was denied the permanent post, but offered a possible reason.
“They didn’t want to set a precedent that would engage them into not only keeping me and allowing me to apply for tenure down the road, and then also to give the opportunity
for those (faculty members} behind me,” said Mironesco.
UHPA says there are probably hundreds of faculty members who are in temporary positions throughout the 10-campus UH system who may someday also be eligible for permanent positions.
KHON2 reached out to the New Faculty Majority, a national organization that looks out for university faculty members who are in temporary positions and those who lack tenure. Its mission is to advance “professional equity and securing academic freedom for all adjunct and contingent faculty.”
Anne Wiegard sits on the board of directors for the organization. “The fact that you’re an at-will employee, that you’re working from semester to
semester or year to year, you can be let go with a minimal amount of notice,” said Wiegard. “So people live in fear of losing their jobs for one reason or another. It’s out of their control, even though they may be doing great work.
“It’s an unusual thing for people working in a temporary position like that to stand up when they feel their rights are being violated,” Wiegard added.
In a statement from the University of Hawaii, the administration said “it respects the ongoing arbitration process involving a personnel matter and will not comment at this time.”
When pressed further, the administration said it is working to get a clarification of the arbitration ruling.