Developments at the University of Oregon

News media indicate that two members of the University of Oregon library archives staff, James Fox and Kira Homo, who previously had been put on administrative leave “will not be returning to their positions.”  See background here: http://www2.archivists.org/news/2015/saa-response-to-member-request-re-university-of-oregon-records-release-incident.
 
SAA has no information beyond what is in the media.  We have not yet heard from University Librarian Adriene Lim, who indicated that she would be in contact with SAA following the investigation. 
 
As this is a personnel matter, it is confidential and we are unlikely to receive substantive information.  We have had no communication with the two archivists, both of whom are SAA members, and they are unlikely to be at liberty to discuss this situation.
 
Although SAA is not in a position to comment responsibly on this specific situation, it raises real concerns for those of us who manage access to records, especially in the digital age.  We are engaged in conversations about what SAA might do to support education and training in navigating the challenges associated with access, restricted records, attorney-client privilege, redaction, and related issues and practices.   If you have thoughts, suggestions, or concerns, please share them with the SAA Council, relevant component group leaders, or with me (president@archivists.org).

9 responses to “Developments at the University of Oregon

  1. Thank you for posting this thoughtful comment. I agree wholeheartedly with you that because this is a personnel matter, SAA cannot discover enough information to comment responsibly on the situation. That noted, your call for us to engage in better professional education on the issues raised by this situation is timely and critical.

  2. Excellent post. Especially like the use of the term “responsibly.” A realistic and thoughtful take on the issue. Also very much liked Frank Boles’s recent column in Archival Outlook on advocacy and fact finding.

  3. I find this story incredibly upsetting as an early career archivist working in a public institution, and the lack of details makes the “what really happened?” aspect that much worse. What worries me most is the chilling effect this could have on archivists working in sensitive situations. I wholeheartedly agree SAA should provide training, but it would also be nice to see SAA commit some resources to broader investigations whether incidents such as this or the other myriad ones in the news recently are having a deleterious effect on the morale of public sector archivists.

  4. I understand your concern about morale, Eira. Been the subject of news stories involving controversies myself, back in the day. No way to correct “the record.” Talk about feeling rapped! Essentially, SAA and other orgs can only ask for voluntary disclosures, which isn’t always reliable. It is incredibly hard to get at the details of contentious situations from outside, unless you’re a litigant in a case who can compel legal discovery. And litigation can be incredibly adversarial. So the court narratives can get skewed as the attorneys sometimes try to “impeach” witness testimony. I’m not seeing a path to investigation in many of these news stories.

  5. This saddens me. I’ve met both James and Kira, and I hope that they are doing okay. I would love to see SAA work with the AAUP and perhaps ALA as well to come up with a response to this, as this case demonstrates the real need for archivists to receive tenure-like protections whenever possible. Even the professor at the center of this agrees that the difference between how he was treated and how James and Kira were treated is a tenure issue: “This is all about (administrators) being embarrassed,” he said. “They tried to nail me. They couldn’t because of tenure and academic freedom, and so they went after the people they could nail.” See http://uomatters.com/2015/03/archivists-resign-coltrane-got-sharon-rudnick-to-write-report-on-presidential-archives-release.html for more background on the situation.

  6. If I am not mistaken, UO librarians are included in the academic bargaining unit. Kira was actually on the Executive Council of her union (http://www.uauoregon.org/executive-council/). While I don’t know the ins and outs of the CBA with the university, I hope the fired archivists’ union reps are looking into this.

  7. James Fox, on the other hand, is in a managerial position and so isn’t in the union. His protections may be lesser than Kira’s. This case seems destined to reverberate in the e-records community in major ways, and for a long time.

  8. Pingback: Faculty Rallies to Support University of Oregon Archivist

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