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Officials say UNH prof. is unfit for job

Last modified: 7/2/2011 12:00:00 AM
University trustees, administrators and Gov. John Lynch are complaining that the UNH faculty union is shielding a professor convicted of exposing himself to a mother and her 17-year-old daughter.

Edward Larkin, a member of the German faculty since 1986, exposed himself to the women in Milford in 2009. In a decision that came to light this week, an arbitrator ruled in April that Larkin could return to work in January 2012, continue to earn his $88,000 salary and remain on probation for three years. The decision is binding.

'It is outrageous that the faculty union protected this faculty member, who was charged and pled guilty to conduct that was not only unbecoming of a teacher and role model, but actually dangerous to the community,' said Edward Dupont, chairman of the University System of New Hampshire's board of trustees.

Larkin pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for the 2009 incident. His sentence included paying a $600 fine and going to psychiatric evaluation and counseling.

Because arbitration is final and binding, the faculty union's position has not changed in response to criticism, said Deanna Wood, president of the American Association of University Professors UNH Chapter.

Moving forward, Wood said yesterday the faculty union and university must now negotiate what Larkin's job description will include when he returns in January. The arbitrator indicated Larkin will return to work, but did not define the work he will do.

Wood said Larkin previously both taught and conducted research, but his role at UNH could change. For example, Wood said there is a possibility that Larkin would focus on research rather than teaching.

UNH officials are focused on finding a role for Larkin 'with an emphasis on ensuring his conduct will not further adversely impact the university community,' said Erika Mantz, UNH media relations director.

Lynch also disagrees with the arbitration outcome, said Pam Walsh, Lynch's deputy chief of staff.

'He doesn't believe Professor Larkin belongs in a classroom,' Walsh said yesterday.

Dupont said in a statement that the board of trustees felt 'extreme frustration' with the arbitration and is looking to protect students' interests moving forward.

'I know I speak with the vast majority of those in the university community . . . in saying we want a resolution of the case that protects the interests of our students, first and foremost,' Dupont said.

Wood said the union has requested to begin discussions about Larkin's future at the university, but has not yet heard back from the administration. The decision must be made before Larkin's leave ends in January.

Larkin's case is not the first disagreement between the union and university officials this year. UNH professors said in April they had no confidence in President Mark Huddleston after he made comments about the faculty that they construed as criticism during his testimony to the Senate Finance Committee.

The disagreement over attempts to fire Larkin involves the union contract's termination clause. Wood said Larkin's case was the first instance requiring clarification of the contract's clause allowing dismissal for 'moral delinquency of a grave order.'

Huddleston had sought to fire Larkin under this clause, which has been in the contract since 1991.

Both Huddleston and Provost John Aber believe Larkin's actions 'fell far short of expectations for any university employee,' Mantz said.

According to the contract, the president's request to dismiss a faculty member must go before the faculty senate, which is separate from the union.

The senate recommendation to Huddleston was 'almost verbatim' the same as the arbitration outcome, Wood said. Huddleston did not accept the recommendation and chose instead to enter a binding arbitration process.

Arbitration for Larkin's case began with hearings in January, Wood said, and the union and university learned of the final decision in April. A third-party arbitrator reviewed documents and testimonies to interpret the meaning of 'moral delinquency of a grave nature' in the union contract.

'The issue went into binding arbitration and the arbitrator decided,' Wood said. 'And that's binding on both the university and the union. We just follow the order.'

Huddleston did not appeal the arbitration because it 'would only be successful if there were an error in the process,' Mantz said.

Wood said during original union contract negotiations in 1991, the union had suggested different language for a termination clause, but university officials insisted on the 'moral delinquency' language.

'I understand that the chair of the board of trustees and the president do not like the outcome of this particular case, but it is in fact their language that the arbitrator had to interpret,' Wood said.

In the last round of contract negotiations, the union requested changes to expedite cases such as Larkin's, Wood said, but the changes were denied.

Mantz said the university proposed changes to the contract's termination clause early in the current negotiation process but could not comment on the changes themselves because negotiations are ongoing.

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or lmccrystal@cmonitor.com)


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