Following Logan Isaac’s September 2016 federal complaint, a compliance officer with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) interviewed the Duke University Divinity School Associate Dean of External Relations, among other managerial employees. The interview was conducted on campus December 8, 2016. Here is a link to the OFCCP interview notes which we received through a Freedom of Information Act request. Some commentary is provided below the break which may provide some context as to why this interview is significant.
This interview is interesting for many reasons. For one, there are a few places where the Relations Dean contradicts himself or others. He has never received “formal training” on EEO policy, despite a Senior VP’s insistence that “Everyone” attends EEO training (q.31) and that EEO training is “required” for all employees (q.32). Additionally, the Relations Dean repeats demonstrably false claims by the same Senior VP that veteran status is included in university policy and official materials (q.28, 37) and that veterans are protected against retaliation in particular (q.38). Part of the problem may be that the Relations Dean is “not aware” (q.30) how EEO policy is shared around the university.
In question 9, the Relations Dean claims Isaac’s meeting with the interim Dean, the same day that she had the Senior VP give the first of two “Implicit Bias” trainings which Isaac attended, was because Isaac was “unhappy about veteran treatment.” This is false; Isaac was referred to him by the interim Dean following questions of hiring and assignment concerns he shared in confidence. Treatment of veterans only came up at his invitation when Isaac met with him on April 11, 2016. In the same question, the Relations Dean unwittingly affirms his own token status; Two Divinity Deans referred Isaac to him “not because [he has] any responsibility for veterans” (q.9), but because his presence actually acknowledges and affirms the issues that Isaac raised. That’s precisely the problem – nobody had any professional responsibility for veterans at Duke.
Question 23 demonstrates that the Relations Dean felt “Logan is very angry.” As an emotion, anger is an internal disposition that can only be expressed credibly by the person who feels angry. In other words, only Isaac can credibly state if Isaac was angry. The Relations Dean, however, assigned the emotion to Isaac – he reduced the activity in which a protected veteran was engaging to a stereotype, to just another angry veteran. In doing so, the dean made a judgement that he is not only unqualified to make but which is expressly prohibited by university policy. The dean would know this if he had been provided EEO training, training which he never received.
Despite it being required by law, and contrary to the testimony of a Senior VP, the Relations Dean told investigators that he has not received any “formal training” (q.31) related to EEO or Affirmative Action from the University. Had he received such training, he would have known that 2016 – AAP for Veterans and Disabled makes clear that all decisions are to be based on “individual merit, as opposed to stereotypes and biases.” (AAP, p.15) Examples of the angry veteran abound, including articles published by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the NY Times, The Atlantic, and others. However, while nearly all interviewees insisted that supervisors are accountable (including the Relations Dean himself, in q.26), nobody can say how (…if, or when) that accountability actually unfolds.
In various places throughout the transcript, the Relations Dean attempts to isolate and contain the problem, to insist that only one person seems to have had a bad experience at the University, and that fact somehow excuses bias and harassment. In question 11a, he felt it was important to remark, however false, that Isaac “didn’t use other individuals who were veterans as examples” of the issues Isaac brought to his attention. By itself, this could be mistaken for mere overreach, as Isaac’s Issues and Proposals document, containing the concerns of several other veterans spanning nearly half a decade, had already been circulated around the University. But the dean went further, into territory that suggests he had been given things to say to federal investigators.
The transcript shows, on the first page, that the Relations Dean was hired in May 2013. Despite not being on staff until after Isaac graduated, he told investigators that “Within his time as a student [Logan] didn’t say very much that he was treated unfavorable. I can’t recall examples.” (q.11i) May 2013 is the same month and year that Isaac completed all remaining classes for his MTS degree. This is significant because the dean never would have encountered Isaac “as a student.”
So how did dean get it in his head that Isaac never spoke up about veterans as a student; is it simply hearsay, or did he ‘phone a friend?’
The Divinity School Dean immediately prior to the interim Dean was not interviewed by OFCCP, but did in fact receive multiple emails from Isaac in the course of his studies. Isaac’s Narrative Document, which was submitted as part of his complaint to OFCCP, outlined his Dean’s (non)involvement on page 32;
Emails sent to [redacted] on November 22, 29, and December 12 in 2010 went unanswered. Although one element of [redacted] deanship focused on theology and the arts, he indicated no interest in contributing to a work commissioned by Catholic iconographer Bill McNichols which he was invited to do in an email on February 6, 2011. The subject line of an email sent to him on March 20, 2011 by the claimant read ““help make DDS a more welcome place for veterans,” to which [redacted] never responded.
Furthermore, the Relations Dean acknowledged in his meeting with Isaac that the prior Dean shared emails, so perhaps they also discussed Isaac’s time as a student. There are other parts of the transcript in which the Relations Dean comments on matters with which he had no firsthand knowledge, including whether Isaac was “rejected” as a preceptor (q.17 & 18) as well as the ThD program (q.11a & i). The amount of speculation and overreach is troubling, but it isn’t unexplainable.
Question 17, after all, suggests that Duke’s retained counsel was present at the meeting and interjected at least once. What else was the Relations Dean ‘helped’ to say (or not say), and why?
Other OFCCP interviews can be found here.