'SMUDGE ON YOUR SUNDAY SUIT'
Director of S.D. Regents Nears End of Odyssey to Escape AAUP
By Courtney Leatherman
Pierre, South Dakota -- Midway through his quest to get the South
Dakota Board of Regents removed from a blacklist of academic-freedom
violators, Howell W. Todd thought about giving up.
When he took on the task nearly two years ago as the board's new
executive director, he didn't realize what an odyssey it would be to
get it off the American Association of University Professor's list
of censured administrations.The governing board for the state's
university system had been censured nearly 30 years ago, after the
AAUP concluded that a professor at South Dakota State College had
been wrongfully dismissed in 1958. A second case, involving a
professor dismissed from Northern State College in 1966, further
tarnished the board's image with the AAUP.
"The word `saga' would be appropriate," Mr. Todd said, as he
recounted the efforts the board had made to prove that it had
changed the way it treats professors at the state's six public
institutions. In the last year, the board has adopted new policies
for awarding tenure and terminating non-tenured appointments;
persuaded a faculty collective-bargaining unit to accept the
changes; settled with the estate of one of the dismissed professors;
tracked down the other fired professor through electronic data-base
searches, police records, and court documents; and finally, after
finding him, chartered a plane to visit him 400 miles away to
persuade him to settle his case.
"Several times during the course of this I wondered, Is it worth
it? Are we ever going to reach a conclusion?" Mr. Todd recalled.
But now that the board is on the brink of clearing its name, Mr.
Todd believes the efforts have paid off. AAUP members are expected
to vote to remove the board from the censure list at its annual
meeting this week. "Our perspective is that the censure is more
image than substance," he said. But, he added, "in this business,
perception often equals reality. If the perception is that things
are bad here, then no matter how good they are, you have to live
He added: "It's much like having a smudge on your Sunday suit."
Mr. Todd has spent most of his tenure wiping away the smudge left
by an earlier board.
The South Dakota Board of Regents has been on the AAUP's list
longer than any of the 50 currently censured administrations. In
fact, it holds the record for longevity on the list.
The board was censured when the AAUP concluded that it had
violated the association's academic-freedom standards by wrongfully
dismissing a tenured professor, W. W. Worzella. At the time, an AAUP
investigation concluded that Mr. Worzella, who had worked at South
Dakota State for 15 years, had been dismissed for clashing with
The board's problems with the AAUP were exacerbated in 1966 when
the regents rejected a one-year teaching contract between Northern
State College and Frank P. Kosik. Mr. Kosik, a political-science
professor who was born in Czechoslovakia, was accused of making
anti-American comments in his class, according to an AAUP
committee's report. (He told the association that his comments --
including a remark that the American flag "nauseated him" -- had
been taken out of context.)
Mr. Kosik was dismissed after one month without an opportunity to
challenge the decision.
In 1931, the AAUP began voting to censure institutions that had
violated its standards of academic freedom and tenure. A vote to
censure -- made by AAUP members at the association's annual meeting
-- is based on the recommendations of a special committee on
academic freedom. Before the AAUP drops an institution from its
list, the institution must address the issues that led to censure.
When Mr. Todd and the board's general counsel, James F.
Shekleton, began tackling those issues last year, they thought the
hardest part would be revising tenure and termination procedures
both to conform with the AAUP's standards and to be acceptable to
the system's collective-bargaining agent. Because the AAUP also
serves as the collective-bargaining agent for faculties at other
institutions, the system's union, an affiliate of the National
Education Association, viewed any dealings with the AAUP as suspect.
Mr. Todd thought dealing with the two professors' cases would be
easier. Indeed, settling with Mr. Worzella was fairly easy: he had
died in 1988, so the regents gave $15,000 to his estate and set up a
$10,000 scholarship in his name at South Dakota State.
Mr. Todd had not anticipated much difficulty in reaching -- much
less settling with -- Mr. Kosik. Of the six-page chronology of the
board's efforts to get off the censure list, nearly four pages are
devoted to dealings with Mr. Kosik.
The AAUP lost track of him after its investigation of his
dismissal. "We go to the learned societies. It never occurs to us to
do what MasterCard would do," said Jordan E. Kurland, the AAUP's
associate general secretary.
After the South Dakota board received no response to a letter it
sent Mr. Kosik through the Social Security Administration, Mr.
Shekleton conducted an electronic data-base search. First he turned
up a Frank Kosik living in Yucaipa, Calif., but he was the wrong
one. (He was in the data base because of his role in a production of
the musical Singing in the Rain that made a local newspaper.)
A data-base search of legal records then turned up the right Mr.
Kosik. (He was listed in court documents that recorded a dispute
with a Nebraska school district.) In August 1990, after checking
with the school district and traffic bureaus, Mr. Shekleton finally
found Mr. Kosik, retired and living in Concordia, Kan.
Mr. Kosik said he was surprised when he heard from the regents.
He was also suspicious. "What first came to my mind was that there
were reasons other than justice or repentance," he said in an
interview. He finally settled for $15,000 in January after rejecting
several previous offers, including one identical to the one accepted
by Mr. Worzella's estate. Mr. Kosik wanted $25,000 in cash, and he
called the idea of starting a scholarship in his name "an insult."
"To first kick me off campus and threaten me with force and then
want to give me a scholarship at that dump -- that would be like
Hitler offering to erect a monument to the Holocaust victims," he
He agreed to settle a month after Mr. Todd flew to Concordia and
spent an afternoon talking with him. But Mr. Kosik still thinks he
got a raw deal, and said he would probably be angry with them "for
an eternity." He said he had agreed to settle simply to end the
Mr. Todd said he regretted that he couldn't satisfy Mr. Kosik,
but he hoped his efforts would make an impression with the AAUP. "It
is important for the academy to know that academic freedom is
protected in South Dakota," he said, "and that there is no blemish
on our record."