Boston College unlawfully retaliated against a bipolar chemistry professor when they blocked his attempt to reintegrate into the university after a mental-health-related medical leave, according to the findings of a state agency.
The university has been ordered to pay the professor, William Armstrong, back wages and $125,000, as well as interest, because of harm inflicted, according to a decision issued this month by a hearing officer at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. Boston College has appealed.
The decision also reveals that Armstrong himself retaliated against a professor in the department, including writing an attack e-mail about his colleague under a fake name.
But the commission, which is charged with enforcing anti-discrimination laws, ruled that Boston College erred when it pledged to accept Armstrong back into the school following his medical leave but instead retaliated, going so far as to move his lab and office out of the chemistry building.
Armstrong alleged that members of the chemistry department refused to allow him to attend department meetings and events, took him off the department e-mail list and did not let him participate in decisions after he returned to campus from his 2002-2003 leave, during which he sought psychiatric treatment...Here is the rather awful e-mail that Professor Armstrong wrote to a potential job candidate of Boston College (current Michigan professor John Wolfe):
The complaint shows that Armstrong used a fake name to e-mail a postdoctoral fellow who was considering an offer to work at BC. He told the man that Hoveyda was “ruthless, vicious, manipulative, intimidating, vindictive, deceptive, subversive, mean-spirited, insincere, two-faced, hot-headed, excessively self-promoting, predatory, an extreme aggressor, scientifically narrow-minded, derogatory, polarizing, intrusive, obnoxious, overbearing, over-controlling, power-hungry, resource-plundering, underhanded, dictatorial, vitriolic, conniving, profane, Machiavellian, and disruptive.”Wow, that's quite an accusation. The whole document is here; it's certainly an interesting read.
To me, this instance shows the difficulty that faculties face when considering tenure: you're choosing to work with this person for the rest of your (or their) professional life. I'm not surprised that the department (Hoveyda?) chose to retaliate against Professor Armstrong (or refuse to do the utmost to re-integrate him, anyway); however, I am surprised that they did so in a less-than-legal (apparently) manner. One also presumes that the story is not done here.