July 21, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

UMKC Blows Whistle on Fired Whistleblower

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In her extraordinary memo, Interim UMKC Chancellor Barbara Bichelmeyer concedes that Dr. Richard Arend, recently a tenured faculty member at UMKC’s Henry W. Bloch School of Management, was indeed a whistleblower.

Arend “did bring genuine problems and issues to the media’s attention,” writes Bichelmeyer in her unusual public posting. She adds, however, that “any claim that his dismissal was retaliation for that exposure is demonstrably false by the actual evidence.”

UMKC Provost and Acting Chancellor Barbara Bichelmeyer

Bichelmeyer went public with her discontent because Arend has done so himself. in fact, she contends that Arend “persists in claiming to media that he was terminated by the university in retaliation for being a whistleblower.”

In countering this claim, Bichelmeyer shows how incredibly difficult and expensive it is to fire anyone at any public university. Arend, in fact, is the first tenured faculty member at UMKC fired for cause in ten years. For all the surprising candor of Bichelmeyer’s memo, there is, however, still much left unsaid about why Arend got the ax.

Whistleblower Richard Arend

There is no doubt, however, he has been one troublesome prof. Arend has been talking openly to the Kansas City Star for at least three years and likely several years before that. In February 2015, the Star ran an article on Arend’s demand that the Bloch School return an award from the U.S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

A Star investigation the year before led the Princeton Review to strip the Bloch School of four years worth of high rankings. An independent audit had confirmed that the school had submitted inflated data in its bid to gain national recognition.

The Star was coy about whether Arend was the one who prompted the Star’s investigation, but the suggestion was there. Observed the Star in 2015, “Arend, a tenured faculty member at the Bloch School, has been highly critical of how the school has achieved several honors in recent years.” In the same article, UMKC officials wrote Arend off as a “disgruntled faculty member.”

A University News article from the same time period confirms that Arend had indeed spoken to the Star during its investigation, but adds that he was one of several to do so. The article’s headline–“The Bloch School’s fall from grace”–only barely captured the national humiliation the Bloch School endured.

In June 2017 Arend was in the news again, this time under the Star headline, “UMKC whistleblower claims his firing was retaliation.” The article detailed Arend’s lawsuit against the university for his termination and suggests that he was indeed the one who prompted the Star investigation. At the time of his firing, the business school prof was making $185,000 a year.

In March 2018, Arend returned to the news once more. This Star article addressed a bill introduced in the Missouri House to protect academic whistleblowers. The article featured Arend’s case. “I found out that the only person ever to be dismissed with cause in the last ten years at (UMKC) is me,” Arend told the Star, “who coincidentally was the poster boy for whistleblowing of alleged financial and academic frauds.”

This last article prompted UMKC to make its own case public. According to UMKC, some time in 2015, two faculty grievance panels prompted an investigation of Arend by Bichelmeyer.

Writes Bichelmeyer, “The facts are that a 10-person committee of his tenured faculty peers at UMKC determined that Dr. Arend failed to meet important standards enforced by faculty. Those failures were unrelated to the activity he claims prompted his dismissal. After six exhaustive days of hearings, in which Dr. Arend was accompanied by legal counsel and permitted to introduce evidence and question witnesses, that committee voted unanimously that he be dismissed for cause.”

Bichelmeyer continues, “In their report, the committee cited Dr. Arend’s ‘demonstrated substantial lack of fitness in the professional capacity as a teacher and researcher at the University.’ The faculty committee found that Dr. Arend engaged in academic misconduct relating to research; and that he committed acts of intimidation, threats, coercion, and/or harassment directed against students, faculty and staff. The UMKC Chancellor acted in accordance with the faculty committee’s wishes and terminated his appointment.”

The 10 profs on the faculty committee were unanimous in their decision. If more due process were needed, the UM System president and the Board of Curators heard Arend’s appeal and rejected it. In going public, Bichelmeyer acknowledged her debt to “the Missouri taxpayers who help fund our operations.” Amen to that.

As far as conspiracies go, if Arends’s claim is true, the one presented in Oliver Stone’s JFK was only slightly more complex. Say what he will, this whistleblower got his day in court. Perps have gone to the electric chair with less ado.

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