By Brienne Prusak, Managing News Editor
Published May 8, 2011
The Department of Public Safety Oversight Committee released a public report on Friday stating that non-tenured University faculty member Dr. Andrei Borisov’s resignation was not handled properly by DPS.
The report was drafted to examine the ways in which DPS dealt with Borisov’s case and to suggest how the department can improve their practices to prevent future grievances and errors. This is the first time the DPS Oversight Committee has published a public report in the past decade, if ever, according to University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham.
After accusing a co-researcher of scientific misconduct, Borisov was asked to resign by the chair of the Department of Pediatrics on Sept. 4, 2008, after working for the University for 14 years.
According to the report, after Borisov signed his letter of resignation, two officers asked Borisov to clean out his office without instruction from the chair of Borisov's department. The officers’ suspicion that Borisov was taking property from the office that didn’t belong to him led to a physical altercation, which resulted in Borisov’s arrest.
Though Borisov was acquitted on criminal charges connected to the event, he went on to file a grievance against DPS, which led to Friday’s release of a public report.
The committee’s report found that the “conduct of the officers was inappropriate” because the officers were asked to go beyond their usual duties and act in ways that were not covered under DPS authority. This included the officers’ supervision of Borisov as he resigned and cleaned out his office, adding that the department chair should have supervised both of acts.
The report examines the management of situations like Borisov’s by DPS by suggesting that officers not be in the room during such meetings. The report claims they should only serve as “civil standby,” and stay directly outside the room to diminish any intimidation their presence may cause.
Tim Slottow, the University’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, wrote in a May 6 press release that no disciplinary actions will be enacted against the DPS officers. He added that the report helps to better define the role DPS should have on campus.
“I appreciate the efforts, energy and thoughtful work by the committee on the complaint from Dr. Borisov,” Slottow wrote. “I am pleased that the committee did not recommend disciplinary measures be taken against the DPS officers.”
“As I told the committee when we met, I strive to create a culture where we continuously improve,” he added. “The comments and recommendations the committee provided will serve as a foundation to help us successfully craft and implement the necessary changes.”
The report also suggested that if DPS is called, a University human resource representative should be requested to advise the departing employee in a situation like Borisov’s. Borisov claims that on Sept. 4, 2008, he repeatedly asked about the consequences of resignation versus termination, but received no advice from anyone present in the room.
An April 22 press release from the University regarding the Borisov incident states that such policy changes are necessary because they will help prevent similar incidents from occurring.
“The University acknowledges that more fully articulated procedures and expectations may have led to a more positive outcome for all parties,” the release stated. “The University regrets any incorrect information published about these events that harmed Dr. Borisov’s reputation.”
Sarah Prescott, a lawyer working on Borisov’s case, said she received a final report on March 17, but that it differed from the version released to the public on Friday.
Prescott said she received an e-mail from Law School Prof. Richard Friedman, a faculty member of the DPS Oversight Committee, with the March 17 version of the report, saying that the Committee was planning on publically releasing the report on March 24 unless there was a reason it would be inappropriate to do so.
Although Prescott didn’t contest the report’s public release, it was not made public until last Friday after a series of meetings within the University where members of the DPS Oversight Committee further discussed their concerns and edited the report.
Prescott said she thought these changes were made to lessen the blow to the University's image. She added that one discrepancy from the March 17 report was that is states there was a University human resources representative present at the meeting with Borisov to address his confusion about the difference between resignation and termination.
Prescott said the changes that were made from the final report she saw and the one released on Friday “were pretty telling” because the removed remarks portrayed the University negatively.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous for a committee to issue a report to the parties involved and then one party decides it’d like to keep working on changes to that item until they apparently approved it, and only then does the second report — modified — get released as, quote-unquote, the final report,” Prescott said.
Prescott added that Borisov sued the University in a civil lawsuit regarding the incident that was filed with Washtenaw Circuit Court in 2009.
“I think (the settlement versus a trial) says a whole, whole lot about what they saw, in terms of their exposure for the way that (the University) behaved,” she said. “The University settled with Dr. Borisov and paid him a significant amount of money.”
Along with the settlement, the University released a public apology on April 22 and Borisov was also made eligible for rehire at the University.
Prescott said that she believes the officers should have received some form of punishment for their behavior.
“He is a professional who had served this University as of that moment and brought millions and millions of dollars of grant money into the University,” she said. “For them to treat him like they did — like a trespasser, someone who has broken in, in the middle of the night — is absolutely ridiculous.”
Prescott added that she thinks the incident has negatively affected both Borisov’s and the University’s image.
“One way or another, the fact of the matter is these officers contributed to a situation where a person was prosecuted wrongly,” she said. “…They led to a situation where the University has now had to pay out hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and money to Dr. Borisov.”
Richard Friedman, law professor and faculty member of the DPS Oversight Committee, wrote in an e-mail interview that the report was written to deal with the problems that DPS faced in Borisov’s case and to prevent them from occurring again.
“I think the report covers everything it should,” Friedman said. “We were not concerned with the causes of Dr. Borisov's separation from the department of pediatrics. Our concern is with DPS. In this case, a significant part of the problem was that DPS officers were put in a position to perform functions that were not appropriate for them.”
Rebecca Egler, a student member of the DPS Oversight Committee, said the report comprehensively covers the essential information about the case.
“The process of writing the Borisov report was long and precise, which I think is clear in the final product,” Egler said. “It was a good, democratic experience for the committee and we did our best to deliver a thorough and thoughtful end product, which is hopefully evident in the report itself.”
The report comes about a year after the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affair's Faculty Hearing Committee filed a 55-page report stating that University officials had violated Borisov’s “rights and academic freedom” by forcing him to resign, according to a May 23, 2010, article in The Michigan Daily.
The article also said that the SACUA report explained how Borisov’s resignation “broke established University policies surrounding academic integrity, wrongfully damaged Borisov’s reputation and retaliated against him.”
SACUA Chair Kate Barald wrote in an e-mail interview that the suggestions made in the report should help to prevent a situation like Borisov’s from happening again, adding that SACUA is unable to comment further until they deliberate over the report.