Cal State Fullerton math professor Alain Bourget, who got in trouble for declining to assign a textbook to his students that written by the university’s math department chairman, had his day in court Friday.
He was able to appeal the letter of reprimand he received at a grievance hearing in front of a three-member faculty panel. The committee has until Nov. 6 to reach a decision on whether or not to overturn the reprimand.
Bourget and others had issues with how the hearing was conducted. The hearing room only allowed for 25 people to sit in the meeting at one time, leaving many waiting outside the hearing room. Some faculty members were heard calling the hearing a “joke.”
Alain Bourget’s wife, Gulhan Bourget, said they had asked for a bigger venue, but were told by the administration the smaller room would work.
Alain Bourget asked to use an alternative textbook for the spring 2014 Math 250B course. An email exchange between Alain Bourget and Stephen Goode, the department chairman, showed that the current text was never officially adopted through a department motion.
The book was written by math department chair Stephen Goode and co-authored by Math 250B course coordinator Scott Annin
“My recollection is that when my text became available (around 1989), we adopted it by unanimous consent so no formal motion was necessary,” Goode said in the Oct. 17, 2013 email.
Alain Bourget thought existing policy and the unanimous consent were too weak to be binding. He used an alternative text for the spring 2014 semester, which resulted in his reprimand letter in June that year.
Associate professor Tyler McMillan testified he sat on an ad hoc committee where four out of five people opted to allow Bourget to use a different text than Goode and Annin’s textbook. Bourget wanted to use a book by MIT professor Gilbert Strang where the cheaper price could save a student up to $120.
Koch’s testimony refuted McMillan’s. Koch said that the committee could not reach a general consensus.
“This committee was kind of a joke, to be honest,” Alain Bourget said.
Leading up to the hearing, Alain Bourget said he received a letter of support signed by 62 faculty members as well as hundreds of emails and calls of support from students.
“I’m very touched by this and would like to thank them all,” he said through tears at the hearing.
Representing the university at the hearing was Maria Osorio, interim director of Faculty Labor Relations. Osorio immediately dismissed the letter and said that nobody who signed that letter works in the math department.
Representing Alain Bourget was Mahamood Hassan, president of the Fullerton chapter of California Faculty Association. Hassan called Robert Koch, former dean of College of Natural Science and Mathematics, to testify.
During his testimony, Koch acknowledged that the department did not have records of the Math 250B book in question being formally voted for section-wide use throughout the classes.
“If everybody’s okay, then yeah, let’s move on,” Goode said at the hearing, referring to his book’s adoption. A formal resolution was not seen as necessary.
“I don’t always think that things have to be documented in a legal sort of fashion,” Koch said.
“It’s a collegial environment. It’s expected that people get along so we don’t have to write down everything,” Osorio said, regarding the committee and lack of minutes.
However, during Goode’s testimony, he said that within two months of the 1984 math department policy decision, he found minutes that the department voted for a book — different from his and Annin’s — to be used for Math 250B
Goode’s book had been used for nearly 25 years without a complaint before Alain Bourget, Koch said.
Alain Bourget said he “would never go against such a policy” if it were clear. “You don’t need to reaffirm something that is clear,” Alain Bourget said regarding the lack of records.
It was troubling to Hassan that the textbook was used for 25 years without an evaluation.
Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC intern. Please contact him at Scustodio21@csu.fullerton.edu.