Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Lang Advisor Fired Over Spring Break

In a development over Spring Break that caught many Lang students and faculty by surprise, Brandon Graham, Lang College's Internship Director, Transfer Advisor and Junior Class Academic Advisor, was abruptly fired on March 20.

Graham, 27, who had worked at Lang for three years, was beloved by some and unpopular with others, students said. The reasons for his departure are unclear. Most Lang administrators involved in the decision declined to comment, citing confidentiality issues. Graham, on the advice of his lawyer, also declined to discuss the exact reason for his termination.

But an accusatory message that Graham posted on Facebook last Monday, which he lengthened two days later, allude to a long-standing conflict between Graham and others in the advising office.

In the post, Graham suggests that personality conflicts, not his job performance, were behind his termination—an assertion that Lang Dean Jonathan Veitch challenged in a brief e-mail to the
Free Press. "I find [Graham's] comments on Facebook hurtful, inaccurate and unfortunate," Veitch wrote.

Other administrators also doubted the veracity of Graham’s claims. “[The postings] are vindictive and in some places alarmingly personal in their characterizations,” Neil Gordon, the Chair of Writing, who will take over as Dean this summer, wrote over e-mail. “I see no reason to take them as a reliable record of what really happened and, to the contrary, many reasons to doubt them.”

In a brief phone interview Thursday, Graham confirmed that the end came after a 45-minute meeting with his former boss, Associate Dean of Students Jon White, and Amos Himmelstein, Assistant Dean of Administration and Planning. According to Graham’s Facebook post, after the three discussed Graham's "flex-time scheduling, off-site internship visits, regressive management styles, student reviews [some very good + some bad]," a heated exchange ensued. At the end of the meeting, Graham claims that White gave him five minutes to evacuate New School property, and says that a New School security guard escorted him off of campus.

In his posts, Graham defends his approach to his job, saying he was responsible for almost 500 students, routinely handled more than 250 e-mails a week, and regularly puts in a 50-hour work week.

Because of an outpouring of supportive Facebook and blog comments, phone calls and e-mails, Graham said, Carol Cantrell, Senior Vice President for Human Resources, agreed to meet with him last Monday to discuss the reasons for his termination.

Graham said that he does not intend to open litigation against the University because he was fired.

New School President Bob Kerrey said that he was familiar with the matter and had received dozens of e-mails, but had not read Graham’s posts. "I fully support the Dean in this decision," he wrote over e-mail.

Graham’s duties will be divided among other advising staff. White sent an e-mail to the entire student body with information for students on whom to contact with advising issues.

"We will begin to search for an academic advisor soon, but we are all fully committed to ensuring overall service doesn't diminish for students during this interim time," White wrote.

This article appears in today's issue of the
New School Free Press. Photo: Brandon Graham, courtesy Graham's Facebook.

No comments: