Alex Simon Open Letter

Alex Simon Open Letter to President Tuminez Nov 13, 2019

Dear President Tuminez:

We, the undersigned, are sending an open letter to inform you that multiple UVU
employees have been the targets of unjustifiably protracted investigations that defame and
traumatize them. In many cases, investigations have proceeded in the absence of prima facie
evidence of misconduct and the allegations employees have been forced to respond to have been
completely unsubstantiated. Dr. Michael Shively’s recent suicide is an example of just how
traumatizing being the target of a UVU investigation can be.

Mike was a dedicated teacher whose anatomy courses prepared hundreds of students for
success in medical school and other professions. He served as President of the Faculty Senate
and Department Chair. We respected him as our colleague. To many of us, he was both a mentor
and a friend.

In March 2019, Dr. Shively was reportedly escorted from campus and ordered to have no
contact with his co-workers or students. You informed him that multiple allegations had been
made against him and that he was suspended from campus “…until such time that you are
acquitted, resign, or are dismissed.” Like many other employees whom have been investigated,
most of the allegations against Professor Shively were vague and unsubstantiated, he was denied
counsel, and was not informed who his accuser(s) was.

For instance, he was accused of “Intimidation and threat [sic] toward students and
employees…” The veracity of this allegation is questionable. Firstly, those of us who knew Mike
Shively know that he would not have threatened anyone. Secondly, threats and intimidation are a
violation of Utah’s Criminal Code. A reasonable person, if they genuinely felt threatened, would
have filed a complaint with a law enforcement agency, they would not have relied on UVU
personnel to protect them. If UVU’s General Counsel, Karen Clemes possessed prima facie
evidence that Professor Shively had threatened UVU students or employees, she should have
reported the matter to a law enforcement agency. She should not have allowed UVU personnel—
who are not qualified to investigate or prosecute criminal activities—to spend months conducting
their own investigation. That’s a job for law enforcement. A UVU investigation is clearly not an
adequate means of addressing alleged criminal actions. However, escorting an individual from
campus, suspending him from campus, denying him counsel, and failing to conclude the
investigation in a timely manner are clearly very effective means of demoralizing and defaming a
well-respected professor.

It should be noted that Mike’s colleagues implored you and others to treat him fairly. In
April 2019, Professor Alexander Simon, who is the President of the UVU Chapter of the
American Federation of Teachers, wrote to you “Prohibiting Dr. Shively from teaching his
classes and suspending him from campus has likely done irreparable harm to his reputation and
good name.” Professor Scott Abbott, who is Vice President of the UVU Chapter of the American
Association of University Professors, attempted to accompany Dr. Shively to a hearing. UVU’s
General Counsel, Karen Clemes turned Professor Abbott away and decreed that Professor
Shively was not entitled to counsel and would be interrogated without representation or support.
In an email to Ms. Clemes, Dr. Abbott maintained that UVU policy clearly stated that
respondents had the right to know who had made charges against them, that allegations had
to be specific enough for the respondent to respond to, and that in violation of his right
to due process, disciplinary action, i.e., suspending Dr. Shively from campus, had been taken against him in the
absence of any finding of a policy violation. Ms. Clemes did not concur with Dr. Abbott’s
reading of UVU policy. It should be noted that the investigatory tactics that Professor Shively
was subjected to appear to be very common at UVU.

The stress of being investigated took a toll on Mike. He lost a significant amount of
weight and expressed concern that his suspension would lead students and faculty to assume the
worst of him. In August, just before classes started and subsequent to being investigated for
months, he took his own life. Although he was not a threat to others, his suspension from campus
and the lengthy investigation made him a threat to himself. It should be noted that in another
case, a well-respected professor was subjected to similar tactics. After an invasive investigation
that took several months was finally completed, it was determined that the allegations—which
were completely unsubstantiated and false—were “unfounded.” Unfortunately, the professor was
so traumatized by the experience that he took stress leave. Another tenured professor was finally
cleared after a lengthy and traumatizing investigation. He was so demoralized and disillusioned
with UVU that he resigned. Clearly, UVU policies regarding investigations need to be
significantly reformed.


  • Dr. Alexander Simon, Professor of Sociology and President of the UVU Chapter of AFT
  • Dr. Phil Gordon, Associate Professor of Communications
  • Dr. Robert Robbins, Professor of Plant Physiology
  • Dr. Jen Hooper, Assistant Professor of Mathematics
  • Dr. Sam Rushforth, Dean of Science and Health Emeritus
  • Kelli Potter, Associate Professor of Philosophy
  • Dr. James Harris, Professor of Biology and former Dean of Science and Health
  • Dr. Paul Weber, Associate Professor of Physics
  • Dr. Michael Minch, Professor of Philosophy
  • Dr. Wayne Whaley, Professor of Zoology
  • Joel Bradford, Associate Professor of Earth Science
  • Dr. Christa Albrecht-Crane,
    Professor and Associate Writing Program Administrator,Department of English and Literature
  • Dr. Catherine Malone, Associate Professor of Biology
  • Dr. Rick McDonald, Professor of English
  • Dr. Karen Mizell, Professor of Philosophy