NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A vocal faculty member at Tennessee State University who has opposed university leadership was taken away from a meeting in handcuffs on Monday and removed as the chair of the faculty senate.
Dr. Jane Davis, an English professor, was arrested by campus police on a charge of disorderly conduct, TSU spokesman Rick Delahaya told The Tennessean.
Davis has been an outspoken critic of policies and decisions made by TSU interim President Portia Shields, who came to the university in early 2011 to make reforms for the school to gain a necessary full accreditation. Her contract expires at the end of the year.
Last week a suggestion was made to oust Davis and the Faculty Senate’s executive council and the university surveyed faculty members on the idea. In the online poll, 60 percent of those who responded said they wanted Davis removed and 59 percent said they wanted the executive council to go with her.
Davis said she wanted to speak in her defense about the survey and calls for her removal.
“Dr. Shields attempted to discuss the results of the Faculty Senate survey,” said Delahaya. “Dr. Davis then became extremely disruptive and would not allow the meeting to proceed.”
Davis said that she wanted to speak with Shields, who was at the meeting.
“This was my one chance to speak in front of her, but speech in front of her that she doesn’t agree with is disorderly conduct,” she said.
Following the arrest, the Faculty Senate voted to remove her as the chair. Davis said that the vote to remove her was illegitimate because the meeting had been called by university administration rather than the faculty senate.
“Nothing that happened there counts,” said Davis, who still considers herself the leader of the legislative body.
Davis said that the Faculty Senate was intimidated by Shields when they decided to vote her out.
“They see someone being put away in handcuffs. How will they not go along with it?” she said.
Delahaya said Shields did not suggest or endorse the removal of Shields and wanted the school’s entire faculty to be represented.
“She did want the faculty to have some type of voice,” he said.
Davis said she is being retaliated against by Shields for complaining that university administrators changed grades for some students. The university said it was correcting a mistake in grading.
“This is crystal-clear intimidation and retaliation,” Davis said.