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Former dean sues University of San Diego

Details of secret recordings, nude photos in Edward Luck’s lawsuit

(image from USD Facebook page)
(image from USD Facebook page)

University of San Diego's Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies is more a crock than a well-run, properly managed school, says a new federal lawsuit filed by the school's former dean, Dr. Edward Luck.

Luck is suing the school and its top administrators for misrepresentations given during the application process, for breach of contract, and for violating his privacy, among other claims.

Luck, who once served as United Nations assistant secretary-general and special adviser to secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, has numerous degrees from Columbia University, took over as dean of the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace and Studies in August of 2012 and served in that capacity until October 28 of this year. During that time, Luck said the school, which opened in 2007 with a $75 million gift from Joan Kroc and was meant to be a center to "not only teach peace, but make peace,” was dysfunctional from the get-go.

Upon taking control of the school after a yearlong courtship initiated by university big-wigs, Luck soon learned how poorly managed the school had become, whether that was financially, administratively, or lacking a proper focus and curriculum. According to his lawsuit, he wasted no time in trying to implement change, but his efforts proved fruitless and decisions were overturned by high-level administrators and board members, including University of San Diego's executive vice president and provost Julie Sullivan.

Luck "was expected to lead within the confines of a collective governance philosophy in which individual subordinates had veto power over management decisions," reads the complaint. "Effectively, Dr. Luck was powerless to make the necessary, critical, and sometimes unpopular changes previously and repeatedly represented to him by the University as needed to improve the School."

Problems weren't just coming from the university's higher-ups but also from his subordinates.

One issue was with Dr. David Shirk, then director of the school's Trans-Border Institute, one of the two schools within the Kroc School of Peace Studies. Luck claims that he discovered that Shirk was disregarding rules "by offering financial gifts of University funds to individuals without any work product expected in return, by inappropriately gaining access to the personal information of all Kroc School faculty and staff, as well as of the Political Science and International Relations Department faculty, by giving official University identity cards and titles to individuals who had no formal affiliation with the University."

Efforts at righting the alleged wrongs didn't go so smoothly for the new dean. Just two days after "relieving" the associate professor from his post, associate dean Lee Ann Otto, incoming interim provost Andy Allen, and provost Sullivan informed Luck that they refused to let Shirk go.

Shortly thereafter, Shirk circulated a memo that, according to the complaint, attacked Luck personally. Luck then learned that Shirk had been secretly recording conversations with him and other administrators.

There's more.

"On May 15, 2013, the University discovered that Shirk was storing nude photographs of himself on a University computer account. Additionally, there were also nude photographs of women. These were accessible by workers and undergraduate students associated with TBI."

Luck pleaded with Sullivan and others to get the police involved but declined to do so.

Shirk wasn't the only professor that clashed with the new dean. The complaint also alleges that associate professor Ami Carpenter was also combative, especially after learning Luck doubted her qualifications as principal investigator in charge of working with "human subjects, including prisoners and local gang members, and its focus on sex trafficking and children."

After relaying his concerns, Carpenter accused the dean of discrimination against women. The complaint resulted in an investigation by outside legal counsel. Investigator Jennifer Branch found the claims to be meritless. She did, however, find that Luck's management style was abrasive and ineffective.

"Ms. Branch is not qualified to conduct an investigation of the effectiveness of the management style of a Dean or any other academic official. Furthermore, Ms. Branch, displaying clear selection bias, did not interview all of the necessary and relevant persons for an investigation into the management style of Dr. Luck. Finally, Ms. Branch was not transparent during her investigation of witnesses because she did not advise them that she was acting in a dual role and was investigating both the alleged discrimination and the management effectiveness of Dr. Luck. Ms. Branch only advised witnesses that she was investigating the alleged discrimination. This failure to be transparent led to incomplete evidence gathering and interviews that relied heavily on hearsay and second or third hand gossip rather than direct experience."

Branch composed a letter regarding Luck's poor management skills, later distributing it to staff, including associate professor Carpenter.

Shortly thereafter, in October of this year, interim provost Andrew Allen approached Luck with demands that he change his management style. Less than two weeks later, Luck resigned.

Luck is suing the university for loss of wages, damages to his reputation, and exemplary damages meant to dissuade those involved from repeating their actions, as well as for any additional relief deemed appropriate by the court.

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University of San Diego's Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies is more a crock than a well-run, properly managed school, says a new federal lawsuit filed by the school's former dean, Dr. Edward Luck.

Luck is suing the school and its top administrators for misrepresentations given during the application process, for breach of contract, and for violating his privacy, among other claims.

Luck, who once served as United Nations assistant secretary-general and special adviser to secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, has numerous degrees from Columbia University, took over as dean of the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace and Studies in August of 2012 and served in that capacity until October 28 of this year. During that time, Luck said the school, which opened in 2007 with a $75 million gift from Joan Kroc and was meant to be a center to "not only teach peace, but make peace,” was dysfunctional from the get-go.

Upon taking control of the school after a yearlong courtship initiated by university big-wigs, Luck soon learned how poorly managed the school had become, whether that was financially, administratively, or lacking a proper focus and curriculum. According to his lawsuit, he wasted no time in trying to implement change, but his efforts proved fruitless and decisions were overturned by high-level administrators and board members, including University of San Diego's executive vice president and provost Julie Sullivan.

Luck "was expected to lead within the confines of a collective governance philosophy in which individual subordinates had veto power over management decisions," reads the complaint. "Effectively, Dr. Luck was powerless to make the necessary, critical, and sometimes unpopular changes previously and repeatedly represented to him by the University as needed to improve the School."

Problems weren't just coming from the university's higher-ups but also from his subordinates.

One issue was with Dr. David Shirk, then director of the school's Trans-Border Institute, one of the two schools within the Kroc School of Peace Studies. Luck claims that he discovered that Shirk was disregarding rules "by offering financial gifts of University funds to individuals without any work product expected in return, by inappropriately gaining access to the personal information of all Kroc School faculty and staff, as well as of the Political Science and International Relations Department faculty, by giving official University identity cards and titles to individuals who had no formal affiliation with the University."

Efforts at righting the alleged wrongs didn't go so smoothly for the new dean. Just two days after "relieving" the associate professor from his post, associate dean Lee Ann Otto, incoming interim provost Andy Allen, and provost Sullivan informed Luck that they refused to let Shirk go.

Shortly thereafter, Shirk circulated a memo that, according to the complaint, attacked Luck personally. Luck then learned that Shirk had been secretly recording conversations with him and other administrators.

There's more.

"On May 15, 2013, the University discovered that Shirk was storing nude photographs of himself on a University computer account. Additionally, there were also nude photographs of women. These were accessible by workers and undergraduate students associated with TBI."

Luck pleaded with Sullivan and others to get the police involved but declined to do so.

Shirk wasn't the only professor that clashed with the new dean. The complaint also alleges that associate professor Ami Carpenter was also combative, especially after learning Luck doubted her qualifications as principal investigator in charge of working with "human subjects, including prisoners and local gang members, and its focus on sex trafficking and children."

After relaying his concerns, Carpenter accused the dean of discrimination against women. The complaint resulted in an investigation by outside legal counsel. Investigator Jennifer Branch found the claims to be meritless. She did, however, find that Luck's management style was abrasive and ineffective.

"Ms. Branch is not qualified to conduct an investigation of the effectiveness of the management style of a Dean or any other academic official. Furthermore, Ms. Branch, displaying clear selection bias, did not interview all of the necessary and relevant persons for an investigation into the management style of Dr. Luck. Finally, Ms. Branch was not transparent during her investigation of witnesses because she did not advise them that she was acting in a dual role and was investigating both the alleged discrimination and the management effectiveness of Dr. Luck. Ms. Branch only advised witnesses that she was investigating the alleged discrimination. This failure to be transparent led to incomplete evidence gathering and interviews that relied heavily on hearsay and second or third hand gossip rather than direct experience."

Branch composed a letter regarding Luck's poor management skills, later distributing it to staff, including associate professor Carpenter.

Shortly thereafter, in October of this year, interim provost Andrew Allen approached Luck with demands that he change his management style. Less than two weeks later, Luck resigned.

Luck is suing the university for loss of wages, damages to his reputation, and exemplary damages meant to dissuade those involved from repeating their actions, as well as for any additional relief deemed appropriate by the court.

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Comments
3

Wow. It's frightening that a manager who confronts seriously aberrant employees can be accused of poor management skills. Kroc, Luck, and Shirk. Peace studies. Secret recordings. Wow. Keep us posted on how this resolves, please!

And how uncomfortable that Shirk's Twitter name is shirktwit. I'd have chosen something slightly more respectable, if I were a University director. Also, can't resist mentioning that a Pennsylvania native, now University director in San Diego, who is accused in May of 2013 of storing nude photos of himself on the SD University computer, retweets on Nov 27, 2013, a small Sarasota, FL, story about a naked man. A wide-ranging interest Mr. Shirk has, indeed.

None

Dec. 19, 2013

It's worth mentioning that the University President, Mary Lyons, just resigned over a year after being given a near unanimous "vote of no confidence" from both the student and faculty senate organizations. Additionally, Julie Sullivan has moved on to greener (albeit colder) pastures, and is now PRESIDENT of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN. A bit frightening that she essentially received a promotion for her antics.

Feb. 15, 2014

Patently absurd to think that a school supposedly devoted to promoting social justice could be in fact a cesspool of cronyism and corruption. I'd lol, but I'm too busy throwing up in my mouth a little bit.

Sept. 7, 2015

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