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Statements allege UP chief attempted to "dig up dirt" on Archie

by Kari Ashworth - Executive Editor | Brianna Bush - Editor-in-Chief
Wed, Feb 19th 2020 10:00 am
Statements provided by Andrew Burns.
Statements provided by Andrew Burns.
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Andrew Burns, an attorney for The College at Brockport’s former Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) Cephas Archie, Ph.D., released a statement on Monday, Feb. 17, alleging the college’s University Police Chief Daniel Vasile had contacted a former colleague of Archie’s as part of an investigation.

“We were informed this weekend that on Friday, February 14, 2020, Daniel Vasile, the Chief of Police of The College at Brockport, contacted Dr. Sabrina Y. Lewis, a former colleague of Dr. Archie at the Houston Community College in an effort to dig up dirt regarding Dr. Archie,” the statement read.

In a statement released in conjunction with Burns’ statement, Lewis said Vasile contacted her on Friday, Feb. 14, through LinkedIn via email. Lewis then said he called her cell and left a voicemail.

“Hi Dr. Lewis, my name is Dan Vasile; I’m calling from New York,” the transcribed voicemail reads. “I was given your name by someone and they said that you would have some information for me and I didn’t want to say what it is on voicemail. If you can call me back, I’d appreciate it.”

In Lewis’ statement, she said she looked on LinkedIn to see who Vasile was and discovered his position at the college, then she returned his call.

“When he answered the phone, he stated he was informed Dr. Archie terminated me,” Lewis said in a statement. “I immediately informed him that Dr. Archie was not my supervisor at Houston Community College and he had nothing to do with my employment. After further discussion with Chief Vasile, it was obvious to me Chief Vasile wanted me to provide him with disparaging information and dirt regarding Dr. Archie and I told him if so, he had the wrong person to use as a witness.”

Lewis described Archie as respectful and supportive toward faculty, staff, administration and students at Houston Community College and said he was “widely respected and admired” by the community.

“When I informed Chief Vasile that I never observed or heard about any instance where Dr. Archie acted in an inappropriate manner, Chief Vasile quickly ended the call,” Lewis’ statement said. “It was clear Chief Vasile was only interested in obtaining negative information about Dr. Archie from me.”

The college has since released its own statement regarding the issue, explaining Brockport President Heidi Macpherson ordered the investigation into Archie’s past to end. 

“The president’s office recently received an anonymous voicemail from an individual who claimed to have information about a former employee of the college,” Vice President for University Relations David Mihalyov said in the statement. “Because of the nature of the allegations, the voicemail was shared with our chief of police for his records. While the police chief did look into this allegation, our own review revealed that since this employee no longer works for the college and the allegations pre-date their employment, the inquiry should not have occurred. The president has ordered the chief to cease this inquiry.”

Burns said Archie has not filed any type of lawsuit against the college, which makes this situation “unusual” to him.

“There’s nothing for the college administrators to defend other than their decision that they made a little more than three weeks ago to relieve Dr. Archie of his duties, which, in my view, has blown up spectacularly in their faces,” Burns said. “And I think they’re trying to, after the fact, try to come up with some sort of justification for what they did. And I’ve not seen something like that before where the chief of police is reaching out to an employee or colleague of someone going back three, four years ago. That person’s got no relationship at all with The College at Brockport, and according to Dr. Lewis her impression was that the chief was trying to dig up dirt on Dr. Archie.”

Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) Director Gary Owens has been a vocal proponent of Archie’s, believing his firing to be unjust.

Owens expressed his concerns over how Archie was removed from his office, especially when he was told Macpherson was not present for Archie’s firing.

“It was a representative from SUNY HR, the central HR office,” Owens said. “[Macpherson] was not present at the action. An attempt was made to offer him a settlement, we call it, which would have silenced him. [Archie] thought it was unjust and unfair, I’m gonna use those two words, unjust and unfair. He refused to accept whatever the offer was. Since I wasn’t there, I can’t tell you what that entailed in the office. I just know that he refused to accept it by his own words. And then he was led out of the building by the police chief [Vasile].”

Owens didn’t know what was happening until it was happening to Archie. He received a phone call from a witness, and after driving to Archie’s location, Owens found Archie in his car with just his jacket.

“He couldn’t go into his office; he couldn’t take anything out, but he had his coat,” Owens said. “He was told that he could come back and get [his personal items] later. It was disgraceful.” 

Over this past weekend, Owens was in attendance of an off-campus faculty meeting. According to Owens, Archie also attended the meeting, speaking to the crowd.

“Dr. Archie wanted to one, make claim to us that there were no, and I quote no again, indiscretions, dishonesty or unlawful behavior that would have been the cause for dismissal,” Owens said. “He also stated that at no time was any reason given to him for his dismissal — no outline, no job performance letter or anything that would have pointed to anything that he had done negatively that would give reason for his dismissal.” 

Owens described the emotions and thoughts of those present at the meeting as “disdain and disappointment.” Owens explained that the group was upset over the lack of reasoning regarding Archie’s dismissal.

“The lack of understanding — it doesn’t make sense,” Owens said. “I would say there is concern that was voiced of a ‘conspiracy’ to develop or manufacture a reason to terminate him that did not materialize, it was found to be inaccurate.” 

Owens indicated the recent statements regarding Vasile could play into this theory. 

The past few weeks have been an experience for Owens, stirring up mixed feelings of anger and distrust. Owens has been present at every gathering the students have organized since Archie’s departure. He also shared his opinion on how Thursday’s protest went.

“I witnessed the event last week, with all the students going over to Allen, then I watched how the president was able to water it down by talking about all these tremendous things that were going to happen; those were his ideas,” Owens said. “They were not her original ideas, they were his ideas and she used them. To me, that is desperate. How could you do that? How can you make this grand appeal for all that needs to happen at our campus to make Brockport a better place when you didn’t do it before; you wouldn’t let him move forward.”

Owens hopes in the future there will be trust between all parties, but right now he doesn’t see any action.

“Right now we face ‘what is the truth, where can we get the truth,’” Owens said. “Some people, and I’m not saying it one way or the other, but there are some people who say we can’t get truth with this president because of this cascade of inaccuracies and misleading things.”

This is an ongoing story and The Stylus will continue with updates as they become available.

 

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