This week I read Utah Valley University’s Final Investigative Report on Professor Michael Shively, dated July 31, 2019. With a set of appendices, it is a public document, filed in a lawsuit against UVU by the family of Professor Michael Shively (Case 2:20-cv-00119-DB-PMW Document 17-1 Filed 03/26/20; Utah Federal District Court). 

I discuss the Report here because it reveals serious flaws in a procedure that should afford due process to members of the faculty while also enabling the University to dismiss faculty when there is proven cause. A UVU Faculty Senate Committee, of which I am a member, is currently writing a new policy on “Faculty Remediation, Sanction, and Dismissal for Cause.” Mistakes made in the Shively case can help us as we develop guidelines that are more reasonable than those in the earlier policy and more conducive to a mutual sense of trust and collegiality.

Professor Shively passed away on August 19, 2019, never having seen this report that discounts many of the allegations against him.

(a more detailed description and analysis to follow)

Professor Shively was suspended in mid-semester. Complaints about his teaching and treatment of a colleague made by a single student who met personally with several administrators and complaints about his teaching by several anonymous students led to the suspension. Suspension is such a serious action that it should be reserved for threats of immediate harm to the University or members of its community. None of the reported complaints rise to this level.

The investigation that commenced days after the suspension was nominally independent. It was, however, undertaken by an Academic Vice President who was present at every interview and by an attorney who advertises himself as expert in “defending against employee complaints.” This investigation was not independent.

Much of the investigative report is concerned with trivialities. Professor Shively said he did not refer to a study group as pathetic but later said he told a class their scores on a test were pathetic. He claimed to use Canvas but did not. As the investigators paint him into these kinds of corners, they ignore the fact that they interviewed him five times without revealing specific details of the allegations or the names of the complainants. He didn’t have these facts until a sixth meeting on July 11 when they gave him two hours to read the “Preliminary Investigation Report.” It is not surprising that he found it difficult to defend himself consistently and coherently over the course of three-and-a-half months. 

Professor Shively’s biased treatment of Dr. XXX was raised by “Student 1,” who also claimed that Professor Shively had infringed on Dr. XXX’s academic freedom (this in a letter sent to administrators before the suspension). After the suspension, Dr. XXX made claims of threatened violence, citing her belief that Professor Shively might shoot her. The Report concludes somewhat awkwardly that “there is no evidence that Dr. Shively engaged in any behaviors of a physically threatening behavior toward Dr. XXX.”

Allegations that Professor Shively expected Dr. XXX to use his textbook and refused to allow her to write questions for their joint texts are refuted by Dr. XXX herself. The Report says that “she admitted that Dr. Shively (1) told her that it was ‘totally her choice’ as to what textbooks . . . she decided to use, (2) told her ‘This is your course’ and ‘This is your class,’ and (3) extended an invitation to voluntarily participate (or not participate) in joint writing of exam questions.”

Nonetheless, the Report concludes that “Dr. Shively interfered with Dr. XXX's academic freedom by expecting her to use his textbook. . . .” 

In short, the Report details a contradictory and biased investigation. 


The sometimes counterintuitive structure that follows is the structure of the Report itself. Sections in black are straightforward descriptions of the Report itself (summarized in many cases, as the Report comprises thirty-three single-spaced pages). 
My responses are in red.


Professor Shively was suspended by UVU on March 25, 2019. During the summer, anticipating a continuation of the suspension, no classes were assigned to him for the Fall 2019 semester, which commenced on the day of his death. For five months, then, the investigation and pending decision kept Professor Shively from his classes, required that he not communicate with colleagues and students, and ordered him to appear for questioning on March 27, April 11, 17, 19, May 2, and July 11. 

That extended time, five months of unrelenting stress and isolation, is the first serious issue of this case.


The Final Investigation Report begins with a statement that the investigation was initiated because of “several anonymous EthicsPoint complaints” and complaints from a UVU student “alleging that anatomy students were being ‘poorly served’ by Dr. Shively’s difficult exams, undue study burdens, etc.” Letters from “Student 1” and the anonymous EthicsPoint complaints are available in appendices to the Report. 

Student 1’s letters claim that the anatomy class is too rigorous, pedagogically unsound, and unfairly graded. He also argues that Dr. XXX is not allowed to write her own tests because of Professor Shively’s sexist bias. The EthicsPoint complaints are about the rigor and pedagogy of the class. 

On the basis of these complaints (if there were others, the Report doesn’t mention them, nor are they in the appended court documents), the March 25th letter of suspension cites “intimidation and threat towards students and employees,” “arbitrary and capricious course requirements and grading,” “violation of the academic freedom of colleagues,” and “discrimination and harassment on the basis of protected class.”

Suspension of a member of the faculty in mid-semester is a penalty so serious that only immediate harm to the University or to persons at the University should require it. Although “intimidation and threat” may fit that description, none of the students’ complaints on basis of which the suspension was ordered rise to that level. If the UVU administration had information to that effect before the suspension, it should be among the documents filed in this case.


The Report states that the attorney hired to do the investigation “partnered with Kathren Brown, Associate Vice President.” Her involvement, the Report continues, “has been crucial in understanding and evaluating a variety of critical issues and University policies and procedures.” The Report bears both the attorney’s and the Associate Vice President’s signatures.

Although administrators informed the President of the Faculty Senate that they were going to suspend Professor Shively, the Investigative Report reveals that there was no faculty involvement in the investigation. The UVU General Counsel's reading of policy excluded faculty support at this stage of an investigation, although it was reasonable to read that policy as allowing faculty involvement. The new policy under development will make it clear that faculty peers must be included from the beginning.

The attorney was hired by administrators who made the decision to suspend Professor Shively. The Associate Vice President accompanied and advised him at every step. All interviews were held in the conference room of the Office of General Counsel. Throughout the report there are references to “investigators,” meaning the attorney and the Vice President. 

The attorney’s firm is called “Employer-Lawyer.” On the “Home” page, the attorney says that if you need a discrimination lawyer “who understands how to protect your business, you have come to the right place.”(https://www.employer-lawyer.com/#welcome-1) The first paragraph on the “Experience” page asks: “Does your Company need an employment law attorney with unparalleled experience for trainings, workplace investigations, or defending against employee complaints?” (http://www.employer-lawyer.com/experience)

The attorney's self-description suggests a bias in favor of employers; faculty will be treated, in this case, simply as employees.

This “independent” investigation was anything but independent. Without faculty involvement, the investigation was determinedly one-sided. When Professor Shively asked to be accompanied by a supporting member of the faculty, his request was denied. 


1.     Behavior Toward Students: Professor Shively called a study group “pathetic,” worked students like mules, and caused emotional distress with course requirements.
2.     Behavior Toward Colleagues: Professor Shively “engaged in intimidating or aggressive behavior” toward colleagues.
3.     Canvas and Related Procedures: Professor Shively “failed to use Canvas.”
4.     Academic Freedom Concerns: Professor Shively required a colleague to use a specific text and micromanaged that colleague’s work.

The only action mentioned here that might require suspension would be intimidating or aggressive behavior. (The new policy on dismissal for cause will make this clear.) Such behavior was not alleged in the initial complaints, however, appearing only well after the suspension and then determined to be unfounded. There should have been no suspension.


“Preponderance of the evidence” will be the standard of proof. If it appears “more likely than not” (greater than 50%) that the allegations are true the suspension will be vindicated and Professor Shively subject to possible dismissal. 

For an issue of this seriousness, “probably” is not a high enough standard.

All but one of these interviews were done after the suspension.

1.     Student 1 – The investigators report that this student said in his letters of complaint that Professor Shively “called a 50% average score on Test #1 “too high,” that his course places “unfair demands” on students that tend to “monopolize so much student time,” and that he “uses tests to gratify his ego by making the questions almost impossibly difficult.”

The interview reported on here is dated March 21. 

If the date is correct, the “Employer-Lawyer” was brought in before the suspension, which would mean that the independent investigation was undertaken by two people who were involved in the initial decision to suspend.

During this interview, Student 1 told the attorney and the Associate Vice President that Professor Shively would not allow the anatomy professor in whose class he was enrolled (Spring 2019) to write tests independently, that he told students that their work on a test was “pathetic,” and that he was disorganized and “just talks about himself” in class. Because the student was not in Professor Shively’s class, because he “relied heavily on hearsay,” and because they did not believe his claim that he (the student) was not collaborating with the professor on whose behalf he was complaining, the investigators found his credibility “undermined.”

It is not too much to say that Professor Shively was suspended because of the activism and claims of Student 1. That the investigators found his credibility questionable at this early date should have led to a less drastic course of action. 

2.     Students 2-6 -- claimed variously that the course was too difficult and caused undue stress and anxiety. Further, they reported that the anatomy professor in whose class they were enrolled was not allowed to write and administer tests independently but was required to use Professor Shively’s tests. These witnesses were judged credible.

3.     Student 7 -- was called as a witness by both Professor Shively and the professor of anatomy in whose class several of the students were enrolled. He told the attorney and the Vice President that Professor Shively didn’t use Canvas, that he sometimes made errors calculating grades, and that in conversation he said he gave his honors students a 30% bump in grade. Student 7 also testified that the other professor of anatomy had grown increasingly negative toward Professor Shively and that that professor’s goal of “running the anatomy program” won’t be achieved if Professor Shively is allowed to return to the University. Student 7 was found to be a credible witness.

4.     The anatomy professor (Dr. XXX), whose students were the complainants, was interviewed on May 2 by the attorney and the Associate Vice President. Her testimony revealed that joint writing of the tests was the initial plan, that it was her decision to quit participating, and that she had falsely told her students “that [she] was not allowed to write [her] own tests.” She did this, she said, out of fear for her visa and her tenure. The investigators report that she misunderstood the visa question, that rather than threatening to undermine the visa application, Professor Shively had been largely responsible for the search required by federal law that succeeded in getting the visa approved. 

Dr. XXX admitted that when students complained about any test question she said it was “Dr. Shively’s question” and acknowledged that her constant finger-pointing at Dr. Shively caused problems for him. There was a disputed question about a specific test. 

She stated her “concern about her physical safety around Dr. Shively.” She said “that she is worried about Dr. Shively shooting her” because he carries a gun all the time on campus. 

This assertion was incorrect; she had misunderstood comments by a student who said Professor Shively had guns at his house. 

Did Professor Shively ever threaten physical harm, the investigators asked. No, she answered, but “I don’t know what he’s capable of. No one knows, it may be nothing. But he instills fear in people.” 

Finally, she testified that several of her students saw Professor Shively on campus in the science building, although he was formally banned from campus. 

Considering the credibility of the witness, the investigators write that “she admitted that Dr. Shively (1) told her that it was ‘totally her choice’ as to what textbooks or reference materials she decided to use, (2) told her ‘This is your course’ and ‘This is your class,’ and (3) extended an invitation to voluntarily participate (or not participate) in joint writing of exam questions.” The “investigators generally find Dr. XXX to be a most credible witness.”

A “most credible witness” who thoroughly undercut the allegations that could reasonably have led to a suspension. That the suspension was not lifted at this point is incomprehensible.

5.     There were several witnesses from the Biology Department, members of the faculty and former and current Chairs of the Department who variously described Professor Shively as a trusted and valued mentor, as a “passive-aggressive bully,” as having been accommodating when they chose to teach anatomy with other textbooks and methods, and as having been the target of numerous complaints about the difficulty of tests. The most negative witness, despite a claim revealed as false, is found to be a credible witness. The witness with most detailed account of the current situation, especially of the interactions between the two anatomy professors, is found to be a compromised witness because of his close friendship with Professor Shively and his use of the word “lying,” a statement from which he “backtracked.”

6.     There were telephone interviews with additional students who complained about a specific test and said they had seen Professor Shively on campus. One reported that Professor Shively often played his guitar in class. 

7.     Finally, the Associate Dean was asked about his interview with Student 1. The student said if he didn’t get a response to his complaints by a deadline, he would go to Vice President Brown and the Title IX office. The Associate Dean forwarded the student’s email to Brown and the Title IX office.


Near the end of May, UVU retained a professor emeritus of Anatomy and Embryology at Idaho State University to evaluate Professor Shively’s textbook and three of his exams. The evaluator said the lack of colored illustrations disadvantages students, the paucity of illustrations is troubling, the number of errors is distressing, the review questions have errors of fact and are too complex, and the exams are too complex—one exam being “the most sadistic exam I have ever seen.”

This evaluation of a textbook, surely not relevant to the suspension, stretched the investigation well into the summer, long weeks during which UVU had no communication with increasingly anxious Professor Shively.

There had been notable professional conflicts between Professor Shively and this consultant over several decades. The investigators should have chosen a more objective evaluator.


The report says that during the five separate occasions the investigators met with Professor Shively he was “informed about the details of EthicsPoint complaints . . . [and] with details of allegations made by complainant Student 1 and supporting statements made by Dr. XXX and other witnesses.” The five meetings occurred on March 27, April 11, 17, 19, and May 2.

This statement obfuscates the fact that Professor Shively was not given critical details until a sixth meeting on July 11, when he was allowed two hours to read a Preliminary Investigation Report that revealed to him, for the first time, specific allegations and names of those making the allegations.

Allegation 1: Behavior of Students -- Professor Shively said he didn’t recall using the word “pathetic” about a group of students studying for an exam but later said he had told a class that the results of a test are “pathetic.” 

To a question about “a somewhat ambiguous allegation that he may have made jokes about suicide” he said no, never. The investigators found this denial credible. 

To questions about difficult tests and low grades he explained his curve and the necessity of rigor for students who will become health professionals.

He had made grading mistakes, he admitted, which he had corrected. 

Yes, he sometimes played his guitar in class.

Allegation #2: Behavior Toward Colleagues – Professor Shively denied any controlling, intimidating, aggressive or otherwise inappropriate” behaviors toward Dr. XXX and/or other UVU colleagues.

Allegation #3: Canvas and Related Procedures – Professor Shively said he had, on occasion, used Canvas, but that it had technical troubles with superscripts and subscripts and he had quit using it.

Allegation #4: Academic Freedom Concerns – “Dr. Shively denied that he interfered with Dr. XXX’s academic freedom in any way. He stated, ‘I’ve always been very careful not to infringe on her academic freedom. That’s why I ask her every semester how she wants to do the tests. She always tells me to write them and we put our names on them.’ He also said that Dr. XXX ‘grades on her own, sets her own curve, decides on her own what questions are fair or not fair.’” 


A long section details reasons the investigators have serious concerns about Professor Shively’s credibility, including his admission, after a denial, that he had in fact once called class performance “pathetic,” that his claim that he used Canvas was contradicted by evidence that he had only used it “on a very limited basis,” and that he denied being on campus but then said he once went to his office.

The investigators made their Canvas argument based on a “comprehensive report” that documented to the minute how often Professor Shively had used it. He should have simply said that he did not use Canvas and that he was not required to do so. That UVU allows information about Canvas use to be employed in cases like this is deeply troubling.

As will be seen, the investigators arrived at several "factual conclusions" that their investigation revealed as counter-factual.

Allegation #1: Behavior Toward Students
1.     Professor Shively in fact said “pathetic,” which was inappropriate behavior toward students.
2.     The textbook is deeply flawed and the exams unnecessarily difficult and incomprehensible.
3.     The course requirements are “unnecessarily onerous” and cause emotional distress. This conclusion is documented by a long series of student comments on SRIs.

The complaints cited at this point in the Report have been cherry-picked. From the same SRIs (available in an Appendix to the Report), one can make the case that Professor Shively is an extraordinarily good teacher: 

Dr. Shively is a fantastic teacher and is very knowledgeable about the subject / He’s a genius. / Really good at answering specific questions. / Taught the subject matter fairly well and very clear. / Though the class is overall extremely difficult, Shively made the class so fun and entertaining. When a topic wasn’t clear, he would give us real life examples that would help us understand things better. Great teacher that is so very knowledgeable. / Very willing to answer questions and make sure you understood the answer. / Gives good examples in class. / He knows his stuff! I know he gets a bad rap because of the difficulty of the class he teaches but I find it a good thing that challenges students to dig deep and actually apply themselves to the class. I never have studied or put so much time into a single class before. / Shively was a great teacher, he made class fun and relaxed, he even sang to us, he was funny and explained things very well. Loved the class. / The class was so well organized so that you always knew what material was coming next and what to expect. / I’ve never learned so much in my life. I learned to love anatomy. / Incredible teacher. Really loves his job and his students. Also loves “tricking” his students on quizzes and tests, but that honestly helped me and other students study twice as hard.

Judgments of the quality of teaching must be made on a holistic basis. The Report ignores this as it gathers support for the administration’s decision to suspend.

Further, evaluation of pedagogy is a faculty responsibility. The complaints should have been referred to the Dean of Science and the Chair of the Department of Biology.

4.     Professor Shively’s grading practices are deemed arbitrary and capricious: he bumped up student grades, he was going to fix grading errors from previous semesters “on the down low,” and he applied a “significant curve to pull up low scores only after the final exam.”

5.     Professor Shively is judged to have misled students concerning questions asked on one particular exam (whether or not there would be ELAs on the exam).

Allegation #2: Behavior Toward Colleagues
1.     The report states that three colleagues testified they felt controlled, bullied and/or intimidated by Professor Shively.

One of the colleagues reported above indeed alleged bullying. Dr. XXX’s testimony claimed intimidation but revealed that she had misperceived factors that made her feel that way. The third colleague said nothing of the kind.

2.     The report concludes that “Fears concerning her physical safety around Dr. Shively are unfounded and there is no evidence that Dr. Shively engaged in any behaviors of a physically threatening behavior. . . .” 

The moment the investigators decided this allegation was unfounded, the suspension should have been lifted.

Allegation #3: Canvas and Related Procedures
1.     Professor Shively did not use Canvas very much (according to the “University’s records”). 

2.     Reponses on SRIs show he didn’t use Canvas. Student complaints about this are cited at length as proof that he didn't use Canvas.

3.     The Report admits that Canvas usage is not “formally required” but argues that students, especially those with “diverse learning needs,” would have benefited by use of Canvas. Dr. Shively’s failure to use Canvas, the Report says, was exacerbated by his failure to timely respond to emails, to be available by phone, or otherwise communicate effectively with students. 

Because professors are not required by policy to use Canvas, it should not be part of this discussion.There is no evidence of slow response to email, unavailability by phone, or ineffective communication in the Report.

Allegation #4: Academic Freedom Concerns
1.     In “a very tenuous situation,” Dr. XXX was fearful that her tenure and visa were in jeopardy and thus gave in to expectations about the textbook and testing. The investigators conclude, however, that there was no evidence that this fear was well founded.

2.     Finally, “The investigators find that Dr. Shively interfered with Dr. [XXX’s] academic freedom by expecting her to use his textbook, and by crafting such difficult questions based on his textbook that non-use of his textbook would severely disadvantage students enrolled in Dr. XXX's courses."

After testimony from multiple witnesses and Dr. XXX herself that there was no such expectation, the investigators conclude that Professor Shively interfered with her academic freedom. This makes no sense whatsoever.

The investigators also jump to the mistaken conclusion that students in Dr. XXX’s class would have been disadvantaged if she hadn’t used Professor Shively’s textbook. Had she used a different text and composed her own tests her course would have been completely independent of Professor Shively’s course. She chose not to do so.

Students have been complaining about Professor Shively for at least a decade and the complaints were unresolved. Department Chairs should have stepped in.

It is true that there have been complaints about this difficult class over at least a decade. It is also true that students have praised Professor Shively and this course for at least a decade. Comparing Professor Shively’s SRI scores with SRIs for other courses in the College of Science would show them on the mid-to-high range. 

These investigators have no reasonable basis to claim that “Department Chairs should have stepped in.” They disrespect the professionalism of experienced professors of science when they make that assertion.

“With multiple complaints coming in from different sources, the University appropriately implemented this current investigation to determine the nature, extent and validity of concerns relating to Dr. Shively.”

Complaints about the class should have gone to the Dean and the Department Chair, not to an attorney and a Vice President, neither of whom has experience with anatomy pedagogy. There should never have been a suspension, given the nature of the complaints. There is nothing appropriate about this.

In summary: Professor Shively is found to have violated University Policy by calling students’ performance “pathetic,” by “issuing exams that were ‘sadistic’ in nature,” by using a textbook “riddled with anatomical errors,” and by “treating female colleagues in an intimidating and aggressive manner.”

The Report thus documents an embarrassing, contradictory, and biased investigation.

Widespread faculty concerns that they will not receive due process in similar conflicts with the administration are exacerbated through actions like these. 

If the current administration wishes to make its core values (“exceptional care, exceptional accountability, and exceptional results”) more than slogans without substance, it should:

(1) settle the lawsuit brought by the Shively family, 

(2) publicly state that the suspension and subsequent investigation, like similar investigations over the last years of the Holland/Olsen administration, were flawed, and 

(3) commit itself to accountability and to future interactions with faculty and staff that manifest exceptional care.


  1. Lane an Lavona LewisApril 21, 2020 at 2:45 PM

    I have never known a smarter man or a greater gentleman. I find this situation to be a travesty. the report above is excellent and the fact that the Universities incompetence cost a Great Scholar his self-esteem and his life is deplorable. the University needs to attempt to make ammends to the Shively Family, although any monetary compensation will pale in comparsion to the loss of this man's life. This world needs more Professor Shively's.

  2. It was with a great deal of sorrow to hear of the deplorable and unfair treatment of Professor Mike Shively, followed by his the tragic death. The complaints of a few students who were unwilling to work hard enough to learn what this conscientious teacher determined necessary to pass the difficult and required courses should never have been used to disqualify such a brilliant professor. His Vitae and professional accolades, as well as the positive comments by many of his former students, would suggest that this University is lacking in judgement, compassion and fairness. The loss of Professor Michael Shively is deeply felt by his family and will leave an indelible a black mark on Utah Valley University.

  3. One issue I can see with your point of view having taken this course, is that Dr. XXX whether she had the ability to use another book or other tests were limited as the labs were so intertwined with what was taught in the lecture book. With this issue, it would be impossible to use a book that is more accurate and that refers to the Terminologia Anatomica, as the lab focuses on the Nomina Anatomica which was discarded by the anatomy community in 1998.

    "To questions about difficult tests and low grades he explained his curve and the necessity of rigor for students who will become health professionals." Was this really his job to make this lower level anatomy course into one of the most difficult courses I have ever taken. I have taken higher level anatomy courses in grad school that were not as rigorous. The most beneficial part of how the course was set up was the Lab. It was difficult, but not so ridiculous that students felt hopeless. No "sadistic questions", just straight anatomical questions. The labs were pure education, there was an enormous amount of information given, but manageable.

    In response to Dr. Shively's availability, I emailed him before the end of my semester in 2013, and still have yet to receive a response. While taking this course, I attempted numerous times to find him in his office and unless it was immediately after class, I rarely found him in his office.

    Another statement you made, "Complaints about the class should have gone to the Dean and the Department Chair, not to an attorney and a Vice President, neither of whom has experience with anatomy pedagogy. There should never have been a suspension, given the nature of the complaints. There is nothing appropriate about this." These complaints have been made for "decades" according to the investigation and apparently had no forward progress with a constructive educational experience for students.

    1. Although I routinely delete anonymous comments here, I'll respond to a couple of your points, hoping to be clear and precise and because you are raising important questions. But if this conversation is to continue, please comment with your name. In a case as important as this one, it is important that we speak openly.

      I'll start with your last comment about complaints. Looking at the documents filed in the Shively family case against the university, I see student comments from several dozen courses over the years. There are, as you write, plenty of complaints. There are also plenty of students who praise the course as the best they have had in their college careers. The complaints must be considered in light of the whole, not as cherry-picked proof that it is a horrible course (this is what the authors of the report did). And science professionals can do this in ways an attorney and a VP cannot.

      What you write about the intertwining of the book and the lab raises the question of how the former Department Chair was able to teach the same anatomy course with a book of her choosing and using her own pedagogy. She is quoted in the Report as having told Dr. XXX that she had done it and that Dr. XXX had every right and opportunity to do the same. There is obviously a way to untangle the course and the lab.

    2. I was not one who took the class with the previous instructor who did use a different book. I do know that having taken this course that questions posed in lab, directly correlated to the lecture teachings as well due to the fact that the vast majority of lab instructors took anatomy through UVU. I disagree that any other book would have been sufficient to properly link the teachings from the two courses. I don't know how long Dr. Ashworth taught the course and I would be interested to see how grades differed among the students in her course (their lab grades along with it).

      With your response to the complaints, you will always find someone to support any cause that you would like. Just because you find those who loved the class, does not mean that the class was not inappropriately difficult for an "Introduction to Human Anatomy Class" and that the complaints were not valid. What it truly shows, as the complaints were the same year after year, is that the SRI's and student feedback and complaints were truly ignored.

      There were many instances that Shively made me uncomfortable as a student too. When I took the class, he used to post his tests in the hallway on the second floor. He wanted us to "correct" our own tests for extra points. All well and good. But as many of us had, jobs, lives, and other homework to do we would take pictures of the tests and work on them at home. Shively would yell at some groups of students about taking pictures and I also saw him encourage some of his honors students to take pictures to work on them more. This should not have been permitted. If he did not want pictures taken of his test, then they should not be posted in public parts of the school. There should not be a double standard. This was a complaint that I brought to Dr. Bayer and she shrugged it off. I know many others who brought the difficulty of the tests to the departments attention and were brushed off with the same "academic freedom" shield. Academic freedom does not mean freedom to abuse and torment students.

      UVUs value statement says "UVU's culture supports our mission of student success." This course did not have a goal of success. Shively prided himself on how many students had to retake his course.
      The mission statement says Utah Valley University is an integrated university and community college that educates every student for success in work and life through excellence in engaged teaching, services, and scholarship. There was no integration while taking this course, it was either ignore the rest of your live and pass, or prioritize all aspects of life and fail.
      Exceptional Care is another point that UVU touts. "Care means that we strive always to “see” the person in front of us." Countless students felt unheard, unrecognized, and unwell while taking his course. I know I rarely found Shively in his office to address questions and concerns with this course as suggested by the department chair.
      Exceptional Accountability "We are strongly committed to working ethically and effectively. We approach each situation from a position of integrity, knowing that everything we do can help or hinder a positive student experience." As a student we ask that even though you may have tenure, you still work ethically to help create a positive student experience. The integrity was missing as Dr. Shively graded, profited doubly from students when he was paid to teach the course and profited from his books he required be used.
      I could continue with ways that I saw the UVU values thrown by the wayside in this course but I will not. You may feel as though your friend was mistreated, many of us students felt that WE were mistreated. Keep in mind, none of us wished him ill, we did hope that we could effectuate change as we learned and grew in our perspective fields of study. This course was ruled with an iron fist.

    3. Thank you for replying. This is an important conversation. Let's start with the fact that Mike Shively was not my friend. He was a colleague I never had a conversation with him before he asked me to help insure he was treated fairly. We all deserve due process when we are accused.

      Both Dr. Ashworth and Dr. Bayer taught the anatomy course with books of their own choosing. Dr. Flood was told by both of them that that was possible. This is in the UVU Report.

      Student evaluations over the years (a bunch of them are included in the court filings) do include the complaints you note. They also rate Mike Shively well above the average for difficult science and math courses. And, as I noted, many students felt the course prepared them well for difficult health professions.

      Student success is important to any good university. One way to assess that is whether our students pass our courses and graduate. Easy courses throughout the curriculum would insure graduation. Another measure has to do with what our students have learned. Difficult courses raise that standard.

      Exceptional care is equally important to a good university. Students disagree about whether Mike Shively cared for them. I wish you had had a better experience.

      Exceptional accountability is critical for our work as well. Professor Shively should not have required his book for the course nor have profited from that. But he wasn't suspended for selling the book. He was suspended because he was deemed a physical threat to a colleague. She admitted in the investigation that there was no such threat. Putting that aside and focusing on the pedagogy through the Dean and the Department after the suspension was lifted would have been an act of accountability by the university.

  4. I have a number of issues with your perception of Dr. Shively, his behavior, and the culture he cultivated. The fact is that I am much more intimately knowledgeable about the situation than you, given that you were never a student, did not maintain a relationship with Dr. Shively before any of this became known, and that Dr. Shively openly despised and mocked liberal arts. You would know this if you had ever actually sopen with Dr. Shively outside of something he needed you for.

    My question to you is this: when everything is said and done, will you apologize for the soft slandering you are contributing to? My guess is no, that you will absolve yourself of any responsibility under the guise of "academic freedom". Just as numerous former students of his, I was subjected to unfair grading practices, which diminishes the value of education. As a purported steward of educators, why are you willing to proverbially die on this his, with a guilty man? If you dislike the policy, change it. If you can't change it, perhaps introspection into whether your values align with the profession is in order. My feeling is that you have an axe to grind. Your grievances with the University over tenure denial are already published and publicly available. Is this about Dr. Shively, or is this about you? I'm inclined to believe the latter.

    I look forward to your apology as more information comes to light.

    1. Thank you for contributing to this conversation. You are right that Mike Shively was not my friend and that I I am not a member of the biology faculty with intimate knowledge of the "situation."

      I do, however, have a good sense for the "situation" of the unfair process that followed the suspension. As members of the AAUP, we often support members of the faculty with whom we disagree, even colleagues who we judge have overstepped important lines. We do that because due process is critical for a functioning university.

      As for your accusation of "soft slandering," I've done my best to report facts as I see them. If you'll point out statements of mine that are false, I would love to correct them.

      Our dismissal policy is terribly flawed. I am a member of a Faculty Senate committee that is rewriting the policy.

      Finally, this is about both Dr. Shively and me, in fact, it is about us all. If our processes are fair, we're all better off.

    2. Braydon, do you have any evidence for the "soft slandering" you accuse Scott Abbott of?

      The university was way out of line here. They shot a mosquito with a bazooka. There was no application of progressive discipline here. Mike Shively posed no danger to anyone, so suspending him and barring him from campus in the middle of the semester was a drastic move, one that did serious harm to his reputation -- and psyche.

    3. I can see how some may have perceived Shively as a threat for many reasons and can see the frustration that Braydon is voicing. I was present at one time where Shively threatened to kill students that were "cheating" on a take home test. He incited a type of dissension among students that rivaled the Hollywood blacklists. He offered amnesty or leniency to those who would "name names". I agree that the cheating was blatant and could have been addressed properly but, Shively had a temper and chose to use it. The names could have easily been found since the cheating was done online over facebook. Easy enough to gather intel without having to create a Hunger Games type scenario.
      Whether I believe that he would ever hurt anyone physically, I did not know him well enough personally to attest to this. He also, as I previously stated, prided himself on making his class the most difficult possible to the point were, depression, anxiety, and anger were common emotions that were expressed among students publicly and privately. He destroyed many peoples dreams of continuing their education in healthcare because he wanted to show how much he knew. I had the opportunity to observe some of his testing methods, and the tests were not there to test the students but himself instead. He did not feel like the tests were hard enough unless he was being challenged with them. He may have had a test bank that he used for his final exam but not for his tests. I was a TA for several years and saw many similar questions that he would use the same question with different answers and in many instances, the questions would have to be thrown out since he didn't have a correct answer. This causes such stress and uncertainty in students abilities to learn that I can see how he may be considered dangerous to the community. The psychological damage he could inflict with his grading and testing practices were significant. You can claim "academic freedom" but to those that it truly affected, it is torture. As a student, I pay you to teach me, not to torture me and many students felt as though they were paying this large sum of money, and then being beaten down. I know that in the claim that Dr. XXXs accusations of physical violence were deemed speculation, I am not so sure. With the anger I saw with the cheating incident, I was fearful.

    4. your thoughts about the class are important, as are your thoughts about anger. but they are somewhat beside the question of whether he received due process.

      if you'll re-read my arguments in this and earlier posts, you'll see they are focused on problems with the suspension that kept him in the dark for 4 months about his accusers and about the details of the accusations. you don't suspend a professor in the middle of a semester because of complaints about his class. you suspend him because he threatens public harm. if you decide he was no such threat, you end the suspension.

    5. I have heard other instructors who have gone through a similar process and felt as though they were treated fairly. They were not concerned at the accusations that were leveled and so felt as though a paid leave of absence was appropriate. As stated in the response from the university, he was allowed to continue to work on his research and other projects at home, just was not allowed to come to the university. The accusations of intimidation of his fellow UVU employees was confirmed, so I think I can see how, as an investigative body, may require that he keep his distance so as not to be accused of further intimidation.

    6. The process ought to work, it needs to work. Seven professors and staff members have responded personally to this and earlier posts to tell me stories of their own suspensions and investigations. They document an intimidating and unfair process that I have observed over the last 4 years as I have tried to help 4 other professors with their appeals.
      My hope is that with the publicity this case has generated, with the General Council having moved on, and with a new policy for suspension and dismissal in the works through the Faculty Senate, we'll move on to a better way of dealing with one another.
      As for the accusations of intimidation being confirmed, read the report again and I think you'll see that those accusations were backed by very little evidence and that the report's conclusions were in direct opposition to facts stated earlier in the report.

    7. While I am not saying that this case was handled perfectly by the school, and there were complaints that were submitted through other avenues, including familial contacts, that began these investigations that caused this response, how would you suggest that students and faculty members that feel unheard proceed with getting what was happening addressed. Mike did intimidate students by telling them that he still had years after they took the class to adjust their grades, he did, as I have personally witnessed, yelled at coworkers, he did practice unfair grading, and tested to an extent that even practicing MDs could not answer questions? Students did try to take their concerns to the chair and to the dean. Prof. XXX did talk to HR and even Title IX. Because of the way that this was poorly handled by Dr. Shively's peers, students and employees were forced down other avenues to seek help, which caused a volatile reaction by the university.

    8. You know from reading my posts that it is, to quote you, the "volatile reaction by the university" that concerned me. we all -- students, staff, faculty, administrators -- should be able to file complaints and there are several ways to do that. well-founded complaints can lead to improvement, and that's something we all want. But when UVU responds to complaints the way they did here -- with a suspension lasting for 5 months and scheduled to continue into the fall semester -- that's simply not fair.
      When the complaint that might reasonably have required a suspension was revealed to be based on a misunderstanding and on hearsay, the suspension should have been lifted. After that, the administration should have turned to the Dean and Department Chair and asked them (science professionals) to investigate the complaints. That request from the President would have required the College of Science administrators to look carefully at Professor Shively's pedagogy.
      As representative of the AAUP we don't take stands about whether a member of the faculty deserves tenure or not, about whether a member of the faculty is guilty of an accusation, but rather do our best to make sure there is due process and that policy is followed. If some of my thoughts in various posts feel like I'm defending Professor Shively as a teacher, I hope that is happening because I'm responding to a totally negative description of his teaching and trying to make sure the entire range is considered.

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  6. How did this get buried?

    "Student 7 also testified that the other professor of anatomy had grown increasingly negative toward Professor Shively and that that professor’s goal of “running the anatomy program” won’t be achieved if Professor Shively is allowed to return to the University."

    "...they did not believe his claim that he (the student) was not collaborating with the professor on whose behalf he was complaining..."

    Not only did the claim of threat turn out to be baseless, but the investigators found collusion between complainants and a motive for perverting the entire process to harm a professional rival.
    No wonder they quickly shift the goalposts to nitpicking about grades, Canvas and textbook terminology!

    I think the misconduct here goes much deeper than a failure of due process.

    1. this is, as you note, a serious problem. thank you for focusing on it. as with other aspects of this case, it leaves me wondering about disciplinary action against the complainant

  7. So I have been keeping an eye on this situation and wanted to make sure you were informed that

    "JUDGMENT IN A CIVIL CASE: Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings is granted and the action is dismissed with prejudice. Case Closed. Magistrate Judge Jared C. Bennett no longer assigned to case. Signed by Judge Dee Benson on 7/20/20. (dla)"


    1. Yes, I heard the news the day it was announced. Felt bad for the Shively family. One more blow. It's nearly impossible to prove in court that actions like the suspension led directly to the death, so the decision didn't surprise me.

      I do hope, however, that UVU administrators have learned that due process is critical for us all as we move forward.

  8. It appears as though the courts have decided and deemed the actions of the university and their agents to be appropriate.

    1. Yes, I heard the news the day it was announced. Felt bad for the Shively family. One more blow. It's nearly impossible to prove in court that actions like the suspension led directly to the death, so the decision didn't surprise me.

      As for "appropriate" ... you'll know from my posts that their actions were anything but appropriate, that they were in fact so bad that a faculty senate committee that I serve on was tasked with writing a new policy on suspensions that would require due process in every case so nothing like this would happen in the future


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