Damage to professor’scomputer investigated

Brian Bakst

When professor Bob Sonkowsky arrived at his office in Folwell Hall on Sept. 16, the University Faculty Alliance member immediately sensed things were not right.
Sonkowsky, who is responsible for collecting signature cards for the group seeking to unionize faculty members, noticed that the office lights had been left on. When Sonkowsky tried to turn on his computer, he discovered it was not working.
More than a week later, Sonkowsky still does not know what happened in his office the weekend after his group made a successful bid for a cease-and-desist order on the issue of tenure reform. But Sonkowsky said he believes the broken computer could be a result of either tampering or poor janitorial handling of the equipment when his office was cleaned.
“It could have been a matter of unionphobia or not,” Sonkowsky said, declining to speculate further on possible motives or perpetrators.
A police report has been filed. The responding officer said there were no signs of forced entry, nor were there other items reported broken or missing.
Amy Pateyuk, a senior secretary in the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies, said there are only four keys to Sonkowsky’s office: Sonkowsky and his assistant each have one, the department office has one, and Facilities Management has a copy. She added that the fact that a police report was filed doesn’t necessarily imply criminal behavior took place.
Pateyuk said that Facilities Management is trying to determine whether the incident resulted from a janitorial error, as has happened in previous cases. As of Tuesday she had not heard the result of Facilities Management’s inquiry.
Before the University Faculty Alliance turned in signature cards and a petition for unionization to the state’s Bureau of Mediation Services, Sonkowsky received an anonymous signature card with obscenities directed toward him. The card also read, “Grow up, shut up and do your job and you won’t be afraid of having to justify your position.”
Under the order issued by the services bureau, the Board of Regents is unable to change any working conditions or wages for faculty members, including tenure. Also, a union election will be held to determine if faculty members want to be represented by a collective bargaining group.
The database compiled to keep track of faculty members who signed signature cards was not kept on Sonkowsky’s computer, which still does not work.
But Sonkowsky said the strange occurrences have caused the University Faculty Alliance to take extra precautions. The group’s database has been put in a secret place, he said.
Sonkowsky said, “All I can see around me is a certain amount of tension around (the tenure issue), and it’s all very regrettable.”