February 14, 2016

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KSU makes firing fumble

Published 9:44 pm Saturday, March 9, 2013

When I read Kentucky State University had fired its police chief who seems to have had a sterling record since she was hired in 2008 and is well thought of in law-enforcement circles I should have been surprised. I was not.

Based on considerable experience with KSU, I know the university has something of a reputation of firing competent employees for less than valid reasons. I looked forward to reading about the reasons for firing Chief Stephanie Bastin. I was curious about what grave and unprofessional acts she did that justified such an immediate and harsh consequence. It had to have been something really big, maybe even something really juicy.

Admittedly, I was a bit surprised when I read that two reprimands via email led to her firing. One of her errant acts had to do with a subordinates untimely notification of the alleged criminal activity of a KSU student. Shocking behavior, indeed!

In short, it would appear that the vice president whom she reports to was incensed he had been left out of the loop.

The second reprimand from the miffed vice president, apparently still smarting from the first incident, was the failure to follow a directive to provide police escort for cash deposits after university basketball games. The vice president did not even seem to be interested in any kind of an explanation for this most severe infraction by the chief.

In her defense, the chief responded via email that the latter situation had been unusual and was due to a shortage of department vehicles. Now this was just too much for the already irritated vice president, who, following a series of emails, heatedly informed the chief to cease advising me of your shortages, were quite aware of it. I dont want to hear it.

Sounds like the irate vice president may have a social skills deficit or is he just an arrogant sort? It is unclear if the disgruntled vice president ever met with the chief over these most serious issues, but apparently he preferred email.

To me, if anything, these transgressions called for a reprimand, but certainly not an immediate dismissal.

I dont know the chief. Never met her. But I do know of her reputation.

Bastin is an experienced police officer, active in the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police, and held in esteem by her peers. In 2008 she won the Kentucky Womens Law Enforcement Network Leadership Award and more recently was elected a vice president of the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police.

As if these accolades were not enough, Bastin was honored in 2010 with the Police Chief of the Year Award, which recognizes leadership and accomplishments as a police chief. She is widely recognized as a leader and police officers want to work for her.

And over two innocuous incidents, she was unceremoniously fired two incidents that are readily explainable. Fired by a KSU vice president who seems to prefer dealing with personnel via email rather than through a face-to-face discussion.

As an academician with considerable administrative experience, in my opinion, the behavior of the vice president was unprofessional and just plain rude. Although I have no evidence, could it be that he was seeking a reason to remove the chief? His imperious and ungracious behavior certainly seems to beg that question.

KSU abounds with vice presidents and other miscellaneous administrators, all well dressed with little to do. They have commonly been referred to as empty suits.

The school has long been known as one that, although it has more than its share of administrators, does not seem to be capably administered.

In my opinion, in firing Bastin over these trivial and explainable incidents, the vice president was wholly out of line. Maybe he had just had a bad day? Did he overreact? It would seem so.

I believe President Mary Sias is also culpable in that she should have interceded with the vice president for his overbearing and unprofessional behavior.

If this is an example of how KSU is run, it is no wonder it continues to have the prevailing negative image it has.

I have long argued that the Frankfort community needs an institution of higher education that it can be proud of. This dictatorial episode of the firing of a distinguished police chief, sanctioned by the president, shows me that apparently I have a long wait.

Frankfort resident Dan S. Green is a retired KSU sociology professor.