Cal State Fullerton releases limited documents that led up to firing of former Dean of the Pollak Library Clem Guthro

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(Dahlia Quiroz / Daily Titan)

Cal State Fullerton won’t release certain documents regarding the administration’s decision to fire Clem Guthro, the well-liked former Dean of the Pollak Library whose wife is recovering from a severe illness.

What the university has not released

On March 21, the university received the Daily Titan’s request for the following records:

  • The employment contract between California State University, Fullerton, and former Dean of the Pollak Library Clement Guthro.

  • All emails from Dec. 4, 2017 to present between or among any of the following, Interim Provost Kari Knutson Miller, Interim President Framroze Virjee and Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Amir Dabirian and Clement Guthro, that relate to/mention Clement Guthro.

  • All emails from Nov. 1, 2017 to present between or among any of the following, Interim Provost Kari Knutson Miller, Interim President Framroze Virjee and Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Amir Dabirian and Clement Guthro, that discuss the CSUF library.

  • A detailed list of all costs related to the recruitment of Clement Guthro, including but not limited to hiring a search company, paying for advertisements and all costs related to bringing in candidates.

  • A detailed list of all costs related to the two failed searches for a Dean of the Library prior to the search that concluded with hiring Clement Guthro, including but not limited to hiring a search company, paying for advertisements and all costs related to bringing in candidates.

In response, the university took 48 days to prepare 21 documents, with four minor redactions, and released them near the last week of the spring semester.

But the university didn’t respond to the entirety of the Daily Titan’s request, withholding certain documents due to “privacy,” “attorney-client privilege” and “deliberative process exemptions” that, if released, “would be more harmful than helpful to the public interest,” according to its email response.

The records released by the university did not include emails from Dec. 4, 2017, to Feb. 28, 2018, sent by Dabirian or Virjee that relate to or mention Guthro.

(David Marshel / Daily Titan)

The records also did not include emails sent by the same people, within the same time span, that relate to or mention the Pollak Library.

Dabirian is alleged to be one of the primary forces behind Guthro’s ousting by the administration due to conflicts over plans to modernize the library with new technology spaces, according to emails between current and emeriti faculty obtained by the Daily Titan on March 13.

Dabirian has denied these claims in a March 13 interview.

Guthro said in other documents, obtained by the Daily Titan on April 11, that the university made false claims and misrepresented facts behind his firing. The university has not responded these claims.

“The university does not disclose or comment on private employee personnel information, including performance evaluations,” said Knutson Miller, whose office fired Guthro without any prior warning or advance notice, in a May 10 email responding to the records. “We appreciate the service provided by Dr. Guthro and wish him well.”

In the emails between administration officials provided by the university, there was no indication of dissatisfaction or frustration with Guthro or his performance as library dean.

Actual references to Guthro’s firing in the records are sparse. However, emails that indirectly refer to the situation are mostly between a group of top administration officials involving Vice President of Human Resources, Diversity and Inclusion David Forgues, Dabirian, Knutson Miller and Virjee.

Knutson Miller also emailed a link to the Daily Titan’s March 14 report of an alleged library power struggle, which specifically names her and Dabirian as persons involved in Guthro’s abrupt firing, to University Counsel Monique Shay, Chief Communications Officer Jeff Cook, Guthro’s interim replacement Emily Bonney, Forgues and Dabirian.

What the university has released

A Nov. 30, 2016, email sent to Guthro by Gail Brooks, then-interim vice president of Human Resources, Diversity and Inclusion, laid out the conditions of Guthro’s hiring.

It was stated in the contract that Guthro would receive an annual salary of $162,504 and be reimbursed up to $10,000 for relocating.

Although Guthro was not granted tenure or permanent status with his appointment, his contract states that after 12 months of employment “faculty retreat rights to a tenured position at the rank of librarian will be considered.”

Guthro was fired on March 2, one month shy of a year of service.

More donations were withheld in response to Guthro’s firing

The obtained records include a March 12 email sent to Greg Saks, vice president of University Advancement, by emeritus faculty member Tony Rimmer and his wife Anne, who work at the Pollak Library reference desk.

“This is to inform you that we have stopped our donations to the university because of the firing of the Dean of the Library, Clem Guthro,” said the Rimmers in the email. “From the little we have learned about Dean Guthro’s firing, we are concerned that due process has not been accorded him, that the university’s action against him is arbitrary, is wanting in compassion, and appears to be retaliation for doing his job.”

The Rimmers also said that before Guthro’s firing, they were considering doubling their donation.

“We have found universities to be dedicated to principles we hold dear,” the Rimmers said in the email. “Apparently this is no longer the case at CSUF.”

Costs of recruiting Guthro

During the 2016 search for a new library dean, which resulted in Guthro’s hiring, the university incurred $13,531.39 total for the costs of recruiting, hiring and relocating Guthro, and interviewing two other candidates for the position.

A prior 2014 search for a new library dean incurred $1,287.40 for advertisements.

Emails between Knutson Miller and Guthro

In documents provided by the university, emails between Knutson Miller and Guthro, prior to his firing, appear to be cordial and do not show any conflict or disagreement.

On Wednesday, Jan. 10, Guthro sent Knutson Miller an email detailing “major topics” for a Friday meeting. However, the topics were redacted.  

On Feb. 7, Guthro informed Knutson Miller via email that he would be away from campus for the American Library Association midwinter meeting in Denver, Colorado. Knutson Miller replied “Hope the conference is enjoyable and productive!”

A week before he was fired, Guthro emailed Knutson Miller to say he would be attending the CSU New Deans Academy on Feb. 22 and 23 in Los Angeles. This is the last correspondence between the provost and Guthro in the documents given to the Daily Titan.


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