CU surgeon Stephen Cass chaired a racist hearing during the dismissal of Prof. Greg Cronin

Racism during revocation of tenure and dismissal

8/28/20233 min read

Dr. Stephen Cass was named in a retaliation lawsuit filed against the University of Colorado because he chaired the Privilege and Tenure Committee Panel that exhibited a racial bias against witnesses who were Indigenous and/or Black. Dr. Cass is a professor and neck surgeon at CU Denver.

Prof. Cronin said that Dr. Cass assured him a fair hearing, but found that the hearing was anything but fair. Unfairness included university policy being violated multiple times to Dr. Cronin’s detriment, that CU was represented by a team of attorneys while Dr. Cronin was denied the legal representation guaranteed by CU Faculty Senate rules, that the burden of proof was shifted from CU to Dr. Cronin, and that CU administrators and faculty (Provost Roderick Nairn, Chair John Swallow, Dean Pamela Jansma, Prof. Michael Greene, and Assoc. Dean Kathleen Bollard) were allowed to lie under oath in ways that harmed Dr. Cronin’s professional reputation. What was most troubling to Dr. Cronin was “the racist manner in which Dr. Cass treated the testimony of Indigenous and Black witnesses”.

Prof. Cass wrote that “But as it pertains to untruthful testimony in your [Dr. Cronin] P&T hearing, the Panel evaluated the credibility of witness testimony and gave all the testimony the weight it deserves. The P&T Panel in your hearing did exactly that. It carefully evaluated and considered the testimony, evidence and credibility of all witnesses and reached the findings and conclusions set forth in its report."

Prof. Cronin responded “what is it about the testimony, evidence, and credibility of all witnesses that made the Panel you chaired find me professionally incompetent? The witnesses who supported my case included my students, people who had worked with me directly, gave truthful testimony, and had never devalued my work in Haiti as "humanitarian service." The witnesses who supported CU's case did not include students, had not worked with me directly, lied under oath, and had devalued my research and teaching in Haiti as "humanitarian service". What is it about the latter group of witnesses that caused you to value their credibility and give them more weight?!?!? Conversely, why would you not give high weight and credibility to honest witnesses with direct knowledge to my research and teaching. The only rows in the table that could possibly account for the Panel you chaired to give more weight to CU witnesses is that 0% acknowledged racism as a problem and 91% of them were White. Anybody should be able to see the racism that was displayed and supported by the P&T Panel. If there is an explanation besides racism that explains why truthful BIPOC testimony by people who worked with me directly was considered less credible and less weighty that untruthful White testimony from people who had not worked with me directly, please share it with me now with supporting evidence.”

At the dismissal hearing, the manager of a hospital who witnessed the PSA about avoiding cholera testified that their hospital had better outcomes because of the information distributed by the PSA that Dr. Cronin created with Haitian and American colleagues. He testified that the PSA literally saved lives. In contrast, Chair John Swallow who has never been to Haiti, testified that there was no way of knowing the impact of the PSA, he caused the retraction of a peer-reviewed publication about the PSA, and Prof. Cass knew that Dr. Swallow gave testimony that contradicted a recorded conversation that Dr. Cronin provided in which Prof. Swallow stated that tenure would protect Dr. Cronin’s job. The only explanation for why Prof. Swallow’s testimony would be given more weight than the Haitian manager of a hospital is that the former is White and the latter is Black.

Dr. Cronin provided the following information about witnesses to Dr. Cass:

Dr. Cronin says that Dr. Cass never responded to his inquiry about why the testimony of White administrators was given more weight than BIPOC witnesses. “This is consistent with the pattern of having inquiries about racism ignored by faculty and administrators at CU. One can only conclude that what Dr Cass meant by “the credibility of all witnesses” is the level of skin melanin, as truthful testimony given by BIPOC witnesses who had directly with me was given less value than untruthful testimony given by White witnesses who had never worked with me in the field."