Faculty delegation to meet with board about shared governance

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Markle Hall of Administration (Hana Isihara ’17).

Ian Morse

In the wake of the controversial tenure denial earlier this semester, a faculty delegation plans to meet Wednesday with the board of trustees to discuss issues primarily related to faculty governance, according to members of the delegation.

Spanish professor Juan Rojo was denied tenure for the third and final time on Sept. 20, after he had gone on hunger strike for six days and after the faculty passed a motion to urge the board to give him tenure. Elected member of the 11-person delegation professor Susan Basow said that concerns have extended beyond Rojo’s tenure file.

“The current purpose is not to somehow reopen [the Rojo] case,” Basow said. “But it did bring to the head a variety of concerns that are now on the table that we are hoping the board to have understand perhaps more clearly than they do.”

There was an hour-and-a-half long open meeting with the delegation on Tuesday – and another planned for Friday – to continue to learn about faculty concerns before the delegation’s meeting with the board on Wednesday night. In the meeting on Tuesday, professor Jessica Carr said that two things dominated discussion: the faculty’s relationship with the board and administration, and how Rojo’s tenure case was handled.

“It was broadly about the relationship between the faculty and the board of trustees should be,” she said. “That’s not something that people who have either been here for a short or long amount of time have a really good clear understanding of.”

“It was about the faculty thinking together to set up a line of communication between the faculty and the board,” she added.

In the letter sent to the faculty explaining the board’s decision to uphold Rojo’s tenure case, chair of the board Ed Ahart ’69 supported a meeting between the faculty and board. Ahart, who is planned to be at the meeting with five other board members, did not respond for comment before press time.

The validity of students’ teaching evaluations in judging tenure cases was also discussed in Tuesday’s meeting, according to Carr. In a letter sent to the Promotion, Tenure and Review (PTR) committee and Rojo about his tenure case, President Alison Byerly wrote that Rojo did not deserve tenure, because his student teaching evaluations indicated that his teaching lacked “distinction.”

“A big thing I would say…that the faculty have discussed together, and something that they would like the chance to talk about with the board, is the role of race and gender in teaching evaluations,” said Carr, adding that difficult subject matter may also affect evaluations.

Basow said that the delegate position was high on her agenda, because she has frequently been involved in ensuring Lafayette is going in the right direction in her almost 40 years at the college.

“I have one been committed to making this a place that has faculty that not only are good a their job, but also feel that this is a good place to work and supportive and perceived as fair and there is trust and respect and all of those things,” Basow said. “I feel for the most part that the college has moved in that direction when I first came in 1977. And I think that we just took a step back.”

Despite concerns in the faculty, member of the delegation and clerk of the faculty professor Rob Root said he is confident that both sides are on the right track.

“There’s a controversy, and you don’t have a controversy without differences of views,” Root said. “There are differences of views and views that are being strongly held, and yet it’s clear to me that everybody is holding the best interests of the college foremost.”

Most members of the delegation were elected by the faculty, including professors Basow, Josh Smith, Rebekah Pite, Nandini Sikand, Gary Gordon, Dru Germanoski and Mary Armstrong. Armstrong, who is the chair of the delegation, declined to comment on this story. Professors John Meier, Jeffrey Helm, Laurie Caslake were appointed to the delegation, since they are the chairs of faculty committees, with Root being the clerk of the faculty.

Board members scheduled to attend include Ahart, Nancy Kuenstner ’75, Sylvia Weaver ’75, Barbara Levy ’77, J.B. Reilly ’83 and Alan Griffith ’64. Griffith did not respond for comment before press time. Byerly also plans to attend the meeting.

William Gordon ’17 contributed reporting.