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Letter to the Editor: On Behalf of the Promotion and Tenure Committee

To the Emmanuel Community, on behalf of the Promotion and Tenure Committee:

A recent decision regarding tenure by the Promotion and Tenure Committee has elicited a strong reaction among some students and alumni.  The decision was made not to recommend a faculty member for tenure or for promotion from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor. The Promotion and Tenure Committee does not grant or deny tenure; this is the prerogative of the Administration and Board of Trustees. Letters from students or alumni have been posted on The Hub protesting the decision, and it is important to correct some of the misinformation being circulated.

First, the Administration plays no part in the decision made by the Promotion and Tenure Committee, which is composed entirely of faculty and which acts independently without any consultation with the Administration throughout its six months of work.  The recent decision which has engendered such antagonistic comments from a handful of alumni has not even undergone the Administrative Review process, which follows the work of the Faculty Promotion and Tenure Committee.

Furthermore, and contrary to statements posted on The Hub, some anonymously, there has not been a “rash” of tenure denials by the Administration. In the past several years, numerous candidates have submitted applications for promotion and/or tenure, and almost all have received positive recommendations from the Promotion and Tenure Committee. These include faculty from the departments of Sociology, Theology and Religious Studies, English, Management, Foreign Languages, Art, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Philosophy, Psychology, Mathematics, Political Science, History and Performing Arts.

Comments posted on The Hub also argue that students should have input into the process. In fact, student input is mandatory and essential.  Student course evaluations are examined carefully by the Promotion and Tenure Committee, both for numerical scores and for written comments, and faculty applying for tenure are permitted to, and always do, solicit letters of support from students and alumni, as well as letters from colleagues and others.  All of these are read by members of the Promotion and Tenure Committee and considered in the evaluation process.

Disappointment is natural for students who believe that a professor who is an outstanding teacher has been denied tenure.  The reality is that, even if a teacher is outstanding, that alone is not sufficient for the candidate to be approved for tenure.  The criteria for tenure include outstanding teaching, scholarship, and contribution to the mission of the college through service to the department and the college.  These criteria are known to all faculty from the start of their careers, are reiterated during annual reviews by their department as well as during a comprehensive review at their third year of serving on the faculty, and are part of their contract. If a particular faculty member is an outstanding professor and does not meet the other criteria, there is no one more disappointed than those members of the Promotion and Tenure Committee who are forced into the situation of denying tenure to a colleague whose talents would be more than welcome on campus.

As to the charge that Emmanuel College is letting go of its young, energetic, intelligent professors – this is an insult to the 50 new faculty members hired in the past 10 years who have doubled the size of the Emmanuel faculty. This includes many faculty who have received tenure as well as many others who are now in their first to their sixth year of employment, and whose energy, commitment to the college, enthusiasm, and spirit are demonstrated by their teaching, their scholarship and their service.

We all share a great pride in and commitment to Emmanuel College, its mission and our students.  As a member of the Emmanuel College faculty for more than 38 years, I have experienced here a vibrant community focused on excellence, civility and respect.

 

Joel Kowit

Professor of Biology

Chair, Promotion and Tenure Committee

Emmanuel College

 

 

 

 

Posted by on March 28, 2014. Filed under Events,Faculty,Letters to the Editor,Updates. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

20 Responses to Letter to the Editor: On Behalf of the Promotion and Tenure Committee

  1. Kaitleen Gillis

    March 28, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    We understand you act independently of administration. We would like you to be removed as head of the committee and others to be chosen.

  2. Dakota Roundtree- Swain

    March 28, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    We do not mean to insult the Tenure Committee and their decision to approve tenure for many professors in the past. However, we are insulted, as a student population, that one of our favorite professors and many other of our favorite professors in the past have not been granted tenure.

  3. untroubledartist (@chuck_strand)

    March 28, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    38 years and still not as popular as Craig, no wonder he took the time to write this.

    • Janelle

      March 28, 2014 at 6:43 pm

      This comment is simply rude and unnecessary. Dr. Kowit is a wonderful professor, he just teaches in a different department of the school. If you’re gauging a professor’s “popularity” I feel that you may have an extremely bias way of doing so based upon your major and the current situation.

      • untroubledartist (@chuck_strand)

        March 28, 2014 at 6:58 pm

        My comment wasn’t so much about his popularity as it was about his bias. His letter’s aim is to suppress student involvement in order to reinforce his authority as chair of the Promotion and Tenure committee. My issue is with Emmanuel’s conservative rigidity, which holds all of us back from the education we deserve, this is not just about Craig’s status. You can call it “student propaganda” if you wish, but I’m no less biased than you. And how do you know my major?

      • untroubledartist (@chuck_strand)

        March 28, 2014 at 7:01 pm

        *more lol

      • Janelle

        March 28, 2014 at 10:15 pm

        I don’t understand how you think that an institution could run if not through the politics and morals that it has set to uphold. Maybe those need to change and students should address those specifically or maybe this school just isn’t right for everyone. It does suck to see good professors leave, however Craig isn’t leaving yet and he still has a scheduled class for next semester. This is his second year being denied tenure (from what I have read) so clearly he thinks that he still has a role in this school and feels it valuable to stay for the students. Furthermore, I don’t understand how you can argue about something and be in pursuit of change without listening to the other side and trying to gain as much of a rounded perspective as you can. If you don’t know how things work from the point of view of which you’re opposed you have no chance in arguing it or being taken seriously.
        This being said. I believe that I have spoken all that I feel necessary on this and I wish you all the best.

    • Janelle

      March 28, 2014 at 7:23 pm

      Because I cant reply to your last comment this may appear out of order and for that I am sorry. I do not believe that it was his intention to “suppress student involvement” as you say, but rather to give students a more rounded view of the situation and give the faculty members side of the argument. Isn’t this what we wish? For more knowledge from the SOURCE of what is going on? I agree that Emmanuel does have a fairly strongly conservative method but as Dr. Kowit says “These criteria are known to all faculty from the start of their careers, are reiterated during annual reviews by their department”. As good of a professor as one may be, they know the requirements when they apply for tenure. One cant always just disregard a requirement and say “well, I’m good at other stuff”.
      Lastly, to address the question of how do I know your major: I do know who you are (these comments aren’t anonymous) and facebook exists.

      • untroubledartist (@chuck_strand)

        March 28, 2014 at 9:30 pm

        You’re missing the point. Saying that “they know the requirements when they apply for tenure” doesn’t fix how politically motivated these decisions are. It’s a much deeper problem at Emmanuel, the situation with Craig has drawn attention to it. I don’t want more “information” from “the source”, and I don’t want to lose good professors because of the college’s “criteria”.

      • Janelle

        March 28, 2014 at 10:27 pm

        I don’t understand how you think that an institution could run if not through the politics and morals that it has set to uphold. Maybe those need to change and students should address those specifically or maybe this school just isn’t right for everyone. It does suck to see good professors leave, however Craig isn’t leaving yet and he still has a scheduled class for next semester. This is his second year being denied tenure (from what I have read) so clearly he thinks that he still has a role in this school and feels it valuable to stay for the students. Furthermore, I don’t understand how you can argue about something and be in pursuit of change without listening to the other side and trying to gain as much of a rounded perspective as you can. If you don’t know how things work from the point of view of which you’re opposed you have no chance in arguing it or being taken seriously.
        This being said. I believe that I have spoken all that I feel necessary on this and I wish you all the best.

    • ericksenj

      March 30, 2014 at 5:15 pm

      Two things:

      1. “No wonder he took the time to write this.” So it’s a bad thing that people are responding to protest? Isn’t that the point of protest?

      2. Kowit is my favorite professor even now, after a year of not being a biology major. He is an amazing and fantastic teacher, takes personal interest in his students, and in general is a great guy.

  4. Janelle

    March 28, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    I appreciate this post so much and believe that everyone should read this so that they get a better understanding of the situation (not just the student propaganda). But the one point that I think some students are trying to make is that there should be more communication between faculty and students when it comes to some of these decisions. I think that students would feel more comfortable with situations like this (or situations like last semester with professor Iyer leaving halfway through) if they could just be given an answer to ‘why’. It seems to me like when decisions having to do with professors are made we as students are not allowed to question it without simply getting the reply “we’re not allowed to discuss this manner”.
    Although I understand that the student course evaluations are taken into consideration (and that this IS the best way to get the students voice) I believe that if students had someone that they could personally talk to about specific professors (be it good or bad) and have that person actually be responsive to what the student is saying that everyone would feel that their voice had a bigger role.

    • Janelle

      March 28, 2014 at 6:38 pm

      Matter* not manner, my apologies for my typing skills

    • untroubledartist (@chuck_strand)

      March 29, 2014 at 11:56 am

      I’m not refusing to listen to the other side, I just don’t think letters like these are a reliable source of information, they just want us to shut up. Kowit seems to think our support of one professor is an insult to the others, which to me implies jealousy, and that’s why I left my rude comment. If Kowit was denied tenure twice, and all the biology majors were up in arms, I don’t think he would have written a letter to the editor saying their efforts were insulting. Student involvement shouldn’t be discouraged or falsified, we want the administration to reexamine its priorities. You said yourself that it seems like the administration doesn’t allow us to question their decisions having to do with professors! Other professors have encouraged our efforts to support Craig, it’s not just misinformed students and propaganda. We are using the petition and the letters to show that we disagree with the committee’s decision, I don’t see why you or Kowit should have a problem with that.

  5. Stephen Winkler

    March 28, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    This will continue to simmer in my mind for a long time … but my initial response:

    Dr. Kowit argues that the committee makes “recommendation” and the Administration and Board of Trustees “grant or deny.” By emphasizing this power structure is he suggesting that 1) the recommendation by the committee is not final and may still be overturned by Administration and Board of Trustees or 2) anger directed at the committee is misaligned because they have no power in the final decision?

    But at the same time he states that “Administration plays no part in the decision” of the committee. So now he sounds like he is shifting blame back onto the committee from Administration. (and side-note, it seems odd that Administration and Board of Trustees have final say but have no part in the evaluation of the committee).

    I also want to point out that Dr. Kowit’s suggestion that “student input is mandatory and essential” means nothing. Seeking student input and giving students power are two different ideas. Dr. Kowit says himself that the committee is made up “entirely of faculty.” There are many committees at Emmanuel who “value” student input. There are very few (if any) who give students power to make decisions.

    Finally, I hope that with 38 years at Emmanuel Dr. Kowit understands that the actions/protests/movement by students and alums right now is not out of disrespect, but rather, stems from Emmanuel’s own principles — such as social justice and seeking truth.

    • Sam Nickerson

      March 28, 2014 at 10:36 pm

      This.

    • ECVB

      March 30, 2014 at 4:46 pm

      Sounds like you might have picked the wrong school. You might want to look into schools like South Harmon Institute of Technology which is from the movie Accepted where the students run the school and run the classes http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accepted. If you want power in every decision, maybe you should start your own school or transfer to the one from the movie.

  6. asdf

    March 29, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    BASED KOWIT
    A
    S
    E
    D

  7. Sarah Gilbert

    March 31, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    Admittedly this weekend I was distracted by projects, work, and Game of Thrones, but I have been thinking about this post and would like to say a few things. First, I appreciate that Dr. Kowit took the time to write this letter. Second, Christopher Craig is an amazing professor and he undoubtedly changed my life, but I would like to say that if this were a different situation and the faculty member was Christine Jaworek-Lopes, I would sign every petition and write many letters because she is a great professor and her work is very important. I am not going to sit here and say that I think one department is more important than another.

    Third, the statement regarding the lack of administrative input on the process is problematic to me. Two members of the committee are chosen by the administration. Doesn’t that complicate the complete divide? Fourth, I would like to know the number of faculty who after receiving a negative recommendation from the Promotion and Tenure Committee went up to the Administrative Review Process and received tenure anyway. For that matter I would like to know the number of every faculty whose outcome after the Administrative Review process differed from the recommendation that the Promotion and Tenure committee gave.

    Fifth, based on what this statement says and the amount of students rallying behind him, it seems to me that Christopher Craig was denied tenure because of either his publications and scholarship or his contribution to the college. Is there quantifiable measures or set parameters given to the faculty members at their yearly review and third year comprehensive review? It seems that if there were more concrete measures and parameters there wouldn’t be room for error or personal opinions to get in the way of the process. Also, if it is part of their contract to fulfill certain requirements and they are not fulfilling them, why are they not let go before they apply for tenure? In addition to the comment about parameters and quantifiable measure, the faculty handbook says that the vote only requires a majority. If the vote is not unanimous what are the reasons people disagree? I understand that this is information that the public isn’t privy to, but that is a questions I can’t stop asking myself. It seems so strange to determine a man or woman’s career without a unanimous vote. I almost feel like it should be a trial by jury type deal.

    We have been criticized for speaking out, but this situation is both worrying and hurtful. Christopher Craig is not only an asset in the classroom, he is also an asset as a scholar. Emmanuel College will lose a great mind if they let Christopher Craig go. His research brings diversity to the college and the English department. The group of us speaking out has been emotional and not always methodical with our words, but we are raising important questions and they at least should be consider, either in an open forum or amongst the administration and the Promotion and Tenure committee.

    Thank you.

  8. J. Stephens

    April 2, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    Christopher Craig was a good teacher when I was at EC but I checked his faculty page and unlike other professors, he doesn’t seem to have any publications. I know from my other faculty that that is important, so maybe he didn’t publish enough to get tenure.