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Recent tenure denials have current Emmanuel students (and some jaded alumna) calling for reasoning and transparency behind the decision making process. This is not the first time that the tenure and contract renewal committee has received backlash from the student body for their rendered decisions. In 2014, Professor Chris Craig (English Dept) was denied tenure and Professor Christina Kulich-Vamvakas (Political Science Dept) was denied a contract renewal. The outrage, confusion and anger from the student body echoes the state of the current student body. Both Professors were well regarded by peers, well liked by students, and were known for their challenging yet rewarding classes and method of instruction. Now, two years later, the frustration has resurfaced with the tenure denials of Professors Clare Mehta (Psychology Dept) and Jeff Fortin (History Dept). Like Craig and Kulich-Vamvakas, both Professors representated excellence in their fields (holding PhD’s), were well liked my students, many of their courses acquiring waiting lists and their advice (academic and beyond) being sought after not only by advisees but also students in their courses. It is evident that our mobilization and organization efforts in 2014 fell on deaf ears.
For a variety of reasons, privacy is an integral aspect of the tenure + contract renewal evaluations and committee itself. However, my primary qualm lies within the lack of impacted student input, and the method of notification to the impacted student body. In 2014, I learned that the end-of-semester student evaluations are factored into a Professor’s application for tenure, in addition to several other criterium. From what I have gathered, this is the only outlet for student input crafted in the current evaluation system. This problem was brought forward in 2014, and the notion of their student’s little influence has stayed constant, as evident in the 2016 tenure denials. Current advisees, alum-advisees, or past students of these Professors are not contacted or asked to evaluate them on merit and quality. The tuition-paying students have minimal input in what happens to their advisors; their mentors, their educators and their career-field connections. Ironically enough, it is the students that are the second most impacted group of people, the first being the Professor his/herself and their family.
A strong attribute of Emmanuel College is their faculty. The small(er) class sizes and accessibility of Professors create relationships and opportunities that are rare to find at another institution. To replace these strong advisors, educators and mentors with temporary adjunct faculty (oftentimes the result of a vacancy due to tenure denial), is to harm and damage not only the current students at Emmanuel College, but the reputation and academic integrity of Emmanuel as an institution of education. Long-term faculty bring knowledge, insight and passion for their position and for their students successes. Temporary, adjunct faculty do not have that same relationship to the Institution or to the students they teach. This is not necessarily due to the lack of passion or experience on the adjunct professor’s behalf, as I have had several passionate adjunct professors, but it is largely due to the innate disadvantages of only teaching one or two courses at a College that they do not know inside and out.
Increasing the amount of student input on tenure + contract renewal evaluations would add the student’s voice into a process that we as the student body are largely shut out of. As a community orientated Institution, it greatly upsets me that the outcries, meetings and sentiments of 2014 were swept aside and under the rug and that no changes pertaining the amount of student input were brought forth to the 2016 tenure + contract renewal process. Going forward, I urge the Administration and Tenure + Contract Renewal Committee (whoever you may be) to increase the amount of student input that goes into a tenure application. It may be too late for Craig, Kulich-Vamvakas, and (unfortunately) Mehta and Fortin- but it’s not too late for those upcoming tenure evaluations. With Emmanuel College facing a new era of many changes, I urge those in charge to accommodate this request and integrate this change into a new process going forward.
Alumni: Class of 2016