Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dearest Damn Arbor: They picked the wrong professor

Dearest Damn Arbor,

My name is Julie and I am getting a masters in English. Recently, an awesome poet who was up for a teaching position at my school was rejected because a tenured professor - who hasn't even been on campus for years! - put the kibosh on her selection. Some students plan on protesting and taking the matter to the dean. Do you have any advice?

Up-In-Arms in the Ivory Tower

Dearest Up-In-Arms,

You've got the right idea going to the dean. I would suggest arming yourselves by doing the following:

First, try to get your hands on the faculty selection bylaws and see if there is any kind of appeals or review process in there. Unfortunately, tenured professors have a lot of sway in the selection of new faculty, but there still might be something to go on in there. I would check with the university's senior administrative secretary or in the library.

Second, remember that although professors have a lot of power, so do students. Even if there is no formal review process, if you make a big enough stink it might force Professor Moriarty to put his reasons out into the open. It might be they're legitimate, but if they're not it puts him in a defensive position. Even if he's got more formal power than the students, you still have ways of making your voice heard. It might be worthwhile to try to get other faculty members in your camp, but bear in mind that this might open a political can of worms for anyone who joins you, so tread carefully.

Third, try to keep your tone respectful, at least at first. There is always a time and a place for passionate, strenuous protest, but keep in mind that this is a prof who probably has a long track record at the school - and that means lots of ins with the administration and, more importantly, with donors. Start with op eds in the school newspaper before you take to the streets. If push comes to shove, there is a long and glorious tradition of student protests, but sometimes you catch more flies - and poets - with honey.

Got questions? Submit them to damn.arbor@gmail.com.

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