Juan Rojo, the assistant professor of Spanish at Lafayette College who went on a hunger strike last week over the handling of his tenure case, on Monday suspended his protest. “I do so in good faith and in recognition of and in gratitude for the faculty’s significant, multifaceted efforts to redress the procedural error in my tenure case, and the even more pressing concerns related to faculty governance that tolerating this error would convey,” he said in a statement. “I remain committed to working with my colleagues, the administration and the board so that together we can address these and other areas of concern in an effort to strengthen our institution and our educational mission.”
Rojo announced his strike at a faculty meeting on Aug. 30, citing the fact that Lafayette’s president, Alison Byerly, rejected his tenure bid, against the positive recommendation of two faculty bodies (one was unanimous). Moreover, he said, Byerly’s decision was based largely on comments from student evaluations of Rojo's teaching, which some experts argue should not be used in personnel decisions because they can be unreliable.
Byerly said in a statement Monday that she had received faculty feedback about Rojo’s case, including the proper role of the president in tenure decisions. She said she looked forward to continuing the dialogue, starting at a faculty meeting Tuesday.
Regarding her rejection of Rojo’s bid, Byerly said that in “evaluating all cases, including this one, I rely most heavily on the evidence provided by faculty colleagues, through their own classroom observations and their informed analysis of candidates’ teaching evaluations.” In reviewing the recommendation provided by the collegewide tenure committee, she said, “I found myself largely in agreement with [the] committee’s characterization of the candidate’s teaching. Where we differed is that I could not concur with their conclusion that the record described met the standard of distinction and the elements of quality teaching outlined in the Faculty Handbook.”
Rojo planned to break his strike at a local Pennsylvania restaurant at 10 a.m. Monday, after informing the board of that intention over the weekend. “Those that know me know that I do not crave the spotlight,” he said. “But I felt it important to stand up for myself, my colleagues and my institution to redress a serious procedural error as well as to protect faculty governance. I remain committed to working with the Lafayette community to move forward in a productive and timely manner.”
The current issue of Rattle, a poetry magazine, is devoted to adjuncts -- poetry both by them and about them. In “The Adjunct’s Villanelle,” for example, Anna M. Evans, a poet who has taught writing at Stockton University, wrote, in part:
You just come in and teach, then you can go,
she says, distracted by her tenure file.
I wish someone would tell my students so.
From there I leave to meet with one who’s slow
to understand the work. It takes a while
to teach him what he needs. Then, I can go.
Another texts: the fetus didn’t grow.
She’s on bed rest for weeks. Can I compile
the work she’ll miss? I can, and tell her so.
The issue also features an extended conversation with Jennifer Jean, a poet and essayist who teaches English classes at Boston-area universities. “You have to create a strong community and invest in adjuncts, which is your biggest faculty pool -- and not just give them office space,” Jean says. “I hate to say this, but I couldn’t care less about office space. I can meet someone in a coffee shop. But I would like sustainability; I would like equitable pay. I would like to know that I have a genuine shot at a full-time gig. And I want to feel like I’m someone they think is worth investing in.”
Click was an assistant professor of communication at the University of Missouri at Columbia before she was fired. The Missouri board cited her behavior during student protests last fall -- including asking for “muscle” to remove a student journalist from a protest in a public area. While Click’s actions proved divisive even among faculty members, many of her former colleagues have criticized the board for circumventing normal, faculty-driven channels of review.
The ruling comes at a time of increased financial stress for institutions. Research funding costs are increasing, tuition prices are under pressure and endowments face declines in value, Moody's said. Graduate students are also becoming more important to higher education's business model. However, the ratings agency went on to note that large, research-intensive universities will be most affected by the ruling -- and those institutions tend to be wealthier and are best situated to absorb higher costs and wages from unionization.
Since most graduate student assistants are enrolled at public universities governed by state labor law and not covered under the ruling, the NLRB's decision affects fewer than 78,000 graduate assistants, Moody's estimated. It said about 40 percent of graduate assistants in private higher education are at just 10 universities: Boston, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Stanford and Yale Universities, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Southern California. Increasing the average wage for graduate teaching assistants at those universities would cost each one between $7 million and $11 million annually, Moody's estimated. The increase would be the equivalent of less than 1 percent of each institution's operating expenses.
However, Moody's also pointed out that institutions more moderate in size and means will be pushed to boost their graduate assistant compensation to keep up with larger competitors.
"Increased graduate assistant compensation or a material change in workload could cause modest pressure on operating performance," Moody's wrote. "Since universities with large graduate populations tend to compete nationally, if not internationally, the actions of their peers will outweigh regional standards in shaping the potential financial effects."
Gordon College has reached a settlement with Lauren Barthold, a tenured professor who will resign her position as part of the agreement, The Salem News reported. Barthold sued the college in April, saying that she had been demoted and that her job was threatened because she spoke out against Gordon policies that discriminate against gay people.
Long Island University at Brooklyn may be locking out all faculty members as of midnight tonight, in an escalation of tensions over negotiations over a new contract. The faculty union, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, said that the administration is trying to avoid a vote of no confidence and to undercut faculty rights. The university says it will proceed with this plan unless the faculty union immediately ratifies a contract and that it has lined up new faculty members to teach. The university says its action will assure stability for students.