A San Jose State University professor remained department chair for months after a campus investigation that concluded he had harassed a student, and he was placed on leave only after a journalist raised questions about the case, the Bay Area News Group reported. Mary Papazian, the university's new president, told the news group, "I think we can agree that there are things we can learn from the way it was handled."
The case involves Lewis Aptekar, a professor and chair of the university's counselor education department. He was found to have acted inappropriately by asking a student in class if she was single and commented that he would date her. Aptekar declined to comment, but his lawyer said the comments were made in a classroom discussion about romantic relationships and did not constitute harassment. The student said in class that "everyone leaves" her, the lawyer said, and when Aptekar said he would never leave her, he was trying to be supportive. The university's investigation found that Aptekar "is couching his questioning as educational inquiry, but he is inappropriately using this method to probe for more personal information than [can] possibly be related to an academic program."
Faculty members at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus -- who lost their jobs and benefits over Labor Day weekend when the university imposed a lockout -- on Tuesday rejected the contract proposed by the administration.
Also on Tuesday, the university's Faculty Senate, which represents professors at all LIU campuses, voted no confidence in the university administration.
A statement from Jessica Rosenberg, president of the Long Island University Faculty Federation, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, issued this statement: “The administration's decision to lock us out rather than negotiate has already damaged our students and our members. Over the weekend, our health insurance was cut off, with people finding out as they were filling prescriptions. We want to teach our students under a contract that affords us dignity and voice. That is why we're fighting back.”
Gale Haynes, vice president, chief operating officer and university counsel at LIU, released a statement saying that the vote of no confidence was tied to the “contentious” contract negotiations. As for the rejection of the contract proposal, Haynes said, “It’s disappointing that the LIUFF has rejected a contract offer that the university believes is generous and highly competitive. The university will continue to bargain in good faith, with the goal of welcoming its valued faculty back to the classroom upon timely resolution of the contract. During this time frame, we will remain laser focused on our students beginning the fall semester with little or no disruption to their academic studies.”
The American Association of University Professors also weighed in on the conflict Tuesday, issuing a statement condemning the lockout and urging the university to let faculty members return to teaching while continuing contract negotiations.
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.