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Lafayette Professor Denied Tenure Ends Hunger Strike

September 6, 2016
 

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.”

 
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