Reconsideration of Tenure for Patricia Keller
We the undersigned graduate students in the Department of Romance Studies are very upset to learn that Assistant Professor Patricia Keller has been denied tenure by the College of Arts and Sciences. This decision impacts us directly in very negative ways.
Regarding student morale, Professor Keller is a stabilizing presence within Romance Studies. She is a professional, who is first and foremost concerned with student work and their intellectual life within the Department. Professor Keller is invested in fostering appropriate relationships with each student grounded in encouraging achievement at every stage of the program. Students can depend on her to support their work-life balance and to keep delicate matters confidential. In a department that has experienced ongoing faculty departures in recent history, Professor Keller has remained consistent and vigilant in her dedication to the graduate students and PhD candidates. However given this negative tenure outcome, she is now one more professor in a list of many others who is on the way out, proving that the ground beneath the graduate student can and will shift at any moment within Romance Studies.
From a more practical and immediate standpoint, students at all levels are negatively impacted and concerned as to how this decision will impede their academic progress within the Department given that previous faculty departures have had just that effect. For example, first and second year students within the Spanish section are currently preparing for the qualifying examination, which includes evaluating competency in contemporary Peninsular literature. Professor Keller is integral to this process by writing questions, assisting students with preparing appropriate readings for the examination, and scoring the essays written for her area of coverage.
Moreover, Professor Keller serves on numerous dissertation committees for third year students who are preparing for the A examination within and outside the field of Romance Studies. In the Spanish section, students are required to write a prospectus and chapter from their proposed dissertation and defend the work in a timed examination. The students who work with Professor Keller are now tasked with attempting to replace or approximate her area of expertise with another faculty member from within the graduate field. However depending on the project, and given the limited coverage within the Department or the perpetual state of faculty transition, this expertise is irreplaceable resulting in an unwanted and unplanned redirection in dissertation scope and focus. This proves quite stressful as students attempt to maintain timely academic progress and funding, while compromising the vision of their projects.
This distress is further heightened for PhD candidates who have been working with Professor Keller for a number of years while drafting and circulating chapters of their dissertations in anticipation of the B examination. Since professors are not interchangeable cogs in an academic machine of our design that produces compelling dissertations, the influence and relationship between each student and their committee members cannot be underestimated.
Furthermore this academic term, Professor Keller also actively participated in job placement workshops that assisted students in the final years of the program with writing cover letters, curriculum vitaes, research statements, statements of teaching philosophy as well as developing other materials related to the dossier or a mock job talk. She individually met with students to review and critique all manner of document, while maintaining her other administrative, advising, and teaching responsibilities. Given her level of commitment to graduate students, as planned for the next academic year, Professor Keller would have been an ideal candidate for the Director of Graduate Studies.
In closing, we are deeply troubled that Professor Keller was denied tenure. For the future of the Department and the well-being of the graduate students, we respectfully urge the College of Arts and Sciences to reconsider this decision.