SAINTs: Demanding Student Voice in Tenure Process at Emmanuel College
TO PRESIDENT SISTER JANET EISNER AND THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES:
We have gathered here today to explain in full detail our demands and need for action on behalf of the President’s Office and the Board of Trustees when it comes to the process of promotion and tenure, as outlined in the Faculty Handbook. The President’s Office and Board of Trustees should be held accountable in improving academic experiences of the student body through the promotion and tenure of faculty who have upheld Emmanuel College’s Mission Statement and integrity. With the denial of tenure to Professors Dr. Jeffrey Fortin and Dr. Clare Mehta, it is imperative that students’ input be a key factor in deciding denial or approval of promotion and tenure. Both Dr. Fortin and Dr. Mehta have proven themselves beyond their field of expertise, both in academic and community standards that Emmanuel holds in high regards. To lose either of them because of a lack of transparency and student input would be shameful of Emmanuel College and our mission statement.
In accordance to the Faculty Handbook, in order for a professor to be promoted or be granted tenure, they must have “on the basis of past performance, demonstrated high potential for continuing contributions to the goals of Emmanuel College.” Emmanuel College’s long term goals for tenured professionals have previously been stated to be that they “are dedicated to implementing and enhancing the mission of the college ‘to educate the students in a dynamic learning environment rooted in the liberal arts and sciences and shaped in strong ethical values and a commitment to social justice and service.’” As a student body, we have examined thoroughly the mission of the college and wish to see it implemented more effectively in the Promotion and Tenure Committee as established by Sr. Janet Eisner and the Board of Trustees. Other colleges, both in the region of New England and outside, have created comprehensive and clear notions of what their mission statement truly encompasses when it comes to the promotion and tenure process.
The notion that the student body is detached to the issue of promotion and tenure is unproven and presupposes the idea that we do not value the education we are receiving. As students, we have experienced first hand the value of the what is being taught to us by professors who are considered experts in their fields. When removing them from the academic experience, you deny students the capability to achieve the highest potential within them. We have dedicated, just as the professors being considered for promotion and tenure, the time and energy to learn in order to prepare ourselves for a world that is in need of change, something that is vital to Emmanuel College’s Mission Statement. In order to achieve both the goals of the Emmanuel Mission Statement and meet student demands, we have compiled data, statistics, scholarly sources, examples from other higher education institutions, and opinions of our peers.
The process of promotion and tenure at Emmanuel College lacks transparency and allows the system to bypass student input and instead prioritize the Board of Trustees, thus limiting the growth of student intellect and thirst for learning. Other colleges and universities have opted to integrate student input in promotion and tenure. For example, in recent years Princeton University has addressed student concerns over lack of input in promotion and tenure by implementing a process in which they are encouraged to write letters. “They express their opinions on any professor, good or bad. The letters are then put into open files for each professor, which are reviewed yearly and have some influence on tenure decisions.” With prestigious universities taking a stance on student input, it seems only logical that Emmanuel take a similar position. Dartmouth, another Ivy League school, struggled to find a balance between student input and academic scholarship, etc. Dartmouth students question the use of student input, “The biggest problem seems to be that the tenure process is all behind closed doors. Students input is solicited but we never know how much it counts.” It is the administration and committees who know it is there if they so chose to use it,and while heartening, the question remains, how much? Many faculty would argue that the tenure process is heavily biased towards research and scholarship, but shouldn’t the teaching aspect account for more than just a small section that consists of highly flawed evaluations that barely scratch the surface? “Underlying much of this faculty fear is the concern that students will place primary emphasis upon teaching to the neglect of research and pure scholarship,” and while Emmanuel is research heavy, we neglect the part of the mission which to educate all students by being either hands on with faculty or with professors sharing their knowledge by challenging students to think critically. “Yet almost every important critique of American higher education in recent years has cited the need to upgrade teaching skills among undergraduate college faculties. We desperately need to jar the research-scholar-Ph.D. incestuous cycle, wherein a chosen few high academic achievers command the bulk of the time of most of the faculty, while the vast majority of students are treated as ciphers.” Emmanuel College is more than just a research school, it is a school in which students thrive under a variety of methods of learning, and to eliminate professors who have a way in the classroom severely damages the process of critical thinking that is needed to carry through the Emmanuel Mission Statement.
The reestablishment of Students Acting for Institutional Transparency, also known as S.A.I.N.T.s, which was initially created in 2013 after the denial of Professor Christopher Craig’s tenure and Professor Christina Kulich-Vamvakas’ contract renewal, pushes for transparency across all sections academia at Emmanuel College. It demands the need for student input in every aspect of Emmanuel’s academics, currently with a specific focus on the promotion and tenure process. We stand for the ability to have our voices heard in a meaningful and productive manner, such as Princeton, Harvard, and Dartmouth have showcased. The promotion and tenure process as it stands now does not allow for students to be informed or, for that matter, form an opinion. When a professor is denied tenure, the desire to know the process of promotion and tenure, as well as the reason a professor was denied, will stem from a place of wanting an education and connection with the help of that professor. “When were we supposed to find out about this tenure business? In the small print of some departmental newsletter? When we came back to campus next fall, and found that we couldn’t sign up for a class because the professor was gone?” These are all questions that S.A.I.N.T.s initiative wants to avoid through clear definition of what is happening behind the scenes in academia, especially in tenure and promotion. Emmanuel College is a small college known for promoting its size in a way that appeals to students who want those close personal connections with faculty and staff. When there is no transparency or accountability on who stays and leaves, it undermines this goal by removing the faculty who students grow in both knowledge and connection.
LIST OF DEMANDS
The SAINTs group, on behalf of the student body of Emmanuel College, have compiled a list of demands to be immediately implemented in order to better serve the faculty and students in assuring that we have equal opportunity in the process of promotion and tenure:
OUR SHORT TERM GOAL:
WE DEMAND that Dr. Jeffrey Fortin of the History Department, and Dr. Clare Mehta of the Psychology Department, are given serious reconsideration to receive tenure in the light of their denial.
IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE THIS DEMAND:
- We have attached the Op-Eds and letters written by current students and alumni regarding the importance of both professors and their impact, both to the individual students and Emmanuel College as a whole.
- We have highlighted the Emmanuel College Mission Statement, in which both professors have demonstrated to the highest of their ability, as showcased with the outpour of support both have received with the Facebook Group, S.A.I.N.T.S. - Students Acting for Institutional Transparency, and the Twitter hashtag, #MoneyTalksTeachersWalk.
- We demand, that if the recommendation of the FPTC is to be upheld, and the appeals of the professors stated above are denied, that we, the student body, are given full clarity and understanding as to why the professors stated above were denied.
OUR LONG TERMS GOALS:
WE DEMAND that student input regarding the those up for tenure be taken into serious consideration in order to give better perspective of the student body’s experience with professors going up for promotion and tenure.
IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE THIS DEMAND:
- Creating a student forum in which students can openly discuss those going up for promotion and tenure in a productive and informative environment.
- The date will be set in accordance in which those going up for promotion and tenure are known in the fall semester.
- After the Student Promotion and Tenure Forum, students will be encouraged by the college, faculty, and peers to send letters of recommendation and evaluation of those up for promotion and tenure to the FPTC.
- Creating positions in which at least three students will be on the FPTC as a non-voting members in order to relay student concerns and input regarding promotion and tenure of professors. The student members will be in constant contact and will remain in confidentiality, until said time to speak publically, to that of the Faculty Promotion and Tenure Committee. They will be taken seriously by the Faculty counterpart when it comes to their recommendations and suggestions.
- In order for a student to be selected to the committee they must nominated by two tenured faculty members, who are currently not serving on the FPTC, and two fellow students. The process will include four letters of recommendation, two from the tenured faculty and one from either peer, an application, resume, and signed form of confidentiality.
- The student selected will serve for one year, and if they wish to re-apply, the can with the same criteria as previously stated. They can only serve two consecutive terms in order to avoid internal discrepancies and biases.
- Each student selected must have a different major from one another to prevent unequal representation of the departments.
- During the period in which course evaluations are being written and submitted, the students must be given the option for anonymity or full disclosure of their evaluations to professors.
- In addition, the evaluation period should be extended to two weeks after the conclusion of the school year in order to allot proper time, and be relieved of the stresses of finals.
- Student evaluations will contain a small section at the beginning in which it will be explained that anything that is said in evaluations will be used for the promotion and tenure of that professor. This is in order for students to be aware of how they word their evaluations and take careful consideration of how they really feel.
- If course evaluations are to be used to for the promotion or tenure of a professor, it must only include the “most recent eight semester of teaching, or for all semesters since promotion, whichever is shorter. The table should include course title and number; semester and year; enrollment; number of students who filled out the evaluation; and average for the above specified course evaluation questions. The table should also provide comparison averages from other faculty teaching those same courses when the scores are available.”
WE DEMAND that the Faculty Promotion and Tenure Committee and the Emmanuel College Board of Trustees with the inclusion of President Sister Janet Eisner, give us full transparency of the discussion and events regarding the promotion and tenure professors.
IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE THIS DEMAND:
- Expand FPTC transparency by communicating to the student body, during the Student Promotion and Tenure Forum, what department in each faculty member is from in order to have an equal balance between the sciences and humanities.
- When a recommendation is reached, and if it to be a denial, a statement should be given by the FPTC, with the permission of the professor, explaining in full detail as to why they were denied in order to give the student body full insight, allowing for the students to react accordingly.
- If the student body wishes to react, and the professor wishes to appeal the decision, it must be made public to the student body. Students will be allowed to submit letters of appeal for said professor, if the professor allows it.
IF THERE IS A FAILURE TO COMPLY with our listed demands, WE WILL have no other choice but to enforce immediate action against the Administration of Emmanuel College.
- WE WILL contact media outlets who have already expressed interest in the growing issue of the lack of transparency and student input in all areas of academia.
- WE WILL contact the Alumni of Emmanuel College and express the administration's lack of response to an ongoing issue since 2013, as expressed through previous Hub publications and the initial formation of S.A.I.N.T.S - Students Acting for Institutional Transparency.
- WE WILL conduct a sit-in to meet with Sr. Janet Eisner at the President’s Office.
Sincerely, S.A.I.N.T.S - Students Acting for Institutional Transparency.
To ensure that these demands will be met, we request President Sr. Janet Eisner, the Board of Trustees, the Faculty Promotion and Tenure Committee, and Dean William Leonard give a full response, to which they will have until Monday, June 6th, 2016 in which we will set a date with S.A.I.N.T.S. to either discuss demands or approve them.
 Tufts University, “Statement #11 Tenure and Promotion Process, 2016-2017,” February 3, 2016, 2, http://ase.tufts.edu/faculty/committees/ASE/tenure...
 Emmanuel College: Faculty Handbook, 2014, 29.
 Ibid, 29.
 Boris Spiwak, “U. seeks student input for tenure,” The Daily Princetonian, December 6, 2004, http://dailyprincetonian.com/news/2004/12/u-seeks-student-input-for-tenure/.
 Karla Kingsley, “When it comes to student input on tenure, no single formula,” The Dartmouth, April 3, 2002, http://thedartmouth.com/2002/04/03/when-it-comes-to-student-input-on-tenure-no-single-formula/.
 Jean-Louis d’Heilly, “Viewpoint Needed: A Student Voice on Tenure,” Change 2, no. 6 (1970): 8, http://www.jstor.org.library.emmanuel.edu:2048/stable/4016112.
 Ibid, 8.
 Alexandra Schwartz, “Student Input Could Improve Tenure System,” Yale Daily News, February 14, 2007, http://yaledailynews.com/blog/2007/02/14/student-input-could-improve-tenure-system/.