That’s what’s happening now at Dartmouth College, regarding the failed bid of Aimee Bahng, an assistant professor of English who faculty members and students alike say deserves a permanent position on campus. Beyond Bahng, concerned professors say the case speaks to bigger questions about commitments to minority faculty members, interdisciplinary research and shared governance at Dartmouth and beyond.
“The issue of faculty governance at Dartmouth is a heated one, and it extends to broader issues than [this] tenure case -- though that has been a trigger for many of the broader discussions we're having now -- and though it is widely perceived as unjust and shortsighted,” said Annelise Orleck, a professor of history at Dartmouth who criticized the tenure decision at a recent town hall about the findings of a campus climate survey. Several hundred faculty members, students and staff reportedly were in attendance.
In addition to the town hall, professors and students have taken their protest to Twitter under the hashtags #fight4facultyofcolor and #dontdoDartmouth; the latter features students and academics advising would-be applicants to avoid the institution. Public details on Bahng’s bid are few, and she did not respond to a request for comment. But fellow faculty members confirmed that she was unanimously approved by the department's tenure committee. Her bid fell short higher up in review chain, which includes the associate dean, the dean of the faculty and the arts and sciences faculty’s Committee Advisory to the President.
Dartmouth says it’s bound by confidentiality surrounding the tenure process, but that unanimous department decisions don’t always lead to tenure. And that’s true -- the departmental tenure committee merely makes a recommendation. Yet at many institutions, it’s rare for a unanimous faculty vote to be overturned. Orleck and others on campus say Bahng’s case is similar to several others in recent years, in which department votes for tenure and unanimous recommendations for tenure by outside reviewers are overruled by deans or the Committee Advisory to the President.
A number allegedly have been faculty members of color who were respected by their colleagues and students. One such case is that of Derrick White, now a visiting associate professor of history. White did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but his name and failed tenure bid last year -- despite the unanimous vote of his departmental peers and outside reviewers -- have been mentioned in many of the conversations about Bahng.
In short, the most recent case appears to be something of the last straw on a campus that’s already facing criticism for what many see as a lack of commitment to diversity...
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