Elon University faculty and students have recently publicly spoken out against the school’s decision to deny tenure to professors, including Lisa Peloquin, assistant professor of sociology, and Rebecca Olmedo, assistant professor of Spanish.
Each time a new faculty member is hired, he or she is presented with a faculty handbook that outlines the guidelines to obtain tenure. Despite this, the process of deciding who receives tenure is not a simple process.
When faculty members are hired, they receive the title of assistant professor for six years and then apply for tenure. At this point, assistant professors are expected to turn in a portfolio, emphasizing teaching, service and scholarship, to be judged by the Promotion and Tenure Committee, the dean of the school they are employed by and Provost Steven House. Some professors believe the teaching aspect does not receive substantial consideration in the tenure application process.
An e-mail was sent out to faculty and staff about the decision to deny tenure for Peloquin. Five tenured professors in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology endorsed the e-mail.
“It was never the intention of the Task Force on Scholarship to destabilize the delicate balance between teaching, scholarship and service at the university,” the e-mail read. “Nor was it imagined that excellent teaching should be trumped by publication activity.”
There have also been several complaints from the students about the recent decision to deny Peloquin tenure.
The university has a policy of not releasing the reasons why professors are denied tenure.
“I have been writing e-mails to the president and provost about the effect Lisa has on her students, the change she brought out in me, her passions for her subjects and her students, and her endeavors outside of school and even the office,” said Justin Franklin, Class of 2007.
Several students have mentioned Peloquin’s teaching skills as the reason she should have received tenure.
“Peloquin is the absolute model of the Elon teacher-scholar and it will be a sore loss for the university not to employ her exceptional writing and teaching skills,” said Laura Rose Heymann, Class of 2008. “I cannot possibly understand how the individuals who made this poor decision regarding Dr. Peloquin, can continue to uphold their judgment.”
Another e-mail, sent to faculty and staff, was sent out last week from five professors, four from the department of foreign languages and one from the department of math, regarding a similar decision to deny tenure to Olmedo.
“There is no intent to question the extended and thoughtful deliberations completed by the Promotion and Tenure Committee,” the e-mail read. “We also believe that such incidents may point to a problem in how Elon University understands and evaluates the teacher-scholar model.”
The Promotion and Tenure Committee is made up of eight faculty members who meet almost once a week from October to January.
The committee and the dean responsible for the tenure ofthe applicant make separate recommendations on whether the assistant professor should get tenure.
The recommendation from the dean comes with a one-page explanation, according to House.
“After they have made the recommendations, I bring both of these bodies together,” House said. “If they are in an agreement we write an easy ‘yes,’ but if they both say ‘no,’ or if they are not in agreement, then we discuss for a long time.”
House, the Promotion and Tenure Committee and the deans met in January to discuss whether the people in question fit all of the qualifications that need to be met in order to qualify for tenure. From this discussion, House makes a recommendation to President Leo Lambert who then makes a recommendation to the board.
“At Elon we are primarily a teaching institute,” House said. “But while teaching is most important, good teaching, while necessary, is not sufficient.”