Students petition to support English lecturer
Students and alumni railed yesterday against Washington University’s decision to terminate English Lecturer Carolyn Brown’s contract.
A group of supporters gathered at Bowles Plaza, petitioning in her name and sending letters to the Student Life office concerning her departure.
Senior Arielle Densen, one of the students petitioning, was shocked to hear of her impending departure.
“It’s disappointing that it happened so quickly.we had almost no time to respond,” said Densen. “When more things come to light, we’ll push harder.”
The petition students were distributing focused on the circumstances of her removal, for which students hope to obtain an explanation.
“We’d like someone higher up to look into the circumstances [surrounding her departure],” said Densen.
Accusations as to why she was removed are widespread. Many students felt that it was a result of friction between her teaching style and that of David Lawton, the chair of the English department.
Lawton notes, however, that the decision was a budgetary concern, not the result of some ill-begotten feud between him and Brown.
“Some years there just isn’t enough work for lecturers. That, in general, is the source of reason,” said Lawton. “We do this when the budget comes out every year. It’s a budgetary derived decision, and people have the right to know – so we tell them.”
Lawton also mentioned that the primary source of such decisions lies with the executive committee of the English department.
Some petitioners felt she had been forced out of lecturing at the University through the removal of classes she would be teaching until she could no longer earn enough wage to continue working.
As for Brown, she was unsure as to why her contract is not being renewed.
“I received no reason whatsoever . Any guessing on my part is strictly guessing,” said Brown.
Brown has been teaching at the University for the past 11 years, and is teaching four classes this semester.
Because of her status as a lecturer rather than a professor, however, she cannot acquire tenure. In spite of this, many students felt her time at the University was ensured, and valued her very highly as a teacher.
“When I look back to college, one of the things I cherish most is the relationship I was able to form with Professor Brown,” said Erika Lane, who graduated from the University in 2005, in an e-mail.
“One of the aspects of high school that I feared would be missing from my college experience was teachers who really cared for their students . I found that unique genuity at Washington University in Professor Brown.”
Densen shares that sentiment.
“We know that she’s a phenomenal teacher – you’d be hard pressed to find a student that doesn’t like her,” said Densen. “It’s upsetting because she’s put so much time into the school. The students are her life.”
It appears as though Brown’s removal is far from final, however. Lawton noted that he had some concerns that he wanted answered relating to her removal.
He intends to speak with the executive committee either today or early next week.
Brown was sure to note that despite the quagmire of circumstances surrounding her, her main focus has always been her students.
“My chief concerns are that my students become better writers, and better thinkers .that’s what I strive for in my classroom,” said Brown.
“As with any professor at a university there will be students who got something out of my class and like me and students who have not gotten anything out of my class. My concern is that students learn in my classroom and that their experience is positive.”
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