Students protest removal of lecturer’s job
Lecturer Jerome Bauer might be out of a job – but not if his students have anything to say about it. The religious studies department recently informed Bauer that his position as lecturer would be replaced with the position of assistant professor. The new position is not reserved for Bauer, but rather he, along with all other qualified applicants, are invited to apply for it. Both Bauer and some of his students have taken action against this new academic opening.
The positions of lecturer and professor have substantive differences. University lecturers are considered to be in the “Teaching Track” and are therefore not expected to regularly write and publish research papers, as per the “public or perish” rule common to the realm of academia. An inter-department move from lecturer to assistant professor would require Bauer to research and publish papers.
“The Religious Studies Program and I,” wrote Bauer in an open letter protesting the religious studies department’s actions, “have had an agreement: I would pursue diligently the ‘Teaching Track,’ not looking for a job elsewhere, in exchange for a reasonable semblance of job security. I would sacrifice other “career goals” for my vocation, mentorship of our students. This I have done, faithfully. Now this University is not keeping its end of the bargain.”
Department Chair Beata Grant said no such agreement was reached.
“The lecturer position in South Asian religions that Bauer has held for the past several years was from the very beginning designated as a temporary lecturer position that would eventually be upgraded to a regular tenure-track position,” Grant wrote in an e-mail.
Grant explained that “the Department’s decision to upgrade the lecturer position in Religious Studies reflects a strong commitment on the part of the University to build Religious Studies, a commitment that includes a recent tenure-line hire in Islamic studies, a current search for a tenure-line position in the history of Christianity, and future searches in areas such as American Religious History.”
According to Bauer, he expected to receive a promotion to senior lecturer.
“Last year.the program was promoting me to senior lecturer,” said Bauer. But “last spring, I was told my position would be eliminated after a year. They [University administration] really need to rethink their strategy.”
Bauer thinks that the University’s stance towards lecturers, both in and outside the Religious Studies Program, needs significant revisions.
“Some sort of reasonable job security would be good for this community,” he said.
Furthermore, Bauer has argued for the expansion of the Religious Studies Program into a department, noting a rise in the program’s popularity among undergraduate students.
“If it were a department, then faculty would have better job security. With Religious Studies, we are embattled from both the left and the right. It’s a controversial discipline, and I think it would be better with a more secure status. It’s about time the University reevaluate its strategy with Religious Studies.”
Undergraduate students have lent support to Bauer through signing a petition to retain him as a lecturer. Senior Nivedita Kulkarni began the petition three years weeks ago at an Ashoka meeting.
“I really hope the University sees how great he is with the students,” said Kulkarni. “I understand the University is upset at his not publishing research, but he does far more for the students.”
Within a week of starting the petition, Kulkarni had over 100 signatures from Ashoka members.
Bauer himself was surprised at the degree of support he received from his students, noting that a number of undergraduates asked to take his courses even if he left the University. The University, said Bauer, should pay attention to undergraduates’ stances regarding employment of faculty.
“They’ve been very, very helpful. I’ve been trying to stay out of University politics; when I first got the news, I was in shock. It turns out I had a lot of student support. If the students like what lecturers do, I think the University ought to listen. It’s only reasonable.”
Bauer noted that his situation was not unique, and encouraged individuals who wanted to primarily go into teaching and lecturing at Universities.
“I support all lecturers at the University and [support] more respect for people who want to teach. A lot of it comes down to respect.”
Ultimately, Bauer hoped that the University would reconsider its stances toward lecturers like himself in all departments and programs.
“The University must restore the lecturer’s position in Religious Studies,” Bauer continued in his open letter, “and must also restore employment to other unjustly terminated lecturers. This is a matter of justice. If these reasonable requests are not met, I will stay here as I have promised to do, working for the community in whatever way I can.”
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