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Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire


Personnel committee denies Alberto’s appeal for tenure

Alberto G.*, assistant professor of foreign languages and literatures for Spanish, was again denied tenure after the faculty personnel committee reconsidered his case.

Alberto, who has been at Whitman for six years, applied for tenure during the Fall 2011 semester, as is typical of sixth-year assistant professors. His request was denied by the faculty personnel committee last December, leading to student protests in February including a petition with over 800 signatures, public demonstrations and student meetings with President George Bridges and Provost and Dean of Faculty Timothy Kaufman-Osborn.

Alberto requested that the decision be reviewed. A review committee decided in February to send the decision back to the personnel committee, and Alberto was informed of the personnel committee’s decision on May 3.

The personnel committee is comprised of six tenured faculty members–two from each of the three divisions (humanities and arts, basic sciences and mathematics, and social sciences)–who are elected to serve for three years. The committee considers quality of teaching, professional activity and service to the community in their decisions.

Generally, professors who are denied tenure are allowed to work one more year at the college, but must leave after that.

Kaufman-Osborn said he could not comment on Alberto’s case for reasons of confidentiality, though he added that members of the personnel committee were aware of student concerns about the initial decision.

Alberto declined to comment about his reactions to the decision, but did want to thank students for their support.

“The unconditional support of students and alumni has shown me the respect that they have for the role I may have played in their Whitman education. And I plan to continue honoring that notion of respect,” he said in an email.

Students, however, were vocal in their outrage. Senior Spanish major Zoe Kunkel-Patterson, who appreciated Alberto’s emphasis on social justice and said she learned more from him than any other professor, said she thought the reconsideration process was inherently flawed.

“I think a big problem with that is that you’re sending the same case back to the same panel of people who have already decided that he did not deserve tenure,” she said. “The board [would] have to admit that they were wrong in that situation, which is very hard to do.”

Senior Geni Venable, who has also been active in efforts to retain Alberto, questioned to what extent the students’ voice had actually been heard.

“I was really shocked and disappointed,” she said of the decision to deny Alberto tenure again. “I had been left with the impression that the administration had really heard the students and was going to seriously reconsider Alberto’s application for tenure because we had not [only] expressed appreciation for Alberto’s personality, but also a deep appreciation for his outstanding language instruction and educational ability.”

From here, there are a couple options for Alberto and his supporters. Kaufman-Osborn noted that the review and appeal process for Alberto’s tenure application was not complete. In addition, the Board of Trustees may grant tenure to any tenure-track professor at any time, even if doing so goes against the recommendation of the faculty personnel committee and president.

Believing that they have a chance, students are still actively involved in efforts to overturn Alberto’s denial of tenure. Venable is organizing for graduating seniors to wear buttons that say “Alberto” during commencement; 100 buttons were printed and will be available at the same time students pick up their cap and gown on Friday, May 18. In addition, Kunkel-Patterson said that a group of students is making a documentary about Alberto’s tenure denial and that she is looking into opportunities to share the story with local and regional media organizations.

Venable said that she continues to fight not only because of Alberto’s contributions to campus, but also for what Whitman finds important in its professors.

“Alberto has not only gone above and beyond in terms of publications and translation work, but has very much exceeded expectations in terms of his teaching ability and contributions to campus,” she said. “To see him continually denied makes me lose a lot of faith in what Whitman values in the faculty.”

Updated on May 16, 2012 at 6:40 p.m. to incorporate information from Kaufman-Osborn.

*The professor in question’s name has been changed to reflect only his first name and last initial.

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    Geni VenableJun 6, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    Check out the student video supporting Galindo on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43KAXglT9dU