The following is a letter to the editor from Dr. Kristen Oertel in the history department at the Henry Kendall College of Arts and Sciences. Letters to the editor must be fewer than 500 words and can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Under no circumstances will anonymous letters be published. The name of the person submitting the letter must be published with the letter. We reserve the right to edit or reject all letters.
I walked from my car to Chapman Hall not expecting to see students huddled up in front of the building with chalk in their hands. Their messages trumpeted their discontent with TU’s leadership in preparation for a Faculty Senate meeting that would feature a visit from the Chair and Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees. One message said, “Students come to TU to learn from the faculty. They are TU. Respect the vote.” I smiled and took comfort in the fact that the reason I became a teacher, to share my passion for history, was not lost on these young activists. They know that when Board Chairman Fred Dorwart said that only “a small group of faculty” continue to resist implementation of True Commitment that he was lying. The chalk starkly reminded him by marking the tallies from the no-confidence vote where 80 percent of over 200 faculty voted no-confidence in our President and Provost. Even though Mr. Dorwart was forced to walk over the chalk, clear proof of faculty (and student) resistance to True Commitment, he emphatically denied its significance in the faculty meeting. There he asserted that the board had “ultimate decision-making authority” on all matters. And yet he also claimed that “everyone” on campus “has value” and can provide input on the plan, especially in areas where someone “has first-hand knowledge.”
Mr. Dorwart, we all have first-hand knowledge of the academic programs at TU; you and most of the other board members do not. Neither do our President and Provost, both of whom have taught fewer undergraduate classes combined than I did after two years of teaching. You have not been a student here, you have not taught here, and as one student asked in chalk today, “Mr. Dorwart, how often are you on campus?” Have you ever visited an undergraduate class? Watched a professor teach? What do you really know about TU and its heart and soul?
The truth is that you know very little about academics at TU, which is why you have relied on your autocratic leadership to run roughshod over faculty and student opposition. You asserted that the Faculty Senate’s 30-day plan was “not rejected,” but you inadvertently admitted your ignorance by explaining why. You said, “We did not have the knowledge to assess the 30-day plan,” so it was not implemented. Mr. Dorwart, how long did you study True Commitment? Why were you qualified to assess its value in that time and yet not prepared to assess the Senate’s plan? The answer, one can only surmise, is that the Board never intended to consider the Senate’s plan. Like the Board’s premeditated response to the vote of no confidence, you had already made up your mind to proceed with True Commitment. The offer was a ruse, the vote was discounted, and you have disgraced the University community by treating the faculty with complete condescension. So today, sir, I call for a vote of no confidence in you and suggest that you resign.
Kristen T. Oertel, Mary F. Barnard Professor of 19th-Century American History