Students and faculty respond
By: ASHLEY KATLUN
The East Asian Languages and Cultures minor is not being eliminated, but the seventh most popular minor on campus is in a state of limbo, according to Lisa Zwicker, associate professor of history.
Students, faculty and administrators have been in disagreement the past several weeks over the cancellation of the East Asian Languages and Cultures (EALC) minor faculty search.
The search was canceled because of budget cuts and the fact that no candidates had come to campus to interview, according to John McIntosh, interim executive vice chancellor for Academic Affairs.
The search to fill the East Asian studies history position began in September of 2013. Faculty maintain that a lot of time, money and effort was put into finding the right candidate for this position, despite the fact that candidates never stepped on campus.
“The candidates sent us their resumes, they sent us a cover letter, they sent us a teaching philosophy and then we read all that material, a hundred applicants. There are five people on the committee so that’s five professors that read a hundred applicants,” Zwicker said. “The search committee had interviewed 12 at our annual meeting, so two of our committee [members] went to D.C. in the middle of a snowstorm and interviewed 12 of those 100 and then we choose three,” Zwicker said.
IU South Bend administrators approved the search four different times during the search process, cancelling the day before the first of three candidates was to arrive on campus for final interviews.
“The problem was there had been four points at which the search was approved. The search was approved to be advertised as a search, and then our search committee was formed, and was approved to go to our conference and interview candidates, and we were approved to bring the candidates to campus,” Zwicker said.
According to Kyoko Takanashi, assistant professor in English and East Asian Studies committee member, there are 34 declared and enrolled students in the East Asian Studies minor as of February 27, 2014.
The consequences of cancelling the search has left the East Asian Languages and Cultures minor committee scrambling to figure out what will happen to the program for the 2014-2015 academic year.
“Courses are already scheduled for the fall and the spring. We were counting on a person from that line [the final three candidates] to offer courses necessary for both the history department and the East Asian studies minor,” Takanashi said.
McIntosh’s suggestion that the East Asian Studies and History department have the option of finding an adjunct professor to teach the East Asian history courses for the year is not practical, according to Zwicker.
“It’s more likely to get someone to move here who earned a Ph.D. in Chicago or earned a Ph.D. in Ann Arbor and would be willing to move here for the year and teach classes in a lecturer position, where you have benefits and a full-time salary. That seems more feasible than finding an adjunct. We haven’t been successful in the past finding adjuncts to teach Asian history classes,” Zwicker said.
It is unlikely that the search will be reopened for a tenured track position for the 2014-2015 academic year, but faculty and students are hopeful that administrators will allow the history department to hire a lecturer for the year.
“What we hope is that they will give us permission to hire a full time lecturer who will teach three to four classes each semester and advise all East Asian and Cultures minor students. Then we need to hire a tenure track person,” Zwicker said.
The determination of a few EALC students, with the support of the student body, may make this compromise a reality.
EALC students began circulating a petition asking Chancellor Terry Allison to reconsider the hiring of a new East Asian history specialist. The petition will be presented with close to 700 signatures on it according to Staci Barker, an EALC minor and leader of the EALC minor petition.
“I don’t know how many people know this, but our school is the only affordable school in the area with this area of study. It’s really important,” Barker said.
While administrators may feel that students and faculty are overreacting to the situation, they are beginning to hear the message thanks to the dedication of a few students.
“Students have so much power on campus, so students can create awareness in a way that faculty just can’t,” Takanashi said.
The EALC students are hoping to prove to administrators and faculty that they care about the quality of their education and aren’t willing to settle for substituted classes and temporary professors.
“Even if I don’t [have a voice] I still think I do, and they won’t stop me from trying. As many students who have signed this [petition] will tell you, I am quite loud,” Barker said.
In the future, Zwicker hopes similar situations that may arise will be dealt with in healthier ways for the sake of students, the curriculum and the campus as a whole.
“We want to make sure that we are able to communicate with the administrators who make decisions about how and what the impact of those decisions might be. We didn’t have any chance to give input and the students didn’t have any chance to give input. I would suggest that it’s not going to happen like this in the future,” Zwicker said.