HEAD COPY EDITOR
Students and advisees of Lecturer of Anthropology Teresa Delfín met with Dean of Faculty and Vice President of Academic Affairs Darrin Good Tuesday, March 28 to discuss concerns over the Faculty Personnel Committee’s (FPC) decision to not renew her position as Lecturer of Anthropology.
In the wake of last week’s news that Professor Delfín would not be brought back as Lecturer, nearly 600 students and parents signed a petition supporting Delfín. Members of the Whittier College community wanted to meet with Good to express their concerns not just over Delfín’s departure but also what they saw as a lack of student input into the decision-making process.
The decision not to renew Delfín led to an outcry in the community as students, faculty, and parents all expressed dissent with the FPC’s decision and spoke overwhelming praise for Delfín. However, Delfín’s letter of nonrenewal also gave her the option to return next year as a Visiting Professor. Shortly after the news of the FPC’s decision was announced by Delfín, senior Sally Shields started the petition to keep Delfín at Whittier College.
As one of Delfín’s students, advisees, and research assistants, Shields was responsible for setting up the meeting with Good. The meeting was held so that the FPC’s procedure could be clarified and hopefully shed light on the process that led to the FPC’s specific decision regarding Delfín’s contract. Along with Delfín’s students and advisees, Poet parent Marco Caamal and ASWC President Rashid were also present.
While Good was not at liberty to discuss Delfín’s case specifically, he did offer to answer general questions regarding the FPC’s procedure in faculty evaluations. “This is a confidential personnel matter that I am not able to nor willing and able to talk about,” Good said at the meeting. “So that’s a separate conversation. [I’m] happy to talk about how process works at Whittier College, as well as at other colleges that I’ve been a part of.”
Students in attendence seemed to expect that Good would be unable to respond to their specific concerns. “I thought that’s how it would go, with [Good] talking about the process in general,” said Shields.
Although Dean Good could not get into how the decision was made in Delfín’s case, he did cite the three elements that the FPC looks for: “Performance in the areas of classroom teaching, advising, and service to the College and community,” as stated in the faculty handbook. In regard to these three areas under evaluation, students brought up the many positive comments made on the petition and elsewhere from students, faculty, parents, and alumni as reasons for confusion and frustration over how the decision on Delfín’s case was reached.
Students felt their voices were not heard at all in the FPC’s decision-making process, despite the fact that they are supposed to emphasize student evaluations. At one point during the meeting, Good confirmed that there is currently no existing method on collecting an evaluation provided by student advisees on a campus-wide basis.
While no advisee evaluation process exists at the moment, Good indicated that he would be receptive to the idea of adding such a process into the existing faculty handbook. “I’d be supportive of that, quite honestly,” said Good. “I always took my advising very seriously, worked very hard at it, and I believe it’s one of the reasons why students should be coming into a smaller college. It’s not just the personalized instruction, but the personalized advising that you get.”
As to how the students should go about trying to implement such a change, Good said that they could likely consult faculty members from various departments, and that it might be the Enrollment and Student Affairs Committee (ESAC) that could work with this suggestion to make changes to the faculty handbook. It was also asked in the meeting whether or not President Herzberger could potentially overturn the FPC’s decision, to which Good responded that “she could, but there’s an appeal process that [the FPC] goes through,” and that any appeal to overturn the decision would need to go through that process.
“I’m really dismayed at this decision,” said senior Rashid. “Not only because of this professor’s incredible work, work ethic, and impact on our student body but also,on the process’ lack of student representation and voices.”
“My goal is to write some sort of letter and send it to senior staff, as well as having it available publicly for anyone to see,” said Rashid. “This letter will either be voted on by the members of Senate or it will just come from the desk of the President. Once that letter is put forward, we’ll see how and what the students would like me to do moving forward.”
Whittier College parent Caamal also says he plans to take action. “Based on the information that we’ve gathered here, I’m going to rally all the parents together . . . and have them join that petition. I’m [also] going to formulate an e-mail that’s going to go directly to Herzberger . . . asking her, respectfully, to overturn this decision.”
Senior Micaela Kissick also came out of the meeting with a clear set of goals in mind. “I think we really need to stress how much disconnect there is between faculty committees like that and the actual students,” said Kissick. “My next step is to present to either FPC or the department that was the deciding committee on this decision.”
“I definitely know that this is not the end of the discussion,” said Shields. “I know no one in the room feels as though we’re giving up.” Rashid agreed, “It’s certainly not a dead issue.” Rashid and many others believe that Delfín’s case may have been decided unfairly, and he says, “We have a responsibility to ensure that fairness is given to all members of our community. If that didn’t happen in this case, then we need to fix that.”