By Rye Druzin///News Editor
In an e-mail sent out on Monday, Associate Professor and History Department Chair Andrew Bernstein announced the failure of the search committee, whose goal was to hire a professor in a tenure-track U.S. history position. This announcement has been the culmination of months of student outrage at the denial of the tenure-track position to Visiting Assistant Professor of History Reiko Hillyer. In response, a student-led, faculty-supported demonstration is being organized.
“Now that the search has officially ended, we would like to clarify that we unanimously recommended to Dean [Tuajuanda] Jordan that the College offer the position to Reiko Hillyer, a decision the History Department unanimously supported,” said Bernstein in a letter from the search committee. “The Dean chose, however, not to follow our recommendation.”
Jordan, in an email related to a Pioneer Log inquiry on the search committee, cited that “the integrity of the entire process and respect for all applicants” meant that she would not comment on the matter, and, specifically, she maintained that “[she] will not breach confidentiality.”
Under the current situation, Hillyer has been offered a “faculty with term” position. Officially, according to Hillyer, she has been hired as an “assistant professor with term” for a three-year contract with the College.
“I feel that the Dean’s failure to take the History department’s and the search committee’s recommendation of Professor Hillyer seriously is a grave mistake,” said Camille Christie (’13). “I feel it is also reflective of a larger disregard for student body opinion on issues that truly matter to us.”
Hillyer has been teaching at Lewis & Clark for six years. She won the Teacher of the Year award in the Spring semester of 2009, an award that is given by students to outstanding faculty, and was in the top 4 finalists for this year’s Teacher of the Year award.
“Not only does she meet every hiring criteria iterated by the Faculty Handbook, but she exceeds them. And exceeds them to an extent that I have scarcely seen on this campus,” said Marissa Seiler (’12). “To not reward her dedication with this position is to ignore what has made my Lewis & Clark experience extraordinary. It is professors like her that profoundly change us.”
The letter from the search committee pointedly states that they “assessed each candidate’s potential to meet our current needs and develop new course offerings with interdisciplinary appeal, as well as to contribute to a learning community that values diversity.” The letter echoed a belief, diversity, that is not only a central thought of the school, but of Jordan as well.
Increasing diversity at LC has been one of the central tenets of Dean Jordan since she arrived at LC in July of last year. The Dean stated in a September 2011 article by Cari Hachmann titled “A Role Model for Student Success” in The Portland Observer that “it’s also important for students to know that to go places, you don’t need to have a mentor that looks like you.” The decision not to hire Hillyer, who was the College’s first minority stcholar in residence when she joined the faculty in 2004 on a diversity scholarship, seems to go against the values that Dean Jordan has been trying to emphasize at the institution.
As previously stated in the letter, the decision to not hire Hillyer seems to have come from the Dean herself and was contrary to the unanimous opinions stated by both the committee and the department. This is seen as an unusual act for the Dean to take, a note that is pointed out by the letter from the search committee in the Faculty Handbook, which states that “faculty status and related matters are primarily a faculty responsibility… The primary responsibility of the faculty for such matters is based upon the fact that its judgment is central to general educational policy.”
“This [the decision to not hire Hillyer in a tenure-track] is sickening, and in response I will not be donating to the College after I graduate,” said Deanna Horton (’12). “Although what I have learned from faculty [emphasis her own] at Lewis & Clark has been invaluable to me in my studies, it has become so clear to me in recent weeks that what I value in this institution is being violently disregarded by the administration, and Dean Jordan’s denial of Reiko Hillyer’s tenure-track position is just one clear example of this fact.”
The Faculty Handbook goes on to describe the role that administrators play in the hiring process, saying that “the governing board and the president should, on questions of faculty status, as in other matters where the faculty has primary responsibility, concur with the faculty judgment except in rare instance and for compelling reasons which should be stated in detail.” Thus, faculty matters are for faculty resolutions, including hiring.
“Reiko delivers the kinds of education we aspire to,” said Professor of Religious Studies Alan Cole. “I have a decent amount of evidence that she does it better than a lot of us. It is very hard to find people who inspire other people. To really get into people’s lives in a powerfully positive way is rare. Reiko has proven that she has that gift, and I repeat, it’s rare, and we should do what we can to keep her here.”
One of the biggest issues that students have voiced is the transparency of the hiring process. When students attempted to gain information about the process, they were rebuffed by statements about confidentiality. This has left students feeling shut out from an important process.
“I think there needs to be transparency in the decision-making process. We know now that the search committee and the history department unanimously recommended Prof. Hillyer for the job, and we know that she was overwhelmingly the students’ choice,” said Emily Katzman (’12). “When we spoke with the Dean at the ASLC Senate meeting last month, she noted that what she looks for in a candidate include someone who has demonstrated excellence in scholarship, someone dedicated to service at the school and for the broader community, and someone who seems to be a ‘good fit’ at LC. Considering all these factors, I am at a loss as to why Professor Hillyer wasn’t hired and the search was failed, and I would like an explanation.”
With faculty showing immense and open dissatisfaction with the result of the search and the direct ties of the failure of the search to the Dean, and with students organizing a demonstration supported by faculty for the last day of classes, the conflict over the Dean’s decision seems to be reaching a fever pitch. In the end, students’ love for Hillyer is what began this movement for an increased voice and continued it even to the end of the year.
“She is rare. She is beloved. She deserves this position. And we deserve an answer,” Seiler said.
Darya Watnick contributed to this report.
Next Thursday, April 26, a student-led and faculty supported demonstration will occur on campus. Further details on a time and location will be posted across the campus.