Regarding President Liebergott#039;s response

By Roger House and Pierre Desir

We are writing in response to President Liebergott’s recent statement to The Beacon on the tenure controversy. We felt compelled to take exception to her mischaracterization of the dispute.

President Liebergott would have readers believe that the administration was standing up for academic standards when it denied our tenure applications. The goal of diversity must not come at the expense of qualifications. To do so would constitute an affront to white faculty and minority faculty alike, she wrote.

The reality, however, is that no one is asking the administration to sacrifice academic standards for the sake of diversity. Our complaint is that the administration engaged in a tenure process that established different standards for different faculty members. Our concern is that race was a factor in the way the administration handled the tenure cases.

What we seek, in short, is not an exception to the rule but the fair application of the rule.

For example, the administration has argued that it followed the Faculty Handbook guidelines in deciding the tenure cases. The claim is subject to question.

Under the handbook, the departments have the responsibility for determining appropriate research standards for tenure. This is as it should be-faculty members have the expertise to make the critical judgment.

In our cases, the department faculty, the college-wide faculty, the department chairs and outside evaluators endorsed our research qualifications. The administration went outside the guidelines of the Faculty Handbook and created a standard for research exclusive to our candidacies.

What was the administration’s reason for overriding the evaluations of the faculty and chairs? What was its basis for creating a different research standard? When we asked the administration these questions, we were told that it did not have to give an explanation.

We thought it unacceptable that an administration ignorant about our fields of study would brush aside the expertise of its own faculty.

In the past, the administration has awarded tenure to white applicants based on a wide range of educational and scholarly accomplishments. It wisely recognized their overall value to the Emerson community; among these candidates were individuals with records similar to our qualifications. What was so different about our cases?

These were the types of questions that led us to ask the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination to look into the issue.

In closing, the president’s assertion that the college was faced with a choice between diversity and qualifications was disingenuous. Sadly, the administration scuttled the chance to retain candidates that addressed the needs of both diversity and qualifications.