Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Yesterday afternoon, Student Council President Peter Gardner ’08 contacted the student body and select members of the administration to “emphasize the importance of student feedback for tenureship,” and “to convey … the importance of filling out requests for recommendations by professors and department heads.”
The letter was sent in response to a presentation by supporters of Spanish Professor Horacio Chiong Rivero, who was recently denied tenure, during Sunday’s Student Council meeting. You can read more about the student campaign here.
Erin Floyd and Claire Galpern, two of Rivero’s supporters, explained that “if the college is making decisions in the best interests of the students, [the denial of tenure] doesn’t seem to make sense to us.”
Gardner was reluctant to lead Student Council in endorsing Rivero’s cause in particular. “Tenure is so political, personal, and the school legally can’t disclose certain information, I don’t know if [this] is something we should get involved in,” he said. This is particularly true because research by Educational Policy Representative Elisha Ann ’08 has revealed that Swarthmore takes student input far more seriously than many of its peer schools.
The options the Council considered including signing a letter in support of Rivero, doing nothing, and issuing a statement of support for general student involvement in the tenure process. Campus Life Representative Alyssa Work ’08 came out in favor of the last option. “It is broad enough that we aren’t getting involved in the politics of the situation,” she explained, “but I do support students being involved in the process more.”
Appointments Chair Nate Erskine ’10 lauded Rivero’s supporters. “I think your activism has been really commendable. … It is great to see how much you guys really care about this professor. Erskine argued in favor of the general tenure statement, pointing out that Rivero is not the only tenure decision which has riled up students—for instance, the Classics Department is facing the loss of Deborah Beck.
Student Groups Advisor Paul Apollo ’09 cautioned the Council against expecting any kind of unanimous support for any statements on tenure. “I don’t think it is Student Council’s job to get involved in tenure decisions,” he said.