Non-Tenure-Track Professor Leads the Academic Senate at a Major Research University

September 28, 2015

Milestone for Nontenured

Ginger Clark

When Ginger Clark assumed the presidency of the University of Southern California’s Academic Senate, in July, it marked the first time in the university’s history that a non-tenure-track faculty member had held that role. She is one of only a handful of non-tenure-track faculty members known to hold such a position nationwide.

It took the university so long to reach that milestone "because there was a fear of doing something that would threaten the existence of tenure at the university," says Ms. Clark, a full-time professor of clinical education. "But we’re on the tail end of that fear, and now we’re able to sit at the table together and have discussions that address the larger issue of who are we and who we want to be."

Ms. Clark, who says she is off the tenure track by choice, first became active in the Senate as a member of the Committee on Non-Tenure-Track Faculty Affairs, and has spent the last seven years advocating for non-tenure-track faculty members, who make up more than half of the university’s faculty.

"When non-tenure-track faculty began increasing their role on campus," she says, "we were no longer seen as add-ons to the curriculum. We were seen as pillars of the university. We needed to spend more time looking at workload profiles, contracts, salaries, promotions, and other issues."

When the time approached for the Senate to elect a new executive board last year, she seized the opportunity to bring those issues, among others, to the forefront. To her surprise, she encountered mostly encouragement from professors of all statuses.

Still, she says, she felt some hesitation about taking the top job. She shares the wariness of many other non-tenure-track faculty members about speaking out on work issues because they don’t have the same job protection as their tenured counterparts.

But on her campus, she says, that fear does not seem to be well grounded. "We talk about the differences between non-tenure-track and tenure-track faculty so much, but I haven’t seen a lot of difference in how voices are reacted to. I just remind myself I’ve been heard and respected before, and I will again." — Sydni Dunn

Remembering May 4

A still much-disputed question about the fateful events of May 4, 1970, is whether Ohio National Guardsmen who shot and killed four Kent State University students and wounded nine did so while obeying a "call to fire," says Mindy J. Farmer.

"That’s amazing, because there were 2,000 witnesses," says Ms. Farmer, director of Kent State’s May 4 Visitors Center. The facility has operated since 2012, with such goals as helping historians and aiding the many faculty members who teach about the events.

The students who were killed or wounded either were taking part in or were in the vicinity of a rally against the presence of the Guard on the campus when the troops fired for 13 seconds. The troops had arrived two days earlier to quell protests against President Richard Nixon’s escalation of the Vietnam War into Cambodia.

The vast majority of Kent State’s incoming students take the center’s audio-guided walking tours of the site, which the center’s founding director, Laura Davis, an emeritus professor of English, created. The tours can be "really upsetting," says Ms. Farmer. It is shocking, she says, to learn how far away the Guardsmen were from most of those they shot — from 60 feet to almost 750 feet — and how oddly that sits with claims that an imminent danger to the Guardsmen forced them to open fire. Standing where the closest killed student was, says Ms. Farmer, "you can’t throw a rock to hit the Guardsmen; the most you can hurl is an insult."

Ms. Farmer came to the Ohio campus more than a year ago after five years as an education specialist at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, in California. There, she pressed for an exhibit on Kent State to state clearly that the National Guard had shot students. What the May 4 Visitors Center has in common with the Nixon Library of recent years, she says, is that it is "striving to get at the truth and also to teach students and visitors how to determine the truth."

Ms. Farmer, who says she was raised conservatively in Kentucky, has a doctoral degree in modern United States history from Ohio State University. She has taught there and at the University of Dayton, and is also teaching at Kent State. She says: "I do seem to have made a career out of these challenging histories." — Peter Monaghan

An Arts Revival

California Institute of the Arts

Steven D. Lavine

After Steven D. Lavine announced in June that he would step down as president of the California Institute of the Arts in the spring of 2017, he went back to work as if nothing had changed.

Mr. Lavine has led the institute, which trains musicians, dancers, filmmakers, and other artists, for 27 years. Along the way he has tripled the amount given in annual fund drives, and raised $42 million to rebuild and reopen the campus in 1994, following a devastating earthquake.

Mr. Lavine, who is 68, says his two years’ notice will allow the institute ample time to find a replacement.

In 1988, when Mr. Lavine took the helm, the private university was plagued by financial problems. He undertook what he calls "cautious rebuilding," ramping up fund raising and hiring new leadership.

"I arrived with notebooks full of ideas," he says. "There was a huge sense of possibility."

Mr. Lavine founded CalArts’ Community Arts Partnership, a program in which faculty members, alumni, and students teach art to youths in Los Angeles, and led efforts to build the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater, a performance space in downtown Los Angeles.

"If it’s worth educating young people to be artists, it’s worth guaranteeing a platform for young experimenting artists," he says.

There have long been questions about the practicality of degrees in the arts, but Mr. Lavine says the institute is constantly looking for ways to help students find postgraduation employment. It recently began offering courses that can lead to a minor in digital arts like computer programming and web design, he says.

The minor "combines art and technology as a way to gain employment in fields that take advantage of artistic principles," he says.

During his remaining time in the top post, Mr. Lavine plans to lead a significant campaign to raise money for financial aid.

"Working is what I do," he says. "I wanted to step down when I was young enough that there is a next half." — Mary Bowerman

Women, Men, and Honors

Courtesy of Susan Dinan

Susan Dinan

Susan Dinan, founding dean of the Pforzheimer Honors College at Pace University, says she wants to make sure that the New York college welcomes not just first-year students but transfer students and current students who discover a passion for learning along the way.

Administrators at many colleges worry that honors programs may be perceived as elite, she says, treating one group of students "in a special manner that is off-putting to others." Keeping the door open "is important in alleviating some of the tensions that may cause."

Until Ms. Dinan became dean, in August, Pace’s honors college, founded in 2003, was run by two directors, one on each of the university’s campuses. In her newly created role, Ms. Dinan will work to shepherd the two branches of the college toward a common vision. In her previous job, as a professor of history at William Paterson University of New Jersey, she directed that institution’s honors college half time.

Honors students, who take selected classes together but do most of their coursework in traditional sections, enrich the institutions they attend, Ms. Dinan says, by raising their academic profiles, providing leadership on the campus, and elevating the level of discourse in all classrooms.

Honors programs tend to enroll more women than men; Ms. Dinan has explored that gender imbalance in her writing.

With nurturing, women in honors programs might recognize that they can pursue degrees in more challenging fields than they had first contemplated, she says. Men, some of whom, research shows, "are more likely to be playing computer games or goofing around, going to the gym or partying, than they are to be studying," can benefit by seeing the standard of behavior set by women, she says, who may, for instance, organize study groups that draw men in. — Isaac Stein

Obituary: Historian Dies at 100

Carl E. Schorske, a professor emeritus of history at Princeton University, died on September 13. He was 100.

Mr. Schorske held positions at Wesleyan University and the University of California at Berkeley before moving to Princeton, in 1969. In the 1970s he led the development of the university’s program in European cultural studies. In 1981 he received a Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction for his book Fin-de-Siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture, which explores political and social upheavals in Austria. He was one of the first recipients of a prestigious Mac­Arthur Fellowship.

His other books include German Social Democracy, 1905-1917, and Thinking With History: Explorations in the Passage to Modernism, a collection of essays.— Anais Strickland

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