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Letter to the Editor from anonymous Zarb faculty member

I read with great interest “Tenured Zarb professors driven to resign.” I agree with the major point of the article, which is that there is an untenable atmosphere that has led people to retire or resign prematurely. Herman Berliner was serving as the dean during the period when at least five people resigned, retired or were terminated in one particular department. That is a significant percentage of faculty for this department.

As mentioned in the article, there has been a propensity for people in the department to file grievances and complaints as a means to an end. This pattern continues to this day, so the problems have not actually been resolved. It did not help matters that during 2015-6 and 2016-7, two people in the department were officers in the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) at the same time that they were serving on the department’s Department Personnel Committee (DPC). One of those people was serving as the vice president of Grievances, and at least one of those grievances, as mentioned in the article, was against members of the DPC. The new rule in the 2016 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) prohibiting untenured faculty from serving on the DPC has only made the power structure worse. Note that this addition to the CBA was made while two of this department’s faculty who were also on the DPC were serving on the Collective Bargaining Team. The ability to serve on both the DPC and as an officer in the AAUP is something that the AAUP broader membership should consider. 

The big question, of course, is why all these grievances were being filed. That is a problem that the AAUP and the administration should be addressing.

The article notes that “seven” people departed. As far as I know, most of which can be verified through a Google search, the five people who departed the university in 2016 and 2017 are as follows*:

1. Mohamed Gomaa, who had just been reappointed but was not yet tenured, resigned and is now on faculty at another university.

2. Elizabeth Venuti retired and holds the title associate professor emerita at Hofstra. 

3. Linda Schain was a non-tenured teaching administrator for many years. In the summer of 2016, her teaching administrator position was terminated. A new administrative position was created in its place, which Patrick O’Brien now holds. 

4. Christine Tan was not tenured. She was in her first year at Hofstra. She resigned and joined the faculty at another college.

5. Daniel Tinkelman was a tenured full professor. He resigned and now holds an endowed professorship at another college.

*Note that I cannot account for the ‘seven’ that are referenced in the article. Robert Katz passed away tragically in 2016 and is likely the sixth of seven. Only two of the people on the list were tenured.

In her article, Katie Krahulik explores the reasons so many faculty left. Presumably she had more than one source, but only Tinkelman was willing to speak on the record. I give her credit for looking into an issue that it appears the university and the AAUP have largely ignored or at a minimum have failed to adequately address. External constituents (e.g. employers and alumni) frequently inquire as to the turnover.

There has also been instability in the leadership of this department. After Venuti’s promotion to senior associate dean in 2015, there have been four acting or permanent chairs: Daniel Tinkelman, Victor Lopez, Martha Weisel and now Jacqueline Burke. Chairs typically serve for a minimum term of three years. Turnover of chairs is bad in many ways. It affects students, recruitment, alumni, other faculty and staff in the department, etc. The turnover is also indicative of problems in the department. Tinkelman’s resignation is one thing, but the post-Tinkelman period has been no better.

Faculty come and go. This is not to say that new faculty will achieve less than those that left. In fact, they may be even better. However, the departures of these particular faculty did create at least a temporary void in the department, which invariably affected students. On the list of faculty who left are people who taught the most upper level classes in the department, who advised student organizations, who connected the student organizations to their professional counterparts, who won teacher of the year awards, who designed new courses, who infused their curriculum with the latest technology and data analytics, who wrote textbooks and more. Most of the people on this list are regarded as experts in their field and they were good teachers. The void was briefly filled with adjuncts and temporary faculty lines. New faculty have subsequently been hired so the situation is hopefully on its way to being corrected, but it will take years to replace the cumulative years of impactful service and accomplishments of those who departed.

In my opinion, the faculty departures were a loss to the students and the greater Hofstra community and the faculty turnover has never been broadly addressed to those of us who remain in the Zarb family. The high rate of turnover in this department happened during Berliner’s term as dean. I do believe, if they aren’t doing so already, that the administration (including Berliner) and the AAUP should investigate and take steps to ensure that this does not happen again. Untenured faculty members, in particular, need reassurance.

 

Anonymous Faculty Member

 

The views and opinions expressed in the Editorial section are those of the authors of the articles. They are not an endorsement of the views of The Chronicle or its staff. The Chronicle does not discriminate based on the opinions of the authors. The Chronicle reserves the right to not publish any piece that does not meet our editorial standards.

Letter to the Editor from Daniel Tinkelman

Letter to the Editor from members of the Zarb faculty