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Why the Case of Dr. Kim Evans Should Matter to You

Published: Friday, May 18, 2012

Updated: Sunday, May 20, 2012 01:05


Dr. Kim Evans’ appeal for tenure has been officially denied as of May 4, 2012. 360 signatures, 23 months (since the tenure process began—the appeal process has taken over 3 months), and countless expressed concerns later, Professor Kim Evans’ appointment at Stern has been terminated. As a student body rightly concerned with the lack of transparency and absence of agreed-upon criteria for evaluative procedures at Stern College for Women, this is a matter that should be of concern to the entire undergraduate community, both to those who have and those who have not taken courses with Professor Evans.

A quick timeline: Professor Evans began teaching at Stern in 2008. She left a well-established position at Redlands University in California, where she was poised for tenure in the upcoming semester. Because of her exceptional qualifications, she was invited to Stern on a ‘short-clock’ tenure track, meaning she would be considered for tenure after an unusually short period. She was given three semesters teaching and one pre-tenure sabbatical (served during the Spring semester of 2010) before being considered for tenure. It should be noted that Professor Evans left her well-respected and hard-earned position in California precisely to come to Stern College for Women, as the unique nature of our student body and dual curriculum was, she thought, a very good fit for her intellectual and pedagogical interests.

As planned, Professor Evans filed for tenure in June of 2010. After waiting for over a year, an abnormally long waiting period, Professor Evans was informed in June of 2011 that her application had been denied. No reasons for her denial have ever been provided except for what she has been told by Dean Bacon: that, as Professor Evans reports, “concerns had been raised about the quality of my teaching,” despite the fact that this “did not come from the students,” who the Dean said were “hugely and overwhelmingly unanimous in their support,” and also that concerns had been raised about “the quality of my research,” despite the fact that there was, as she said, “no question of concern about its quantity.”

“If there were concerns about my teaching methods, I would have been more than happy to address the concerns. But the department never once brought any such concerns to my attention,” said Dr. Evans in a recent interview with The Observer. “I was given no chance to address any such concerns, nor was I ever provided with an explanation of what these concerns were.” A nearly perfect teaching record and a small army of dedicated students only deepens the question.

On the grounds of procedural errors, Dr. Evans formally requested an appeal within 72 hours of learning about the denial of her tenure application. The meeting with the Provost-appointed appeal committee took place in on January 30th, 2011. “I was told by the Provost that the whole appeal process would be completed within a month,” said Professor Evans. Over three months later, Professor Evans received a letter from the Provost, dated May 4, 2012, three lines in length with an accompanying one-page long letter, termed a ‘report,’ from the ad hoc tenure appeals committee. The letter informed Dr. Evans of the final decision to deny the appeal, and the termination of her appointment at Stern. The report cited Dr. Evans’ own stated grounds for her appeal and then rejected the grounds. No account was provided for the reasons for the denial, and no evaluation of the tenure procedure was offered.

It is important to note that nothing is guaranteed in the field of academia. However, one must question why a Professor, hired and placed on an accelerated tenure track specifically for her exceptional qualifications, was then be denied tenure on those very same grounds.

A brief look at Dr. Evans’ work: Dr. Evans boasts an impressive array of publications and professional recognitions. Among her numerous accomplishments, (which can be viewed in full on her CV posted at yu.edu) Dr. Evans has published one critical book (Whale!University of Minnesota Press, 2003) and has one forthcoming from the same A-level academic press and 9 published peer-reviewed articles—competitive credentials for even top-tier universities. Dr. Evans has in addition been the recipient of several teaching awards and highly competitive scholarly grants, including a Fulbright Research Fellowship. Aside from her academic accomplishments, Professor Evans totes a nearly perfect student record. Just this year (and for the second year in a row) she was among the top three faculty members nominated by students to receive the prestigious Lillian F. and William L. Silber Award, a yearly recognition of one outstanding faculty member.

Stern students have actively spoken out in support of Dr. Evans. At the most recent Town Hall Meeting, four student leaders presented President Joel with a petition signed by 360 students over the course of two days. They additionally presented President Joel with a letter detailing student concerns (attached at right).

Providing some words of assurance, Dean Karen Bacon commented, “The strong support Dr. Evans has from the students she has taught was never in question. Students can feel assured that this information was clearly included in her tenure review dossier and formed part of the formal documents that were considered.”

But, no matter how much student support Dr. Evans received, student support is not what ultimately gains a professor tenure. “At the end of the day, what the student body has to realize is that this case is not just about the loss of one Professor,” said Jina Davidovich, editor for The Commentator and active student leader. “It is a case about transparency within our institution when it comes to administrative decisions that directly affect the student body. This case is about the absence of an objective set of standards in order to prevent the tenure process from becoming arbitrary and secretive.”  

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