Beloved Professor Let Go
Once again New School students are fulminating over the administration’s decision to let a popular professor go and have organized a petition to voice their opposition to the move.
Tracyann Williams has taught cultural and gender studies at The New School for General Studies since 1998. She recently attempted to apply for a tenured position at NSGS, with the division undergoing a transition to a tenured faculty from its current, mostly adjunct one. Not only was Williams denied the position, but her contract, set to expire at the end of this semester, was not renewed.
Williams declined to comment for this article.
Many of Williams’ students have collaborated over the past month to organize a petition drive. They have collected nearly 400 signatures, both in person and online. Most of the students involved, many of whom are working adults, are in the Bachelor’s program at NSGS. Several students made it clear that they are taking up this cause of their own accord and not at Williams’ request. They said that Williams has taken no role in the petition drive.
One of the issues raised by the petition is the lack of divisional independence in the faculty contract renewal process. Faculty contracts at The New School are generally approved by a university-wide panel, which can be problematic because it calls for professors from other divisions to approve the contracts of faculty with whom they may have had little contact. The official reason for Williams’ dismissal remains confidential, but some argue that it may have occurred because faculty in other divisions judged her by the fact that she has yet to complete her Ph.D. rather than their knowledge of her as a professor.
Organizers delivered the petition to NSGS Dean David Scobey and foreign languages chair Anthony Anemone. Scobey responded in a letter addressed
“Your messages have been full of concern for Professor Williams and your education, and we have felt the tone of respect and dialogue towards us,” Scobey wrote. “We are grateful for such a student body.”
Scobey declined to comment to the Free Press on Williams’ situation out of respect for her privacy.
Many students have posted positive comments on Williams’ behalf on the online petition, describing her as a valuable professor and an exceedingly positive influence on The New School.
“The integrity that Professor Williams embodies is a much needed alternative to the mechanical learning that is sweeping the nation,” one post said.
“Tracyann is an inspiration and a mentor to many students that have come to The New School in search of a progressive, challenging and empowering education,” another commented.