Professor Michael Washington was removed as director of Black Studies last summer, a post he had served in since 1987. On Sept. 8, Debra Meyers, assistant chair to the history and geography department, announced via email that the department was considering eliminating the Black Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies minors and instead forming a joint major.
On Oct. 31, the pre-proposals were officially withdrawn by Meyers, who cited “student and faculty opposition” as the reason. But, the issue of Washington’s removal has not yet been addressed.
A Jan. 31 meeting between Washington and History and Geography Department Chair Paul Tenkotte discussed the Black Studies Director position. While Washington has not been offered his old job back, both he and Tenkotte think things are headed in a positive direction.
A Jan. 26 meeting was called by College of Arts and Sciences Dean Samuel Zachary “to discuss issues of collegiality” among himself, Washington, Tenkotte and Diversity and Employee Relations Director Leslie Pierce.
Washington called the meeting “an outstanding success.” In it, he said he agreed with Pierce’s request for intra-departmental mediation.
Washington was quick to point out that this is only his perspective, and “Dean Zachary disagrees with it.” But Zachary’s perspective is unclear because he has refused to comment.
“This is a departmental issue that the chair is working through with faculty, so its inappropriate for me to comment,” Zachary said.
The bad feelings between colleagues stems from Washington’s removal as Black Studies Director. He claims his removal as director was handled incorrectly. According to the Department Chair’s Handbook, “Upon approval of the dean and in consultation with department faculty, chairs may appoint coordinators, directors, or others to whom certain specific administrative duties of the chair may be assigned. The duties of these individuals and their relationship to the chair should be contained in a written document for each such appointment.”
Washington said that there was never a written document that explained his duties, which he believes made it possible for him to be removed from the position incorrectly.
“Before we can pursue any kind of major, we need to have a consensus and compromise and move forward in a positive direction for the sake of the students, faculty and staff,” Tenkotte said.
When asked to speak briefly about the recent meeting and happenings in the department, Debra Meyers responded, “I’m not really part of the Black Studies stuff, so there is nothing I can say.”
Debra Myers has previously met with reporters to discuss the changes to the Black Studies and the Women’s and Gender Studies programs.
Pierce said she was not at liberty to discuss the matter because it involved personnel.
In late November, Washington’s office was vandalized. A banner hanging outside was taken and his name plates were taken from his office door and mail slot. According to Washington, Lou Stuntz, an administrative assistant in the history and geography department, had to put a permanent name tag on his mail slot, because it was repeatedly removed.
Washington said that he believes collegiality shows respect for both an individual and their position and that the mediation process will explore how the basic ethics of collegiality were violated. He said that “healing hurts and redeveloping trust” needs to be priority.