Good instructors leaving

By Kirstin Morrell

Dr. Linda Henderson, winner of three University of Calgary Students’ Union Teaching Excellence Awards, will not be teaching at the university next year. The university instructor’s contract will not be renewed, amidst speculation that her views conflict with those of administration.

This has enraged numerous students in many faculties, who do not understand why a professor with such a distinguished career would be let go.

“She is an amazing professor and an amazing person,” said second-year Communications student Steven Rozon. “She’s been one of the best teachers I’ve ever had.”

Rozon said that he was determined to take a class with Dr. Henderson even before he came to the university, based solely on her reputation. Dr. Henderson is known for her innovative style in teaching and Rozon also said that she inspires and guides him, not just in his studies, but in life matters as well.

“She’s been a huge influence and support in my life,” he added. “She gets it.”

Others view the move by administration to not renew her contract with suspicion.

“It seems like it was a political move,” said Sociology student Karen Baerg. “She’s always been an advocate for students.”

The Students’ Academic Assembly passed a resolution on Mon., Mar. 3, in response to complaints that many qualified instructors like Dr. Henderson were losing their jobs.

The SAA resolution stated, “The Students’ Union oppose[s] the termination or non-renewal of faculty contracts for those who have a demonstrated record of teaching excellence.”

They also resolved to create a formal policy regarding the role of non-tenure track faculty.

Dean of Social Sciences Stephen Randall, refused to comment. However, he has corresponded directly with individual students on the matter.

Sociology department head Dr. Richard Wanner did not want to comment, except to say that Dr. Henderson was on a series of one-year contracts with the department, filling in for faculty members who were either on leave or seconded to the administration.

Dr. Wanner stated, “In view of the seven per cent budget cut mandated by the university administration, which translates into some $1.2 million [over two years] in the Faculty of Social Sciences, the dean felt that we could not renew her contract.”

Students’ Union Communication and Culture Representative Laura Schultz was disappointed that Henderson’s contract would not be renewed because of the need to cut budgets.

“Unfortunately the easiest way to accomplish this is to cut faculty because it eliminates salary and proceeds to no longer having the position there,” she said.

Schultz also saw the need for faculty who do not participate in research.

“Instructors are often teachers, not researchers, their primary responsibility is to teach and be there to help undergrads learn the basics,” she said.

Third-year Environmental Science student Erin Rooney is also angered that the university will not be renewing Dr. Henderson’s teaching contract.

“In a time when the U of C is trying to make a better name for themselves and show that they have some of the best professors around, they will be failing miserably if they do not change their minds in regards to Linda Henderson,” Rooney said.

According to SU Vice-President Academic Jayna Gilchrist, the future of another professor whose teaching has also been recognised may be in doubt. Dr. Diane Howard from Communication and Culture may also not be renewed.

Students will demonstrate against the university’s decision with a sit-in this Friday, though details could not be confirmed by press time.


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