Students Petition for Creation of New Classics Position

Students of Visiting Professor of Classics Andrew Lear have obtained hundreds of student signatures on a letter petitioning Pomona College Dean of Faculty Cecilia Conrad and President David Oxtoby to hire Lear as a tenure-track professor. They plan to present the petition to Conrad at a May 2 meeting.

“It would be tragic if the school were to lose such an exceptional asset,” wrote the 17 students who created the petition. “We the undersigned strongly encourage the college to do whatever is necessary to retain Prof. Lear as a member of the faculty, so that he can continue to teach, inspire, and mentor students at the 5Cs for the rest of his career, as he has done in such an outstanding manner for the past two years.”

The students have been soliciting signatures at dining halls for the past two weeks. As of April 26, 635 students had signed the petition.

The creation of this petition follows the hiring of Benjamin Keim to the Pomona Classics Department.

“In accordance with our standard search procedures, we have hired someone for the open position in classics, so that position is now filled,” Conrad said. “Professor Lear was here as a visiting professor… His contract was a two-year contract and it has come to an end. We don’t have a need for a visitor in classics next year.”

“We are not trying to reverse any of the decisions of the Classics department,” said Daniel Martin PO ’14, a potential classics major who was involved in the creation of the petition. Instead, he explained, they are encouraging the college to create a new position for Lear.

“This department is very important because there is so much of the classics world that contributes to modern society and our understanding of history in general,” Martin said. “We want a vibrant department. Lear has insight into that because of the interdisciplinary nature of what he does.”

Lear is currently teaching classical Greek and a course on sexuality in the classical world.

Martin expressed concern for the future of the department as a whole, because the current classics chair, Richard McKirahan, is also a professor of philosophy.

“When [McKirahan] retires, it's possible he'll be replaced with a philosophy professor,” Martin said.

Conrad said she will meet with the petition writers on May 2, but added that decisions such as this go through the Faculty Position Advisory Committee (FPAC), which makes proposals to the president regarding new and replacement faculty positions. The committee includes three non-voting student members.

“We have a formal process for making recommendations about new faculty positions, and we will not deviate from that process,” Conrad said, referring to the FPAC.

Martin said that if Conrad makes this point in their May 2 meeting, their “response would be to look for precedent of a Target of Opportunity (TOP) hire and emphasize the exceptional nature of our case.”

According to the Pomona website, TOPs are rare, but sometimes occur “when we find a person of such outstanding quality that an appointment will bring the College distinction in the areas of teaching and scholarship.”

The students believe they have cause to request a TOP due to the number of signatures they have acquired and because their petition was created in response to the recent hiring of Keim, which was announced after the deadline for FPAC proposals.

“The size of our petition shows our strength,” Martin said. “And at a small, liberal arts college like Pomona we believe student will should guide policy.”

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