Andrew Lear, Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics at Pomona, will not be rehired for next year after a long search process by the Classics Department that several students say they feel was conducted unfairly.
Lear, an expert on sexual depictions on Greek vases, was hired two years ago to temporarily replace an outgoing professor of Greek history. Last fall, the Classics department began a search for a permanent replacement, and they recently decided against rehiring Lear.
A number of students have expressed concerns over the way the search was conducted. According to Classics major Seo “Sarah” Roh PO ’12, the department tried to cut short the search after receiving an application from Professor Sean Corner of McMaster University, whom they wished to hire. Corner was first offered the position two years ago, but he turned it down.
The department attempted to end its search for a replacement and brought Corner to talk to a senior seminar class, but students objected to the abrupt cancellation of the search. Under pressure from students and, according to Roh, Dean of Faculty Cecilia Conrad, the department restarted the search. (When asked for an interview, Conrad said she was unable to discuss personnel issues with TSL.)
Since Classics is an intercollegiate program, with professors at Scripps, Claremont McKenna, Pomona, and Pitzer, some students said they were surprised to learn that the search committee was composed of only Pomona faculty, according to Daniel Martin PO ’14.
Scripps College in particular should have been represented, Martin said, because it already offers courses in Greek, which would be made redundant by a professor of Greek history at Pomona.
Lear had an interview during the search, but he was not selected as a finalist for the position. The job description called for a Greek Historian, which, according to Martin, the search committee did not consider Lear to be. Students, however, have questioned the need to replace Lear.
“It’s unfortunate that they won’t redefine the position’s description,” Adam Littlestone-Luria PO ’13 said. “There’s really no one else in the Classics department who brings that type of energy. He’s one of the best professors I’ve ever had.”
According to Chance Crompton HM ’13, one of Lear’s students, Lear does not fit the department’s idea of a traditional classical historian. In his signature class, “History of Sexuality: The Classical World,” he introduces students to classical civilizations through the lens of gender and sexuality.
“It’s difficult to understand the classical world without understanding gender and sexuality,” said Crompton, an active member of the LGBTQ community. “It’s nice to have a new perspective in an old, established field.”
Roh expressed concerns about the impact on potential majors, noting that Pomona currently has only three students majoring in Classics and that the department is not drawing in new majors.
“I think it could be very strong for the department if our professors would be interdisciplinary,” she said.
“It’s very short-sighted,” Littlestone-Luria added. “Lear is the main reason I’ve gotten interested in Classics. Ancient Sexuality will be gone [as a class] next year.”
Martin said he had been planning to take Greek with Lear next year but will probably not take the class at all now. He added that he had been considering majoring in Classics but thinks that he is now much less likely to do so.
“If there was no Professor Lear, I would not have even been considering Classics,” he said.
Martin was also one of a number of students who e-mailed the members of the search committee to express his concerns over the way the search was being conducted. He said he felt that the search was “unproductive” and that they should “redefine it.”
Professor Richard McKirahan, Chair of the Pomona Classics Department, invited Martin, a first-year, to speak before the search committee. Martin brought along Littlestone-Luria, a sophomore, to witness the meeting.
“They said they needed a Greek historian,” Martin said. “It wasn’t a discussion; it was McKirahan telling us what was what.”
According to Martin, McKirahan said that the search committee could not take into consideration the fact that they knew Lear and knew that he was a good professor.
“Students felt they weren’t being heard,” Roh said. “We feel student opinions aren’t being considered.”
McKirahan said he was unaware of “any argument that students were involved in about Professor Lear.”
Lear declined to comment, citing politeness, but said he will probably be moving back to New York to be with his partner. He is thinking about taking some time off to finish his second book.