The controversy surrounding news that Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics Andrew Lear would not be rehired for next year took a new turn last week as students began rallying support for a petition to keep Lear in Claremont. The controversy developed two weeks ago as some students reacted to what they deemed an unfair selection process in choosing a replacement Classics professor.
The student protest evolved last week into a petition that seeks to secure a “targeted opportunity hire,” which would allow Lear a tenure track position in the Classics department. This type of hire can occur in two situations: if a high profile or prominent figure becomes available for a professorship or if a temporary professor is asked to continue working in the position.
Daniel Martin PO ’14, who has taken classes with Lear this year and is one of 17 students organizing the petition, explained that a targeted opportunity hire indicates a school's belief that “this person can be an asset to the community and that we need him now.”
Students canvassed across the 5Cs on Monday, April 11, for student signatures, and said they plan to submit the petition to the Pomona administration on either Monday, April 18, or Tuesday, April 19. Martin said he thought students could collect 1,000 signatures by the end of the week.
“The administration wouldn’t be under obligation to do what we say,” Martin said. But he said he hoped that with a high number of signatures, the petition might have some more sway with administrators.
Lear declined to comment on the petition.
Scripps Associate Professor of Classics David Roselli agreed with the argument from some students that the search to find a new professor was conducted questionably, and he pointed out that any change would not affect the program at Pomona, but also at Scripps, Claremont McKenna, and Pitzer, since the Classics program is intercollegiate.
“Things were handled in a way that I personally would not have done, in a way I wouldn’t have handled them,” he said. “If Lear’s not here, which it now seems like he won’t be, it’ll be a loss.”
Roselli said he believes that Lear held an important role in the Classics program and inspired students.
“He teaches classes that I think we need to be teaching more of,” he said. “He has a good camaraderie with students.”
Martin said that Lear was a key player in connecting the Classics department to other subjects.
“He provides a link to other departments. He’s a very interdisciplinary guy,” Martin said. “The Classics department is going to shrink.”
Roselli added that, if the petition doesn't lead to Lear's rehire, he is concerned about the student response to Benjamin Keim, the new Classics professor hired for next year.
“He’s going to be walking into a complicated situation,” Roselli said, adding that although Keim is totally innocent in the situation, during his first year here he might be “living under the shadow of this situation.”
Martin emphasized his belief that Lear’s denial of rehire is an important issue on campus and one that students should pay attention to because they might have the chance to reverse the decision.
“I would encourage all Pomona students that care about excellence in teaching to pay attention to this petition,” he said.