Board revokes decision to terminate Pascucci

5 years ago Triangle 1

By Meredith Sexton

In response to a recommendation drafted by the Faculty Status Committee (FSC), the Bryan College Board of Trustees recently reversed its decision to eliminate Professor of Spanish Michele Pascucci’s position.

The trustees voted in October to eliminate the Spanish major and minor, leading them also to cut Pascucci, a tenured professor, at the suggestion of Interim Vice President of Academics Kevin Clauson.

Pascucci in last final of the semester / Photo by Meredith Sexton
Pascucci in last final of the semester / Photo by Meredith Sexton

In their Jan. 13 meeting, the committee drafted a recommendation addressed to the Board of Trustees through President Stephen Livesay.

The FSC recommended that her contract be renewed contingent on her remaining in Dayton and teach her classes in person. They also recommended retaining the Spanish major and minor. Rose said it can be extremely expensive to reinstitute a program after it has been cancelled, rather than keeping it.

The FSC, which only meets when necessary, consists of Professor of Business Bill Lay, chair; Professor of English Whit Jones, recorder; Professor of English Beth Impson; Professor of Politics & Government Col. Ron Petitte; and Professor of Christian Ministry Drew Randle. Professor of Psychology Clark Rose, chair of the faculty presided, but did not vote.

Rose said that he believed the efficacy of Pascucci’s Spanish classes had decreased since she began her hybrid courses. He surmised that this might have contributed to the decline of interest in the Spanish program.

One of the FSC’s most compelling points was that the college still needed two full-time professors in order to teach classes required in the core curriculum, according to Clauson.

On Jan. 21, Pascucci received verbal confirmation from Clauson that the board had decided to renew her 2015-16 contract. She has yet to receive written confirmation.

The board sent a letter to Lay on Jan. 29 informing him that the Spanish major and minor would still be eliminated, but that Pascucci would remain, as long as she taught all of her classes in person.

“We are not trending away from Spanish in our culture. I am pleased with the way it was handled and I’m glad that she got her contract renewed,” Rose said.

Rose said he was especially concerned that neither tenure nor seniority had been honored in the decision to cut Pascucci’s position.

“Tenure is important, but not absolute. It can be overridden,” Clauson said. “It is all a balancing act.”

For this reason, the board chose to eliminate Pascucci’s position instead of Professor of Languages and Linguistics Dwight Page, who teaches both French and Spanish. Clauson said it was necessary to provide a full-time professor for multiple languages over a single one.

However, according to Clauson, the college can cut back on costs by concentrating on the core classes and support fewer upper-level Spanish courses.

He said that, while Spanish is not going to disappear, there seems to be an increase in demand for languages like Russian, American Sign Language or Chinese, rather than Spanish, making it less likely that the major would ever need to be reinstated.

“This has been an emotional rollercoaster,” Pascucci said. “I am very happy that this process was in place to address these types of issues and that the process worked and that truth and justice prevailed in this case.”

Though she will be able to return in the fall, the major and minor will not. Pascucci said she found this decision to be shortsighted and that cutting the program, while keeping the professors, held no real financial benefit.

Pascucci said she is conflicted about working for a place like Bryan after this situation, especially if it means giving up her work in D.C.

She said she was troubled that tenure was not respected and is worried that that might become a precedent.

“It’s not the same Bryan as when I started…I’ve invested a lot and there were some good years, but something has changed. Something has broken,” Pascucci said.

Rose said he was similarly concerned for other professors who might see a drop in their enrollment. He added that tenure does not guarantee anything, but it was still a shock to see it overridden. It is mostly an honor, while adding an element of security, he said.