The End of Being a Duke Professor and What It Means for the Future of Higher Education

roxy2707 (Posted by) Level 3
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The end of the spring semester marks the 20th anniversary of my professorship at Duke, first as an assistant professor and then as an associate professor of the practice at the Sanford School of Public Policy. During this time, I regularly taught the required ethics class for all undergraduate public policy majors. I won multiple teaching awards, consistently received scores on student teaching evaluations above the school average and, in a Duke Chronicle poll of undergraduates, was ranked as one of the three most popular professors at Duke University for several years.

Therefore, I was blindsided last April when informed that my contract would not be renewed, particularly given that for the past five years (I was on a five-year renewable contract) I was never informed of any problem with any aspect of my performance. Nor was I given an evaluation, despite a change to the Duke bylaws in 2017 mandating such reviews (see here).

Word - Non-renewal - Contract - Letter - Defense

When word of the non-renewal of my contract got out, a letter written in my defense, signed by 100 former students, was published in the Duke Chronicle, and these same students and others began a letter-writing campaign imploring the Sanford administration to reconsider their decision.

Last April, I filed a complaint with the Faculty Hearing Committee (FHC), a university-wide committee tasked with hearing faculty complaints on matters such as tenure and contract renewal. In their written report, they made clear (as Sanford never did) the actual reason for the loss of my job: Dissatisfaction with my “classroom performance.” Specifically:

Professor - Charney - Tendency - Reactions - Students

Professor Charney’s tendency to provoke negative reactions, and perhaps harm, among some students in the classroom due to his confrontational teaching style—a style that had a tendency to be polarizing among students, particularly in a required Sanford course in which not all students could choose to have Professor Charney as...
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