My daughter is a student Baylor University in Waco, Texas. There is an English professor named Joseph Jeyaraj (pronounced "jayrash") who joined the faculty of Baylor University's English Department during 2001 in a tenure track position. Dr. Jeyaraj's Christian testimony is very moving. He is not only a solid, evangelical Christian, he is an outstanding scholar. For some unknown reason, Dr. Jayaraj was given no document at the time of his hiring which would have informed him of the standards by which he would be judged when it came time for tenure review.
In 2003 a new tenure track policy document was approved by Baylor University's Provost's Office outlining the standards to be followed in the English Department for adjudicating faculty members' candidacy for tenure. This document and information was also withheld from Dr. Jeyaraj. The document states:
Each year, the chair will appoint three members of the tenured faculty to a Teaching Review Committee. Members will serve for three years, starting in fall 2003. One member will be replaced in 2004, another in 2005, and the third in 2006. After 2004, all newly-appointed members of the committee will serve for three years, but will be replaced at the staggered intervals suggested by the above. Barring extraordinary circumstances, the membership of the Teaching Review Committee will rotate through all members of the tenured faculty before any member is asked to repeat this service. Criteria for Tenure: English Department, Baylor University, 1 March 2003", p. 5
This Teaching Review Committee was designed, according to the manual, to provide mentors for tenure track faculty in the English Department and to assist in the growth of the faculty member's classroom skills and scholarship. Joseph never experienced this mentoring due to the information being withheld from him by his department chair. The reason for not informing Joseph of the Teaching Review Committee and the official tenure review process is seen by what happened next.
The English Department discontinued Joseph in 2004. However, due to the protests of those in the know, the university acknowledged shortly thereafter that a mistake had been made and it reversed the decision. Soon after this reversal, at the urging of the Provost, Dean Daniel appointed a committee to independently investigate Joseph's performance. The committee fully exonerated Dr. Jeyaraj, and in a report delivered in 2005, the Daniel committee said that Joseph's teaching, research, service and collegiality were all good.
Here's Where Things Get Worse
However, despite the exoneration by the Daniel Committee, in the spring of last year, 2006, the English Department of Baylor University discontinued Joseph's employment again. It was said he was denied tenure because he did not follow the approved 2003 guidelines for tenure track positions. This was when Joseph discovered for the first time that there was such a document -- it was never offered to him or explained to him -- but then used against him for termination.
In a letter dated March 20, 2006, Dean Nordt summarized the reasons for discontinuing Dr. Jeyaraj:
"According to several tenured faculty members, [Dr. Jeyaraj] has not made satisfactory progress [in the area of collegiality]. Others believe Dr. Jeyaraj's difficulties in getting along with his colleagues stem from cultural differences".
It was less than a year earlier that the Daniel committee, appointed to investigate the unjust discontinuation, reported:
In sum, reliable first-hand accounts of Dr. Jeyaraj's collegiality suggest that, while there have been misunderstandings with some faculty members, no problems in this area would indicate serious deficiencies. This committee was formed, in part, to respond to concerns that Dr. Jeyaraj was denied tenure based on allegations received at second and third hand; therefore, this committee must avoid repeating that error by not relying on information that may be in a personnel file to which we have been denied access (emphasis mine). According to all first hand accounts, this committee has heard, no serious problems with collegiality exist.
For several years Joseph's chair, Dr. Maurice Hunt, maintained files, which he refused to disclose, but based his public recommendations upon. The usual tactic of those who wish to get rid of someone without having to prove cause is to simply say, "Trust (us), there's a problem. We won't tell you what the problem is, nor give you evidence that exists, but it is there."
One might ask, 'Why is Dr. Joseph Jeyaraj treated in such an unjust manner, as compared to other tenure track faculty?' I would propose that just as conservative fundamentalists are intolerant of those who are different than them, liberal fundamentalists are also intolerant of anyone who is unlike them. I imagine that most Baylor parents, like me and Rachelle, who are paying $30,000 a year in tuition for their child's college education would much rather see evangelicals in tenure track positions rather than known Marxists or classic liberals as Baylor University has hired in the past. Dr. Jeyaraj is the kind of professor I desire my daughter to have, and the obvious desire by those in control of the tenure review process to remove Joseph is troubling.
If someone responds, 'But surely there are just reasons academic reasons for discontinuing Joseph Jeyaraj?' the answer would be 'No, there is not." I have been informed that academic departments at Baylor grant tenure on the strength of five or six scholarly articles in peer-reviewed journals, requiring that three or more of the articles appear in top-tier journals for the particular area of discipline. Joseph has two articles in print in tier-one journals, one article in print in an Indian journal, two articles in print in conference proceedings (these had been submitted to the conferences, and were thus, we assume, peer-reviewed), and four articles forthcoming, two of which are in tier-one journals. One of the articles in print is going to be reprinted in a book to be published by a reputable publisher in Joseph's field. He has acceptance letters for all the forthcoming articles.
In addition, the Daniel Committee, just one year earlier summarized the excellent work of Dr. Jeyaraj as follows:
The evaluators were unanimously positive about his teaching; his rapport with students; his ability to mix quizzes, lecture, discussion, and analysis of texts; his effective use of examples to illustrate rhetorical strategies in technical writing; and his linking assignments and discussion to a specifically Baylor culture. Evaluators noticed that Dr. Jeyaraj chats amiably with students as they enter the classroom. During the class, he moves around the room, encouraging students in their in-class assignments and gently prodding their participation in discussion. Dr. Jeyaraj was also able to weave into the conversation instructive comments about the complexities of globalized communication. No one noticed any evidence of tensions in the classroom or deficiencies in the manner of presentation; on the contrary, all concur that Dr. Jeyaraj is doing an admirable job of engaging students and making them active learners. He brings to his students both an expertise in the art of technical writing and a global perspective that they rarely encounter at Baylor.
Again, why the harsh treatment of Joseph by his own department? One can't help but assume that since Joseph is an evangelical Christian and a supporter of Baylor's 2012 Vision that the politics of the fundamentalist liberals have gotten in the way of fair treatment of Dr. Jeyaraj. It's the Klouda and Clippard issue in reverse. One wonders if a prejudice against Joseph's brand of Christianity is the cause of the unusually harsh judgment of his collegiality and teaching. I am beginning to discover that some junior faculty in reactionary departments at Baylor often suffer for their Christian and academically progressive views.
Our children at Baylor deserve better than this kind of treatment of the very professors we desire to teach them. I am putting the regents and administration on notice that liberal fundamentalism causes me just as much consternation as conservative fundamentalism.
And I will do something to stop both from destroying our Southern Baptist agencies, schools and ministry. But I'm not sure it's me Baylor should worry about. Inconsistency in the review process of tenure track professors, or violating the institution's guidelines for tenure track review, or intentionally withholding tenure track guidelines from faculty -- and then using those same guidelines for discontinuation of a professor -- will draw the attention of accrediting agencies.
Let's hope Baylor University wakes up before it's too late.
In His Grace,