AJC On Campus: Tenure review battle, Students fight for Morehouse professor

Georgia congresswoman wades into mask debate
Talk show host Nick Cannon surprises seven students attending historically Black colleges and universities, including a Clark Atlanta student, by announcing that his show will help pay off their student loan debt once they graduate. PHOTO CREDIT: The Nick Cannon Show.

Talk show host Nick Cannon surprises seven students attending historically Black colleges and universities, including a Clark Atlanta student, by announcing that his show will help pay off their student loan debt once they graduate. PHOTO CREDIT: The Nick Cannon Show.

Last week, we told you about ongoing battles between faculty members and administrators on several Georgia campuses.

Some of those disputes continue, such as one surrounding the University System of Georgia’s proposed changes to its post-tenure review. Here’s the latest on that, a student-led effort to support a former Morehouse College professor and how a celebrity stepped up to help some HBCU students in this edition of AJC On Campus.

USG tenure update

Many professors are continuing their efforts to convince the University System of Georgia to edit, or scrap, proposed changes to its post-tenure review process.

The system’s top official, acting chancellor Teresa MacCartney, sent a letter late Friday to a professor closely involved in the dispute, saying her team has modified the “fired without cause” language in one section of the revision.

Gone is this part: “A faculty member may also be separated from employment prior to the end of the contract term other than for cause as outlined here, pursuant to other policies of the Board of Regents.”

The professor, Matt Boedy, Georgia chapter president of the American Association of University Professors, said in a reply to MacCartney that is an improvement, but several other very detailed changes must be made.

“In short, the (Georgia Board of Regents) is erasing the key element in deciding professional fitness - peer review,” said Boedy, a University of North Georgia professor.

Boedy is among those who believe the changes are an attempt to gut tenure. System officials said at the September Regents meeting the revisions are largely aimed at ensuring student success is a greater factor in measuring the faculty member’s work.

The board is currently scheduled to vote on the proposed changes at its Oct. 12-13 meeting at Georgia Tech. The impending vote comes as a few University of Georgia faculty members buck the system by requiring students wear masks in their classes. Administrators have warn that violates system guidelines.

System officials there’s no connection between the timing of the proposed changes, noting a committee — that included some faculty — began reviewing the process last year. A system spokesman said Monday that they’re planning to make some wording changes based on faculty feedback, which we are continuing to receive from its 26 schools.

Students petition Morehouse College to rehire professor

More than 300 people have signed a petition demanding Morehouse College rehire a popular professor who went to bat for a student who filed a discrimination lawsuit against the school earlier this year.

The former Morehouse professor, Eric Baker, also known as Adisa Iwa, was on a search committee for an academic program Baker helped create that the student said rejected him after disclosing he’s HIV-positive. Baker said rejecting the application would be “morally wrong and probably illegal.”

The Change.org petition says Baker was wrongfully terminated at the start of this semester.

“As students, we believe that his termination has more to do with his vocal advocacy against the maltreatment of students than it does the ‘official’ stated reason that was given,” the petition says.

Baker’s attorney, Ron Sullivan, said in an email that “Prof. Baker is an accomplished teacher and one of the few black writers with firm footing in Hollywood. Academic institutions are designed to be spaces that allow for differences of opinion, robust debate, and civil discourse. Punishing someone for expressing a view different from his department’s narrative is wrong, and especially so at one of the country’s great colleges.”

Morehouse spokesman Cedric Mobley said the college, a private institution, would not discuss this situation because it is a personnel matter.

“Morehouse College respects and celebrates the brilliance of each of our students and the dedication of our incredible faculty. That respect extends into matters involving personnel and student privacy, which we do not discuss,” Mobley said in a statement. “We do, however, continue to listen to our students and employees and appreciate each perspective.”

Morehouse’s 10 under 10

So, Morehouse has some prominent graduates. They include track and field legend Edwin Moses, former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johson, film director Spike Lee and, of course, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The college, though, in recent years has been trying to do more to highlight its more recent alums. Morehouse recently announced its 10 Under 10, aimed at honoring ten notable alumni who graduated between 2011 and 2021.

The submission deadline is Oct. 9.

Georgia congresswoman jumps into mask mandate fight

Congresswoman Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-GA) speaks at a press conference on Medicaid expansion with other democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on September 23rd, 2021.

Credit: Nathan Posner

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Credit: Nathan Posner

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, D-Suwanee, is jumping into the mask mandate debate.

Bourdeaux, a former Georgia State University faculty member, wrote a letter her staff released Monday to U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona asking for a meeting to figure out whether mask mandates can apply to colleges and universities receiving federal COVID-19 funds.

“[E]mployees at our Universities are essentially compelled to work in unsafe environments or quit their jobs. In fact, several professors have quit and others have expressed grave concerns about their safety, the safety of their students and of the university community. As a former teacher at Georgia State University, I am deeply concerned about the lack of protections for my former co-workers as well as for our students,” she wrote.

The University System of Georgia has strongly encouraged, but not required, students wear masks in classrooms. Many faculty members, though, want a mandate.

Louise McBee’s lasting gift to UGA

Louise McBee, a former University of Georgia administrator and state lawmaker. PHOTO CREDIT: UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA.

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Longtime University of Georgia educator and former state lawmaker Louise McBee died in March, but she continues to leave an impactful legacy.

Her estate left $3.5 million to UGA’s Institute of Higher Education. In tribute, university officials on Wednesday announced it renamed its institute after McBee.

The gift will support the Louise McBee Distinguished Professorship in Higher Education and the Louise McBee Lecture in Higher Education. Additional funds will create an endowment to enhance its strategic partnerships and other initiatives.

“Dr. McBee’s extraordinary legacy of leadership and service to UGA and the state of Georgia is one that will be remembered for generations to come,” UGA President Jere Morehead said in a statement. “For her many contributions to this institution and to public higher education, we are pleased to recognize her and link her with the institute she cared so much about.”

McBee worked at UGA from 1963 to 1988. She was the first dean of women and subsequently served as dean of students, assistant vice president for instruction, associate and senior associate vice president for academic affairs, and acting vice president for academic affairs. McBee later served 13 years in the Georgia House of Representatives, which included time as chair of the House Higher Education Committee.

Nick Cannon to help pay off loan debt for HBCU students

Seven students from historically Black colleges and universities, including one from Clark Atlanta University, got a big surprise from entertainer Nick Cannon.

The students were on his new talk show, discussing the challenges they’ve faced pursuing their educations.

The Clark Atlanta student, Jeydah Jenkins, said she started a business selling empanadas, using her grandmother’s recipe, to help pay for her tuition and expenses. To pay it forward, Jenkins said she does an event each Wednesday to highlight other student entrepreneurs.

Clark Atlanta University student Jeydah Jenkins, who started her own business to help pay her tuition and other expenses, learned during a recent appearance on the Nick Cannon Show, that the entertainer is going to help pay off her student loan debt when she graduates. PHOTO CREDIT: The Nick Cannon Show.

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At the end of the segment, Cannon, a HBCU graduate (Howard University), said his show will work with the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund and others to pay off their student loans when the students graduate.

Next came screams, hugs and some tears.

“The future is all yours,” Cannon told the students. “You’re going to make us proud.”

The segment aired last week. You can watch it here.

COVID-19 cases continue to drop on campuses

Some more good news. The number of new COVID-19 cases continued last week to drop on most of Georgia’s largest colleges and universities.

Georgia State and Kennesaw State universities, which have the largest enrollments in the state, have reported declines in each of the last three weeks. Cases at the University of Georgia remained steady.

Are students telling the truth about vaccinations?

Some new research suggests many college students are lying about getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Intelligent.com published a survey of 1,250 unvaccinated college students found 55% of them who attend schools with a vaccine mandate lied about their vaccine status. Nearly one-half of those students said they got a phony vaccination card. Others claimed a false medical or religious exemption.

Several Atlanta-area colleges and universities have required students get vaccinated this semester to be on campus.

Emory’s acknowledgment

Emory University President Gregory Fenves last week spoke about a tragic chapter in the Emory story.”

The university apologized for its role in displacing indigenous people from land that became the school’s campus. The university’s “land acknowledgment” statement came a day before a three-day symposium on its history with slavery and Native American land dispossession.

Fenves said the school will continue to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day and take steps to establish a stronger connection with the Muscogee Nation. Read more here.

Georgia State’s vast photo collection

If, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, Georgia State University’s archives have plenty to say.

The university is in the midst of archiving 10 million photographs, slides, negatives, videotape and movie film, preferably in a 10,000 square-foot space underneath another GSU property.

Here’s our recent report about it.

Coming Up:

The Technical College System of Georgia holds its monthly board meeting Thursday.