Carmichael appeal denied, tenure decision upheld

 

Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Chris Carmichael was informed last week that his tenure denial had been upheld by the Faculty Grievance Committee despite his appeal.

The decision comes after Carmichael had initially been denied tenure by the Promotion and Tenure Committee in February. As a result, Carmichael will be leaving Malone at the end of this semester.

Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Chris Carmichael continues to pursue another job with four weeks left at Malone. Carmichael will take many of the reptiles in the Timken Science Hall serpentarium with him. (Photo by Chelsea Weikart)

“Right now I’m still disgruntled as to the reasons [for denial] that were given to me by the president, which come from the Grievance Committee and the Promotion and Tenure Committee,” Carmichael said. “They haven’t been specifically outlined. I was supposed to get the details of that [in] my last meeting with Dr. King, but I have yet to get that.  Just a bunch of generalities that honestly don’t make a lot of sense.”

Carmichael has already begun looking for jobs since he has to leave at the end of the semester in about a month. His most recent quest for a job took him to Georgia.

“Being denied promotion and tenure sort of makes you a bit of a lame duck,” he said. “It has come up now over and over in interviews and even down here in Georgia it has come up quite a bit, but fortunately they have an administration that can see past some of the lies.”

“I just want the administration to step up and say, ‘Yeah, we screwed up,’ but they won’t say that,” he said. “I just want to make sure that this stuff doesn’t happen to anyone again. I think the whole system has to be majorly overhauled and people have to open their eyes and really see the heinous nature of what happened with my situation.”

Most of the animals in the serpentarium belong to Carmichael and his brother, Rob. All those animals will be shipped out throughout the week.  This move has already begun and each animal container is labeled with who it belongs to.

A grant from the Hoover Foundation purchased several pythons that live in the serpentarium. According to Carmichael, they have instructed him to take the snakes with him.

This leaves some hissing cockroaches, mice, two iguanas, and fish.

“If this is what God’s will is and if this is what God wants to happen, then it’s happening for a reason,” Carmichael said. “I’m totally resolved in that.  Hopefully in the end the main beneficiary will be the students. Hopefully we can all forgive and forget and move on and it won’t happen to somebody else.”

Student protest

The decision was protested by zoo and wildlife biology students—as well as others, including alumni—on a Facebook page titled “Support Dr. Carmichael!”  Some students even mentioned organizing a peaceful protest outside Founder’s Hall.

Carmichael himself commented on the Facebook page in the middle of last week, expressing his dissatisfaction with the decision. Among other things, he referred to President Dr. David King and other administrators as “snakes” in one post and said that “God will allow those involved [with the decision] to reap what they have sowed.”

Carmichael expressed his support of the students in whatever they decide to do.

“I am not directing any protests, students have a right to express their frustrations and concerns. … The administration probably won’t listen unless the voices get loud, and that’s the way they’ve always been,” he said. “It’s up to the students to decide what they want to do. Maybe it is just time to move on. It’s up to them.”

King and other administrators spoke to students about the issue during a meeting in the Johnson Center Dining Room on Wednesday, March 21. Students were permitted to ask questions, but according to an audio recording obtained from a student at the meeting, the specific details behind Carmichael’s tenure denial were not addressed.

This Burmese Python is one of the snakes paid for by a grant from the Hoover Foundation. Carmichael will take these snakes with him as well as upwards of 90% of the rest of the animals. (Photo by Chelsea Weikart)

The administration speaks

Although word of Carmichael’s tenure denial has spread through Facebook and other venues, King said there would not be any official announcement about the results of Carmichael’s appeal. During an interview, King said he could not comment on the reasons behind Carmichael’s tenure denial due to legal considerations. However, he said some of the questions students have may be resolved in time.

“Because of what we know [this situation] means to students, it would be nice to be able to solve this much more immediately and address some of the underlying questions much more immediately,” King said. “But some aspects of this will simply require time.”

Although the administration has attempted to communicate with students throughout the process during meetings such as the one on March 21, King said those closest to the decision making process aren’t always in direct contact with students.

“Sometimes Malone feels like a big university,” he said. “Sometimes it feels like a really small university. I say that [because] right now it feels big in the sense that myself and others who are fairly directly involved in this can’t be immediately proximal to the students.”

King specifically addressed the concerns of students who are frustrated as a result of the process.

“I’m hopeful that over time there will be more that we can say that will be meaningful to them,” he said. “At the same time, it seems as if there may be in the minds of some, in the minds of a few, some questions that simply don’t have an answer. I hope that’s not the case. I hope in time we can alleviate some questions and anxiety and, as I said at [last week's] meeting, frustration and anger.”

King declined to comment on Carmichael’s posts on the “Support Dr. Carmichael!” page beyond saying they were “unfortunate.” Dean of the College of Theology, Arts, and Sciences Dr. Nathan Phinney said he was aware of the Facebook page and the reactions Carmichael and students had toward the tenure denial decision.

“Students have a right to express what they feel and think and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” Phinney said. “I think as Christians we always have to be thoughtful about the ways in which we do that. But when we feel called to speak about something and we do it in a way that is faithful to who we are in Christ, then I think that’s rarely a bad thing.”

Looking Forward

Carmichael said he will be seeking legal advice by the end of the week.

“I’m here for another four weeks,” he said, “and I’m going to fight til the end.”

Chelsea Weikart is managing/news editor for The Aviso AVW.

 

 

Jesse Peek is editor-in-chief for The Aviso AVW.

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6 Responses to “Carmichael appeal denied, tenure decision upheld”

  1. Andrew Dole #

    Though I fear I’m expressing a view that will be extremely unpopular among the supporters of Dr. Carmichael, it isn’t very surprising that his appeal was denied after the events during the appeal process unfolded as they did.

    First of all, his decision to become involved in the student protest over the denial of tenure, especially to the extent of publicly posting documents involved in the appeal and making documents sent to him by those involved in the appeal process available for students to view was extremely unprofessional. It simply wasn’t his place to turn the appeal process into an open spectacle, and it would be irresponsible of any grievance committee deciding whether or not to give Dr. Carmichael tenure to have not considered these actions when making a decision. If there wasn’t a reason to deny his appeal before his actions during the appeal process, he essentially gave them one in how he handled himself.

    Secondly, the manner in which he addressed the committees and individuals involved in the appeal process through his postings, both during and after the appeal process, were nothing short of graceless. In a posting he made on March 2nd in the Facebook group supporting him, Dr. Carmichael makes claims that members of the P&T committee hold personal biases against him, and have sabotaged his tenure process. Specifically, he outright calls Dr. Tucker a liar in this post, while ironically asking that the Facebook group keep things civil two lines later. Albeit after the appeal decision, the quotations above in the article about the administration being snakes and God seeing that they reap what they sowed aren’t exactly telling indicators of someone whom should have received tenure either.

    Lastly, and potentially the least popular point, even in spite of the decisions Dr. Carmichael made during the appeal process, the student body galvanizing in protest of his denial of tenure probably had a negative impact on his chances of having his appeal granted. A committee of trustees is explicitly designed to act in what they believe to be the best interest of the body they govern over, regardless of what the democratic opinion of the body is. By protesting and writing letters to support Dr. Carmichael, the students placed the grievance committee in a position of limited flexibility, politicizing the decision, and making it so they would be unable to grant the appeal without also speaking to the waves of conjecture over both Dr. Carmichael and the tenure process itself. In doing this, the appeal process wasn’t given a legitimate chance, and regardless of the original reasoning for the denial of tenure, turned the appeal into something that became more difficult to overturn than it would be to uphold.

    Though my arguments above are critical of Dr. Carmichael and his supporters, I do believe that he’s done a great deal of service for the students of Malone, and that it will be a shame if he leaves Malone. My interaction with him has been minimal, but it doesn’t take being around him too long to realize the passion that he has for his work. It would be my wish to see a reconciliation between Dr. Carmichael and the administration, as it’s clear that so many of Malone’s students will miss him dearly. Unfortunately, this would require humbling and intentional action on both sides of the argument, and on its current course, I don’t believe the situation is moving in that direction. What a shame.

    April 4, 2012 at 12:54 am
  2. Stephanie Morton #

    What I want to know is why Dr. Carmichael was here for ten years before going up for P&T when the regular tenure track has that occurring around year five. Was he not on the regular tenure track? And aren’t professors made reasonably aware of what’s required for P&T before the hearings are held? My understanding of the tenure process is admittedly limited, but this seems shady on all sides.

    March 27, 2012 at 9:04 pm
  3. Christina Baad #

    Dr. Carmichael was one of my professors at Malone 10 years ago and is one of the underlying reasons I returned to this university to finish my degree. As a Christian university, it is my hope as a student that situations such as these are handled with grace and dignity for the professor involved. However, the events as they have unfolded have done more to solidify Malone’s standing as just another big business taking care of day to day activities. I have worked for large secular corporations and I see no difference in the way Malone has handled this termination. Congratulations Malone for becoming just like the big universities. After all, that was the goal, wasn’t it?

    March 27, 2012 at 1:09 pm
  4. Corey Clark #

    Oh, and additionally I feel like I can head off another suggestion. Some might suggest that Dr.Carmichael engaged in some illicit activity or another and that this is cause for his termination. I find this unlikely, however, precisely because Dr.Carmichael is fighting so hard against his termination. Had he done something wrong enough to get him fired, I anticipate that he would attempt to make his dismissal as quiet as possible, so as to best preserve his reputation. However, this appears to not be the case, given that he in fact is fighting so hard for his job.

    March 27, 2012 at 12:24 pm
  5. Corey Clark #

    This whole thing is sketchy. Financially it doesn’t make sense. The cost it will take to replace the animals and hire a new professor will make whatever financial gain gotten from letting Dr.Carmichael go negligible. He was also told that he wasn’t involved with student life enough, but he coached soccer for a few years, supervised honors theses, I think was involved in some research project involving pythons in the Everglades, and, let me take another chance to mention, put a freaking zoo in the middle of Timken Hall. [If Carmichael not doing enough research] is the primary reason, I feel sure something could have been worked out. Granted, there might legitimately be reasons why the Board cannot tell the students their reasoning for letting Dr.Carmichael go, but it seems to me that whatever the reason, Dr. Carmichael at least ought to be informed. I hate to stereotype, but the only mental image of the board I can maintain right now involves a dark room, cigars, and long haired white cats. And brandy. Lots of brandy.

    March 27, 2012 at 12:14 pm
  6. Michaela Mills #

    Well written article! Great job with the selection of quotes.

    March 27, 2012 at 10:26 am