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.
“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.”
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.
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.”
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.”