By Kristen Griffith (Whetstone staff writer)
The history program is no longer its own department.
And Dr. Susanne Fox – professor of history and American studies who has been at Wesley College for more than 30 years – was stripped of her position as chair of history earlier this fall by Provost Dr. Patricia Dwyer, vice president for academic affairs.
Dwyer appointed Dr. Tony Armstrong, professor and chair of political science, to take Fox’s place.
Dwyer said the removal was “a personnel matter about which I would not be able to share information.”
Armstrong said he had known of some problems with Dr. Fox.
“I know of some complaints by colleagues and some students,” he said.
Fox said she was unable to speak because her lawyer advised against it.
One of the colleagues Armstrong said he was referring to was Dr. Jessica James, associate professor of sociology and Africana studies
James said she was “unable to comment at this time.”
Many history majors came out in support of Fox after they heard she had been stripped of her chair by making T-shirts and rallying around her and the department in meetings and classes.
“I think she’s always done a good job and she cares for her students,” said junior Zeph Geyer. “I don’t think she runs the history program the way the administration wants.”
One history major said Dr. Dwyer was the reason Fox lost her chair. Armstrong said this was not true.
“I know Dr. Dwyer very well,” he said. “She is not out to get anyone. She would not have made that decision without a very good reason.”
Armstrong said Fox committed “policy violations.”
For example, most history courses that students are taking this semester are not listed in the catalog.
This semester, the history department is offering 15 sections of special topics classes out of 20 offered. No other academic department at Wesley offers this many special topics courses. Three of those non-special topics courses are at Dover Air Force Base.
“They already have too many special topic classes for this semester so they are not offering any more next semester, except one,” Armstrong said.
History major and senior Nia Fortier said Armstrong told her history students had trouble graduating because required classes were not being offered. But Fortier said she never had problems choosing classes until now.
Fortier has one semester left and needs a 300- or 400-level elective in history. She said she walked out of a meeting with Armstrong unsure about the courses he suggested she take.
“There are only 12 classes being offered by the history department (in the spring),” Geyer said. “None of them is at the 300 level, and two or three are at the 400 level.”
The only 300-level class being offered is an internship. This class is the only 300-level class listed in the catalog. The department has been offering many of its dozen 200-level catalog-listed classes also at the 300 level.
“For some reason the catalogue says 200 level classes may be offered at 300 level,” Geyer said.
The catalog under History states: “Some 200-level History courses may be taken at the 300-level at the discretion of the Department Chair.”
Geyer said a class at the 200 level can have students taking it at the 300 level at the same time. But their assignments differ.
Armstrong said history students have been asking him to allow 200 level courses to also count as 300 level courses.
“It is a major convention at higher education that you cannot put a catalog course on to someone’s transcript unless it’s in the catalog,” he said. “If 300 level is not in the catalog you are violating this convention. That could endanger the accreditation of this college. If we did not have accreditation then your diplomas are almost meaningless.”
There also was a problem with history majors who wanted a workship.
When Fox was chair, she allowed history majors to become tutors for her department but did not require them to take a mandatory 10 hours of training.
“All the tutors are required to be a part of the College Reading and Learning Association,” said Tutoring and Writing Center Coordinator Jessica Pilewski. “That requires 10 hours of training and additional hours of one on one contact with students.”
Administration removed workship money from the department and transferred it to the Academic Resource Center.
“The (history) workship program is no longer being funded,” junior history major Zeph Geyer said.
The money had been used to pay workship students like Fortier.
Fortier said Dr. Jeffrey Gibson, associate dean of academic affairs, told her and another student they were allowed to be tutors in the ARC. They refused the jobs.
Geyer said history majors are refusing to be tutors as a form of protest.
Protests also included making T-shirts.
Fox stopped one of her history classes during a test Sept. 30 so history majors could walk in and show off their shirts.
Freshman Marc Tremble said he did not mind that she interrupted the class.
“It shows that students care about her,” he said.
The shirts had printed on the front: Wesley History #FreeOurDegree; on the back: The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. – Thomas Jefferson. I AM A PATRIOT ARE YOU A TYRANT?
“Students see administration as tyrants and bullies,” Geyer said.
Freshman De’Andre Pendergrass said he supported Fox.
“I thought they were supporting her when she really needed it,” he said. “It does not affect me personally but I think she is a good teacher, and she is very passionate about history.”
Fortier said Fox told her she could minor in museum studies when she was a freshman. She was told more museum studies classes would be available. None are listed in the catalog.
Fortier said museum studies is still not here because the special topic classes that are required are not being offered.
“Nia, as she explained to me, was looking for courses that would have fulfilled a minor that would not exist,” said Armstrong. “I believe that is highly improbable that the minor would exist even if things had stayed the same.”
A tearful Fortier said Armstrong does not know what she is talking about.
“The fact they became a part of a large program is not in any way the end of the history program,” Armstrong said. “My goal and goal of administration is that the history program remain strong and vital.”
Geyer believes Armstrong is capable of handling it.
“He is being attacked, but it is not his fault,” Geyer said. “Administration just has a problem with the way Dr. Fox runs things.”
Fortier and other history majors made up half of the people who attended a meeting that discussed the search of a new president for Wesley.
The history students said they wanted the new president to not allow a similar situation to occur, Fortier said.
“How are we supposed to trust administration when they show they do not care?” Fortier said.