House would be sorely missed

by Beacon Staff • April 29, 2009

During my four years at Emerson, I have taken most of my classes with a small handful of professors, because I know a course's worth is really determined by its professor, not its content. Roger House is one such person. He can bring a course to life.

I have taken two classes with Roger House, and I believe he deserves tenure. But I think fighting this battle exclusively in the name of racial equity is detrimental to House's image, and that of his colleague, Pierre Desir.

These men are great assets to Emerson because they are great professors. The main issue here should not be the color of their skin, which is what a lot of people are focusing on. That we have overlooked the tenure processes' injustices in the past, because professors were not "diverse," is appalling in its own right. Great white professors have likely been denied tenure as well. It is time, therefore, to shed light on the real problem: Emerson's tenure process.

"Diverse doesn't mean black," said Emily Kearns, a former sociology professor and colleague of House, in an interview. Kearns was given a review after her fourth year at Emerson, and denied tenure after her fifth.

A strong supporter of House, Kearns agrees the problem is not just black professors being denied tenure.

"My issue is with the tenure track itself," Kearns said. "They say it's a tenure-track position. If they think you're not tenurable you go up for one more year. It's a bait and switch."

She also argues the administration holds professors to unrealistic standards: "If you are a social scientist, you have to turn in something beyond your dissertation. And my TAs were not sociology majors. So, you have standards beyond the resources you're given." She stresses that her departmental colleagues were always very supportive. It was the administration whose tenure process methods she found objectionable.

I am only one of many of House's students who holds him in high regard and believes he should be given tenure based on his remarkable qualities as an educator, not as an asset of diversity to the college.

Michael Kiddoo, a junior writing, literature and publishing major, said House is "one of the more interactive professors at Emerson. He actually wants to...involve the students hands on with what he's teaching."

Gregory Sroka, a senior writing for television and film major, recalls that House "liked what he was talking about, and he had more of a laid back style that was refreshing. He had a good relationship with his students."

It is undeniable that diversity at Emerson is important, and that Roger House is an important part of this diversity. For instance, House is the only black professor Sroka has had at Emerson.

House's connection to African American history is the foundation for his one of his classes: Black, White and Blues. Kiddoo recalls from class, "It was important that he was black[...]he was very much connected to the racial roots and the blues."

No matter how great diversity is to the college, it is important to view this as House's bonus, not his defining attribute. House and Desir are great scholars in their own right, not merely professors who are black.

iKristen Golden is a senior communication studies major, president of Earth Emerson and a contributor to /iThe Beacon.