Students, bring justice to House

by Beacon Staff • April 29, 2009

A couple of years ago, Emerson Peace and Social Justice elected Professor Roger House our new adviser. EPSJ is a student organization dedicated to advocating for positive change. House has devoted his life to such causes, so it was a fitting decision.

Although he has been our adviser for only a few years, he has enriched our advocacy experiences at Emerson and has been a pillar of support for our organization. He has been a fount of knowledge and perspective, and he has pushed us to question our observations of society.

But House will be forced to leave Emerson before fall because of a great injustice perpetrated by Emerson's administration. The decision to deny House and his colleague, Pierre Desir, tenure because they failed to meet vaguely defined administration standards, even though they were approved by their departmental colleagues, is unjust. The irony has not escaped us.

Does the administration believe it is doing students a favor by hiding racism behind institutional standards? What is there to fear in admitting a mistake and reinstating both men as tenured professors? And if racism is not the issue, why hide everything behind closed doors and refuse to share the details of the tenure process with the Emerson community?

I ask the administration not to be afraid. To be open and honest about the tenure process, and to amend this wrong, would give the college more credibility and set an example for the future.

Instead, the administration thinks it can get away with this behavior. Maybe they believe that at year's end, students and faculty are too busy to put up a fight, and if they keep making trumped up excuses and avoiding real answers, they can ride it out. Maybe everyone will forget about it, and House and Desir will quietly leave.

Well, we have not forgotten. We will not let House and Desir leave quietly. And we will put up a fight. I am outraged at this decision, and I will not let it slide conveniently out of the spotlight.

Like the administration, I have fears. I fear looking across the the auditorium on graduation and seeing an empty chair where House ought to be.

House and Desir would not only be missed by our small organization, but by the entire Emerson community. These two exceptional individuals will be replaced but the college will have a difficult time reaching their diversity goals when two notable black faculty are told they are no longer welcome.

This is why Emerson Peace and Social Justice has launched a college-wide petition against the denial of tenure to House and Desir.

Please take a stand with your fellow students and faculty for House and Desir. At press time, 225 students have signed our petition, which will be delivered to the administration. EPSJ members will be collecting signatures Thursday and will be wearing shirts that say "129," the number of years Emerson College has failed to tenure and promote a black professor.

You can also join us tomorrow, May 1, when we present the petition to the administration and demand the reinstatement of these two great men. Find our Facebook petition for an announcement of where and when we will congregate that day.

Students, we can wait no longer for the administration to hear our anger and disappointment. If we do not speak up now, injustice could proceed unabated for years to come.

iAshley Tarbet is a senior political communication and new media double major, a member of Emerson Peace and Social Justice and is a contributor to/i The Beacon.