My name is David Ouellette, I am an associate professor of art history and the chair of the art program here at COD. I was disheartened to learn that our promising junior faculty member Jackie Weaver would not be approved for tenure at tonight’s board meeting, despite receiving glowing reviews throughout her probationary period.
This is extremely troubling, as I have worked closely with Jackie since her hiring under tense circumstances in 2017. During this time I have watched Jackie embrace the mission of the college and integrate herself within the community. I watched as she tackled new initiatives, including writing a Resource for Excellence grant to fund an artist-in-residence program, and develop new and exciting field studies courses. I worked with her as she revised outdated curriculum and wrote new classes with enthusiasm and scrupulous attention to detail. To put it simply, Jackie has done everything we’ve asked of her and then some, with grace and without hesitation. She harbors no animosity and has no hidden agenda. She only wants to be a good teacher and colleague.
Not confirming her for tenure just does not make sense, unless there is some ulterior motive. Why else would administration seek to keep the denial of tenure secret? Why else would there be no disclosure to Jackie for the reasons WHY she was not being confirmed? If truly about her performance, why were there no warnings, no meetings to address issues with her instruction, or proposed corrective actions? Instead she has been blindsided at the 11th hour with no opportunity to defend herself or adjust her practices to correct what the college sees as an issue.
Surely this is not about enrollment. Since Jackie began teaching time-based media and digital art courses, enrollment has tripled in those areas. In fact, since Jackie started in 2017, the art program’s enrollment as a whole is up nearly 7%.
Perhaps the goal here is to remove Jackie from our program in order to make room for Chuck Boone to return to faculty. Despite being deeply unfair and unethical, I should remind the board and administration that we already have an empty position waiting for Chuck, one that was vacated by Jennifer Hereth last year, that we are not being allowed to fill.
I cannot accept that this was a carefully considered decision by the administration, who seem to be serious when they refer to the college as a center for arts and culture. If this were the case, they would know that innovative arts programming and cultivating arts advocacy in the community begins with the art program, and is something we’ve been doing for decades. The best way to be a “center for arts and culture” is to support our art faculty.
Artists like Jackie embrace constructive criticism because critiques are part of the process of making art. All of our students know this. Our students learn that giving and receiving criticism is the basis for growth. It allows for honest and open dialogue about what is working, and what is not. If there was a problem with Jackie’s performance that was brought to her attention in a timely manner, there is no doubt in my mind she would have responded in kind, and made efforts to address any concerns the college had. Perhaps our administrators should take studio art courses to learn something about transparency and accountability.