Professor Healey's denial of tenure is not right
Monday, May 16, 2011
Category: Opinion > Op-Eds
As the semester comes to a close, our campus is quietly losing a great scholar, teacher and mentor: Assistant Professor of History Mark Healey. In his eight years at Berkeley, Professor Healey has taught Latin American history to hundreds of undergraduate students, advised dozens of graduate students and published a remarkable book that bridges the history of politics, architecture and environmental disaster.
A scholar of twentieth-century Argentina, Professor Healey helped build a graduate program in modern Latin American history, making Berkeley's Latin American history program one of the best in the country. He also served as a crucial resource to graduate students in other departments working on Latin American topics. Many of his graduate students came to Berkeley specifically to work with him, drawn to his scholarly expertise as well as his reputation as a great adviser.
Last year, Professor Healey was awarded the Sarlo Distinguished Graduate Student Mentoring Award, an honor usually awarded to only two scholars university wide. Those of us who nominated him and celebrated with him last May were stunned and outraged by the decision handed down a month later to deny him tenure, a determination that seemingly overruled the recommendations of his colleagues in the history department, the university ad hoc tenure committee and a dozen outside evaluators.
In response, more than 30 of Professor Healey's students wrote to the Dean of Arts and Humanities, Janet Broughton, and other university officials urging a reconsideration of this verdict. Should it stand, we explained, this ruling would threaten the progress of his graduate students, rob the campus of an exceptional professor and essentially dismantle Berkeley's modern Latin American history graduate program. The only response we have gotten is the failure to reverse their decision.
Last month, more than 40 current and former students wrote to Andrew J. Szeri, Dean of the Graduate Division, and Angelica Stacy, Acting Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Faculty Welfare and Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Equity. We questioned the university leadership's professed commitment to graduate mentorship in light of its denial of tenure to last year's Sarlo Junior Faculty Award winner, a decision that can send the modern Latin American History program he served into hibernation. This time we did receive a response that failed to account for the administration's actions.
I am writing on behalf of more than forty of Professor Healey's current and former students to ensure that this situation is brought to the attention of the campus community at large.
Professor Healey's departure is a great loss and represents a failure of the campus to uphold its commitment to graduate education and scholarly excellence. No one is better placed to judge a professor's merit than his colleagues, but here the campus's participatory tenure process was seeimingly disrupted as the carefully considered recommendations of his colleagues in the history department, on the ad hoc committee and at peer institutions - not to mention those of his students - were simply brushed aside.
Professor Healey was quickly hired by the University of Connecticut and we will continue to benefit from his mentorship to the degree possible outside the institutional structures of UC Berkeley. But current and future generations of students will be denied the opportunity to take his courses and benefit from his guidance, and the campus will lose a scholar who is changing the face of his discipline.
Mark Healey is a professor who demonstrates the connection between scholarship and instruction. His intelligence, wit and passion for study and teaching make him a model for the kind of personally engaged scholars and people his students endeavor to become.
Sarah Hines is a Ph.D. candidate in the deptartment of history.
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