Students protest staff members’ departure

By Matt Daray

Two students decided to take action when they heard a couple of their favorite faculty were being removed from their department positions.

Ekateryna Bondareva, a senior from Marion studying political science, and Taylor Bryant, a senior from Murphysboro studying political science, attended both the Feb. 28 and April 3 Board of Trustees meeting to recommend that the Political Science department to keep staff members Christine Stewart and Laura Hatcher. However, they were unable to speak at either meeting because the board lacked a quorum to meet.

Stewart is being moved to another department because her advising position is being eliminated, and Hatcher was denied tenure. Their departure will leave the undergraduate Political Science department without an adviser or any female instructors.


Bondareva said Stewart’s position is being eliminated because she advises fewer than 300 students. Those students will now receive advisement through the College of Liberal Arts, she said.

Though Stewart didn’t advise as many students, she said, she was able to help those students on a more personal level and meet their academic needs helped them to a than most advisers would be able to.

“(Stewart) was a major player in helping us navigate our majors, focuses, minors, helping us pick out classes so we could graduate on time,” she said.

Stewart declined comment on her position transition.

Bondareva said she knows it can be tough for political science students to find the right classes to take because political science students have several majors to choose from. She said the College of Liberal Arts sent her to Stewart right away when she first arrived at the university because she was the expert on which political science classes to take.

Without Stewart, Bondareva said, the department is now missing a crucial position for students.

“The position of an adviser, overall, is something that our department cannot lose,” she said. “As a whole, this is an unfortunate situation for students.”


Hatcher was denied tenure on the grounds that her research requirements were not met, and Bryant said she attended the BOT meetings to argue her case.

Bryant said it is unclear why the university wouldn’t want to give Hatcher tenure.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense,” she said. “She’s an excellent instructor. Her students love her, and she’s very successful in all of her extra studies that, as a research institution, professors have to complete. She met all those requirements, so it’s really puzzling why they would get rid of the only female professor for undergraduates.”

Hatcher is a role model for political science females since the field already lacks women, Bryant said. Statistics show female students tend to learn more from female instructors because they can relate better, she said.

Hatcher said the university is denying her tenure because Provost John Nicklow did not like the companies from which she chose to publish her work despite her excellent overall performance.

“I had an excellence in teaching, excellence in service, I had done quite a bit of work (and) the quality of it was good according to my eight external reviewers,” she said. “But the provost decided, in an echo of something the dean said, they thought my work was, quote, ‘undersold’, and therefore I should be denied tenure.”

Chancellor Rita Cheng did not return multiple phone calls requesting comment by press time Tuesday, and Nicklow referred all questions to university spokesman Rod Sievers. Sievers denied comment on Stewart’s and Hatcher’s respective situations citing a lack of knowledge on both issues.

The decision was taken to a Judicial Review Board hearing, Hatcher said, where it was determined she was subjected to arbitrary standards. She said she is now considering taking legal action against the university because of the incident.

While she is unsure whether her absence will affect any female undergraduates, Hatcher said, the field deals with tough standards and practices for women.

“Nationally, only 28 percent of faculty who are tenured in political science are women,” she said.  “Most women are being settled with service, a lot of indirect teaching, because they’re the only women in the departments, which means they sometimes aren’t publishing as quickly as others,” she said.

According to American Political Science Association data, 51 percent of women are denied tenure the first time they apply for it. Hatcher said she thinks this trend is because women have too much extra work to deal with in the departments, such as serving on more committees and dealing with any gender issues that might arise between female students and faculty.

It isn’t easy to become tenured in a department where only one woman has ever become tenured, she said.

“I think that it’s really hard to go into a department as a non-tenured faculty member without a female, tenured faculty member,” she said.

Hatcher said she is deeply grateful to her students trying to stand up and keep her at the university.

“We in political science have remarkable students and that they’re willing to do that, to organize and to think about the appropriate way to (argue their case) … I’m very proud of my students,” she said.

Shari Rhode, Hatcher’s lawyer, said Hatcher has a strong case against the university, which is why she is representing her.

Rhode said a lawsuit hasn’t been filed but a claim of sex discrimination has. The standards of awarding tenure in the department has not been applied fully to both men and women, she said.