Future after spring unsure for profs

After a week of fiery emails and finger pointing, university officials have recommended that three professors who were hired for only the fall semester have their contracts extended through spring 2004. The computer and information

After a week of fiery emails and finger pointing, university officials have recommended that three professors who were hired for only the fall semester have their contracts extended through spring 2004.

The computer and information science (CIS) professors, who have extensive experience in industry but no master’s degrees, were given the fall contract so a search could be conducted to find faculty with “full experience and a full academic background” for the spring, Vice Provost Stephen Zelnick said.

“I think [students] are looking for [professors with advanced degrees], and that’s what we’re looking for too,” he said.

The professors were let go at the end of August due to their lack of a master’s degree, but were then granted the fall semester contract, said Sandy Sorkin, one of the professors. The other two asked not to be identified.

All three, who teach several introductory and advanced CIS courses, are Dean’s Appointment faculty, full-time professors normally hired on one-year contracts.

The recommendation to extend the contracts through the spring came from a CIS faculty committee.

In an e-mail to the provost and College of Science and Technology (CST) Dean Chris Platsoucas, the committee concluded there was not enough time to conduct a thorough national search before the spring semester began, according to Zelnick. They also said the students of the three professors would be hurt if replacements were found hastily.

“[University Provost Ira Schwartz] has recommended to Dean Platsoucas that he join us in accepting the resolution from the CIS department,” Zelnick said.

The recommendation from the provost’s office came after the close of business hours yesterday and Platsoucas could not be reached for comment before press time.

The future of the three professors after next spring is unclear.

Zelnick said the university “has adopted a policy” of hiring professors with advanced degrees and the search would be conducted to see if there were professors to teach the classes with both advanced degrees and experience, although Sorkin and the other professors could apply for their positions.

“When [students] go into a class, I think [they] prefer to have people who have doctorates teaching [them],” he said.

Sorkin said although it is “delightful” he would be able to teach for another semester, he doubted he would have his job next year.

“They’re saying ‘you’re welcome to participate [in the search], but we’re not going to select you’,” he said. “The bottom line is clearly that they want people with master’s degree, and that’s why they are going to search for people to replace us.”

Sorkin, who has owned several software companies, sent a number of emails this week blasting the university. He said the issue should be one of professor quality, not credentials.

“I believe the emphasis should be on the quality of instruction,” he wrote in a Sept. 29 email to Schwartz, the provost. “While I offer no advanced degree, I do offer over 35 years of experience and success to my classes.”

The decision to extend the contracts came after the three professors had a shaky start to this semester because of their lack of advanced degrees.
“Three days before the fall semester, I was told that I would probably not be rehired,” Sorkin said. “Based on that, I went to [an] attorney.”

Sorkin wrote in the Sept. 25 email that he and the other CIS professors had their contracts renewed only after his father-in-law, attorney Mark Mendel, called Schwartz.

Mendel, an influential Temple alumnus who was a member of the board of trustees for 28 years and who is a major financial contributor to the university, said he told Schwartz the three professors had “exceptional qualifications” based on their industry experience.

Schwartz and Zelnick said Mendel’s call had no influence over the decision to renew the CIS professor’s contracts. In fact, both said, there was never a decision not to rehire the professors.

Sorkin disputed this.

He said CIS department chairman Paul LaFollette told him that he would not be rehired. Neither LaFollette nor Associate CST Dean Ralph Jenkins would comment on what level the original decision not to rehire the professors was made.

Zelnick blamed the last-minute turmoil on CST, under which the computer science department falls. He said Platsoucas, the CST dean, was extremely late in filing paperwork asking for the professors’ contracts to be renewed and that when the paperwork was turned in, it was without justifications for a waiver of the master’s degree requirement.
Platsoucas declined to comment on what he called “internal personnel matters.”

“Our department and [Platsoucas’s] office may not have been as responsive as the Provost’s office requires, but it is not rational to imply that their delays should result in punishing the faculty and students,” Sorkin wrote in a Sept. 27 email to colleagues in CIS and CST.

Brian White can be reached atzapata@temple.edu.

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