The employment of one instructor is again the subject of controversy within the African American studies department after Anthony Monteiro, a non-tenured professor in the department, issued a letter of grievance against Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Teresa Soufas for choosing not to renew his contract.
Monteiro delivered a statement to the press at the 1199C Hospital Worker’s Union on Feb. 12, calling on President Theobald to reverse Soufas’ decision and renew his annual contract. Monteiro alleged that the decision not to renew his contract was an act of revenge – a direct response from Soufas to his outspokenness during heated discussions last year between the dean and department faculty and students over the filling of the department chairmanship.
Soufas said Monteiro’s allegations had “no truth whatsoever,” adding that the decision not to renew Monteiro’s contract was made by Department Chairman Molefi Asante based on the changing structure of the department.
“The African American studies department right now is rethinking and making new plans for the curriculum,” Soufas said.
Asante declined to comment, citing ongoing discussions between the groups.
Monteiro was a supporter of Kariamu Welsh, a tenured member of the dance department at the Boyer College of Music and Dance. Welsh’s nomination for chair of the African American studies department by the department’s faculty was rejected by Soufas in Spring 2012 on the grounds that she was not a member of the department.
More than a year of controversy followed when, instead of appointing Welsh, Soufas appointed then-Vice Dean Jayne Drake, a white woman, to a one-year interim term. Students of the department, community activists and faculty members then rallied behind Asante, who chaired the department from 1984 to 1997, advocating that he should return to head the program.
After several public protests and a formal nomination by the department faculty in April 2013, Soufas confirmed Asante as department chair. Monteiro said he and other members of the department have been continually harassed in a racist manner by Soufas.
“It is her getting back at me for my standing up to her bullying, pointing fingers at black men,” Monteiro said in a statement.
Soufas said Monteiro has not approached her to discuss the matter, but “would be happy to talk with him.” Non-tenured and non-tenured-track faculty members are hired by the university and their respective departments on a contract basis that must be renewed every year.
Senior political science major and African American studies minor Sabrina Sample, a former student of Monteiro’s who took his Black Intellectual History in the 20th Century course, said she thinks it would be “a really big mistake” for the university to let go of Monteiro.
“For the African American studies department [especially], I know a lot of students come to Temple in particular to hear Monteiro lecture,” Sample said.
Senior media studies and production major Ryan Hallas, another former student of Monteiro’s, said that while he generally found Monteiro’s Race in America class enjoyable, he found the lectures unorganized and didn’t leave the class with “any new knowledge.”
“I also [believe] that he was trying to come off as a pretentious person by the way he would pronounce his words,” Hallas said. “I believe he even made some words up.”
Monteiro has made several demands along with his reinstatement, including the end of the alleged harassment and a formal apology from Dean Soufas.
John Moritz and Erin Edinger-Turoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.