When Temple alumnus Adam Bailine was offered a full-time teaching position in the School of Communications and Theater, he didn’t hesitate to quit his job as an executive creative director at a prominent Philadelphia advertising agency.
Bailine, who graduated from Temple in 1993 with a Bachelor of Arts in communications, spent almost three years as an adjunct professor in the advertising department before he was granted full-time status in 2004. A popular favorite among students, Bailine said it was his life’s work to teach here and “give something back” to the university that “coursed through his veins.”
But in December, when the time came to renew his contract, Bailine learned that his days as a faculty member were numbered. The reason: He has a Temple diploma.
“I was informed of this … policy of not hiring or renewing contracts of people with a Temple degree,” Bailine said in an interview. ” … This has been implemented from the top and it’s sort of filtered down from the deans of the different schools throughout our university. They believe that in order for a school to have diversity, every professor has to have a degree from somewhere else.”
Director of Communications Raymond Betzner said that the policy, which was enforced four years ago by President David Adamany and Provost Ira M. Schwartz, is fairly common at large research universities.
“It actually creates better rounded and stronger faculty members for Temple and that’s the reason for the policy,” Betzner said, adding that he cannot comment on specific cases.
Bailine said the advertising department is currently conducting a national search to replace him but has not yet found a qualified candidate.
“Being told that my Temple degree is not valued at Temple makes me feel a little strange. I’m not sure where to go with that,” he said. “I’m sad for the students, because I think ultimately the students are the ones who are going to suffer greatly at the hands of this very bizarre rule, and I’m disappointed because I really love teaching.”
Outraged by the news, a group of Bailine’s students have launched a campaign to try to prevent his departure from the university. Sophomore Nicole DeAngelis, junior Kimb Luisi and senior Megan Spengler drafted a 15-page petition to present to Michael Maynard, chair of the advertising department. They obtained 65 signatures from students, who wrote accounts detailing their positive experiences in Bailine’s classes.
Several other students are wearing T-shirts bearing his image along with the words ‘Save Bailine’ printed on them.
DeAngelis, an advertising major, first suggested the petition. “We need to do something about this. This is ridiculous,” she said. “When you have someone who’s enthusiastic and very good at what he does, then this shouldn’t be occurring. I’m just trying to have some sort of say and voice because I’m paying so much money to go here.”
Luisi, who is also an advertising major, said she was shocked that Bailine may be forced to leave after all the contributions he made to the advertising department.
“Without him, I think the department would be significantly weaker,” she said. “We won’t benefit any more from someone else who didn’t graduate from Temple University.”
Spengler, a digital media arts major who will graduate in May, said she is disappointed that future students might never receive the chance to take Bailine’s classes. “I think it’s frustrating because I’m personally not going to be here,” she said. “It’s a shame that he can’t pass his advice down to other students.”
DeAngelis, Luisi and Spengler all agreed that Bailine was the best professor they have had while studying at Temple.
Bailine said he was deeply touched by his students’ efforts. “That’s really one of the only things in the past week or so that’s actually given me any kind of hope,” he said. ” … It’s an honest sincere kind of thing. It’s nothing that these guys had to do. They did it out of the kindness of their hearts.”
Maynard said that his hands are tied by administration. “I’m not the one making the decision,” he said. “They ordered me to try to find somebody else. The department likes Adam. We think he’s doing a wonderful job.”
The policy has affected other departments and schools within the university. “I know that there are dozens and dozens of people throughout the university, maybe hundreds, who are going through the same thing that I am,” Bailine said. “I’ve heard that it’s becoming a bit of an unfortunate epidemic at Temple.”
Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon, a theater professor, earned multiple graduate degrees in theater and anthropology from Temple. She was denied tenure because of her status as an alumna.
“The going trend nationally is to not hire faculty members with home degrees because of this belief in nepotism,” Williams-Witherspoon said. “I understand the reasoning behind it – the idea that if you bring in faculty from a different academic experience, they lend diversity to that new university – but I think there should also be exceptions to the rules for those folks who contribute to their departments because they bring a varied amount of experience regardless.”
As a creative director, Bailine won several prestigious awards for his work. Upon returning to Temple to teach, he created the art direction track within the advertising department. He is currently the only faculty member who oversees the track. Bailine said he still does consultant work in order to keep his ideas new and fresh for his students.
“We can just show him anything and he’ll just give us feedback. I’ll send him an e-mail, he’ll reply within 15 minutes,” DeAngelis said. “It’s really nice to know that someone cares.”
Bailine said he has two to three job offers lined up but is still undecided on which one to accept. “I’m waiting to see if there’s any hope of keeping my position at Temple,” he said. “But my instinct is that they’re going to stand firm. I’m doing all the right things but I have the wrong degree. To them, it’s business and I can’t argue with that.”
Venuri Siriwardane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.