Student uses petition to have his voice heard, try to save his professor’s job

Jamie Shearer

When freshman journalism major Andrew Spice heard a rumor that the university might let go of his psychology professor, Robin Joynes, after the 2010 school year, he decided to take action.

For a week, Spice passed a petition around to all his classes, and he spent four hours walking around campus collecting signatures one day.

“Petitions are always a big thing,” he said. “And, if anything, I wanted to show that there are at least students supporting her.”

Joynes has been teaching as a nontenure-track faculty member for the past couple years after being denied tenure.

“It’s sort of one of those situations where the university has sort of (an) unwritten policy about tenure-track faculty that then were denied tenure, and then what kind of positions they can have for how long,” Joynes said.

What Spice likes about Joynes is her ability to connect with students and present information in a way that makes sense to them, even if they’re not psychology majors. And he wants other students to have that experience.

“You spend an entire semester with a professor; you’re there for at least an hour a few times a week, you get to know them and you get to really like them,” he said. “And to know that there’s going to be students that are coming in that won’t have the same experience I had – that’s not cool.”

Joynes heard a rumor that Spice started the petition and likes the idea of students taking charge of their education.

“If he sees something that he wants to change, well then he goes off and tries to change it,” she said. “And he wanted to keep me around. He enjoyed the class, I guess.”

After collecting 308 signatures, Spice gave the petition to the College of Arts and Sciences, where Dean Tim Moerland said he is happy to hear from students and takes student feedback seriously.

“I look at what the information content is and what the motivation is,” he said. “And in this case, it’s a large number of students who are passionate about an instructor that they had a good experience with. And I’d be pretty dumb not to take that information at face value, wouldn’t I?”

Moerland said the College of Arts and Sciences has not made a final decision about Joynes’ future at the university, but he said the petition is being considered along with other items.

Even though the outcome of this case has not been decided, Moerland doesn’t want students to be discouraged from trying in the future.

“I think everyone has to recognize that there are multiple sides to an issue,” he said. “And just because a petition doesn’t necessarily have the outcome that is desired doesn’t mean that it was a useless exercise.”

And Joynes appreciates the importance of students having their voices heard.

“I think it’s great that they’re being proactive and trying to shape their own education,” she said.

Contact faculty affairs reporter Jamie Shearer at [email protected]