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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Faculty debate university librarian’s tenure at meeting

Published: April 16, 2010
Section: News

The faculty tabled a vote on whether to de-tenure the position of university librarian Thursday after many members objected to the move.

The objections were unanticipated by Interim Chair of the Faculty Handbook Committee Prof. Paul Jankowski (HIST), who presented the change as part of the yearly review of the faculty rights and responsibilities handbook.

All other changes presented by Jankowski, which mostly consisted of rewording the handbook for clarity, were passed.

Jankowski said the committee proposed to move the position of university librarian out of the tenure structure and “to ranks elsewhere” because it thought the position “had always resided outside the tenure structure.

“We want to bring the handbook in line with this practice,” he said. Faculty present at the meeting remembered the state of the position differently, saying it had always been tenured, which sparked a debate on the merits of having a tenured university librarian.

The current university librarian Sue Wawrzaszek, director of library services, could not be reached for comment.

Jankowsky asserted that de-tenuring the librarian position would not change any aspect of the position. Dean of Arts Sciences Adam Jaffe similarly claimed that the employment of current and future librarians would not be at risk if the change was made.

Prof. David Hackett Fischer (HIST) was the most outspoken advocate for a tenured position.

“There is a really long list of prestigious institutions with tenured librarians,” he said. “We must have a tenured scholar who shares the values of research and has first-hand experience in research.”

Fischer added that over his years at Brandeis “the library has been slipping” in the amount of resources it has and the availability of those resources to Brandeis community members. Fischer said de-tenuring the position would only underscore what he sees as a “lack of commitment to the library.”

“Something has gone amiss with our library and it is not merely a matter of this position but of our committment of resources to the library,” he said. “I suggest we think again about this. I don’t know how it can be done without worsening the condition of the library.”

The faculty will discuss the change to the handbook again at their May 21 meeting.

This article has been altered to reflect the following corrections: Sue Wawrzaszek, not Bessie K. Hahn, is the current university librarian. Prof. Paul Jankowski (HIST) is interim chair of the faculty handbook committee, not of the committee for faculty rights and responsibilities.