Students expressed their concerns over the College of Arts and Sciences' decision to not renew the contract of the head of Arab Studies at the board of trustees' town hall meeting Thursday. The students, who had also started a Facebook group, will be able to discuss their concerns with CAS Dean Kay Mussell on May 3, according to an announcement posted on the Facebook group's page.
Students started the Facebook group "Bring back Maryann Fay - She's a great professor" after learning that CAS was not renewing the contract of Mary Ann Fay, head of the Arab Studies program. As of press time Sunday evening, the group had 308 members.
There has been no organized movement in favor of the school's decision.
Rachel Wood, a senior in the School of International Service, was one of the people who helped found the Facebook group as a way of vocalizing their concern over the school's actions. Concerned students have also e-mailed Interim Provost Ivy Broder and SIS Dean Louis Goodman about the matter.
According to Wood, there have been "attacks" in the past several years against teachers who are considered pro-Palestine or anti-Israel. Wood said outside organizations such as Campus-Watch, a Web site that monitors Middle-Eastern instruction across the nation, have attempted to discredit teachers that want a "sanitized version of history taught."
Wood said that while it has not been directly stated that Fay's political views affected her AU career, she said that "in the context of this witch hunt," she and other students are concerned about the effects of her contract not being renewed.
Additionally, Wood said she believed Fay's contract was not renewed due to a letter sent to Interim President Neil Kerwin.
"Our concern is that there's a lack of transparency in this whole process," said Wood, who wants the letter to be made public.
Wood said her main concern is that she doesn't want outside organizations or professor's political beliefs to affect what is being taught to students.
Adel Ait-Ghazala, a doctoral student in SIS, asked Kerwin about the letter during the board of trustees' town hall meeting last Thursday. He said the letter accused 12 professors at the university, including Fay, of being "anti-Semitic, anti-Israel or unbalanced." Eleven of the 12 professors had tenure status, while Fay did not. Ait-Ghazala asked Kerwin whether the letter or other external influences had impacted the school's decision to not renew Fay's contract.
"I think this school has a very strong tradition of allowing free academic discourse going back to the McCarthy era," he said. "And yet I feel there might be this connection going on currently that's pressuring this one faculty member."
Kerwin said his office received the letter and he shared it with the involved deans. He said that while he would not discuss individual personnel matters, outside influences did not play a part in any faculty member's employment status.