The latest in a string of resignations in the Arabic department, a fourth faculty member packed her bags after the implementation of departmental changes that some said fundamentally altered the program's goals.
While many attendees of a Nov. 9 meeting ot discuss the department's changes called the changes a step in the right direction, students said they were shaken when lecturer Bouchra Araji submitted her resignation the very next day.
In last month's meeting, students and administrators discussed concerns about changes made to the department since Valerie Anishchenkova took over as director this semester. Some faculty who resigned said no progress has been made and they could no longer remain in a department compromising the education of its students.
Araji's departure came less than a week after the resignation of lecturer Tony Rahi. A month earlier, lecturer Mohamed Rahouma and program coordinator Roula Abousaleh resigned from the department within a day of each other.
Both Araji and Rahi said their resignations were the culmination of their frustration with the department since Anishchenkova's appointment. They said the new standardized curriculum, which they saw as counter to the teaching approach on which the department was built, was imposed on the department's faculty without their input or consent.
This new approach, Araji said, was based on teaching materials, including textbooks and exams, that Anishchenkova brought from her previous position at Tufts University. While her materials focus chiefly on grammar, the department's approach originally focused on culture and communication, Arahi said.
Anishchenkova declined to comment.
Carol Mossman, director of the languages, literatures and culture school, said the resignations have not had any adverse effects on the curriculum and called incorporating new teaching approaches is necessary for a program to remain vibrant.
"My principal concern is for the students who were left high and dry by resignations given without notice," Mossman wrote in an e-mail.
But Araji said the result of the curriculum change was disastrous: Students who had excelled in prior years were struggling to pass their classes or were dropping them, she said.
"When your role is reduced to insignificance and you are silenced repeatedly, your students are suffering, and you have no control over it," she said.
Rahi said he resigned after being continually ignored when approaching Anishchenkova with his concerns.
"If you're ineffective in your teaching, then what's the use of teaching?" Rahi said.
But junior Arabic studies major Wayne Mowery said he welcomed the changes.
Mowery said some faculty members had acted unprofessionally and "ran their mouth to students" about their displeasure, which led some students to form a group called Students for Reason in the Arabic Department and circulate a petition about their concerns.
"There's nothing there you can support," he said of the petition. "I'm actually excited about where the department is headed this year."
But for Araji, the final straw came at the meeting last month. Araji said administrators told students some of their concerns, such as the lack of department-supported clubs this semester, arose because faculty could not take on extra tasks during a transition period.
Araji and Rahi said faculty members had in fact worked hard to plan activities for students this semester. Araji said Anishchenkova then told students she had worked closely with teachers before the exams — a statement that Araji spoke up to dispute. While some students at the meeting said they were glad Araji spoke out, others disagreed with her action.
"While we felt sympathetic for Bouchra, who was feeling like things have changed, it was still extremely unprofessional to stand up and call Dr. Anishchenkova a liar," Mowery said.
But for Araji, leaving was the only thing left to do.
"I can't be in a place where the administration would sit there and lie in front of a bunch of innocent people," she said. "You can't do this in front of students. I can't take any more lies, I can't take this oppression."
Araji said she was also frustrated by what she saw as a lack of interest or answer from university administrators. Provost Nariman Farvardin has said his office is not looking into any issues.
"It's like they're deaf to it," Araji said. "There's been resignation after resignation after resignation, and they don't ask what's going on."
Araji's students said her sudden departure has left them anxious about the rest of the semester.
"I'm nervous because we're used to Bouchra's way of teaching and we know what she'd want from us," senior central European, Russian and Eurasian studies major and Arabic minor Shawn Letourneau said. "So I'm wondering how that's going to affect our grades and how that's going to affect our capabilities of learning ... it's stressful."