(Updated: April 13, 1:06 p.m. Byline updated to include both authors’ names.)
Dear President Bollinger and Provost Coatsworth,
We are writing as colleagues, current and former students of professors Kim Hopper and Carole Vance, and concerned Columbia alumni to express our extreme displeasure at the termination of these outstanding long-term professors at the Mailman School of Public Health. We are equally concerned about the way these terminations seem to signal a larger trend of devaluing teaching and mentoring at Mailman.
We are surprised and disappointed by your failure to respond to our concerns about this matter. On Jan. 23 and 30, University Provost John Coatsworth received letters signed by over 60 highly prominent academic colleagues of professors Hopper and Vance, requesting his intervention in this matter. Since that time, you have also received many letters, phone calls, and emails from professors, alumni, representatives from nongovernmental organizations, and students from around the world who have used Hopper’s and Vance’s research in their work on poverty, homelessness, trafficking, and gender and sexual rights. Many of these communications have also been conveyed to University President Lee Bollinger, Dean of Mailman Linda Fried, and other Columbia administrators. Finally, we call your attention to the hundreds of signatures on petitions that call for the reinstatement of these scholars. These petitions are being delivered in hard copy to your offices and may be viewed online.
We will not repeat here in detail the extraordinary contributions of these scholars, because they have been amply documented in the communications previously delivered to you. Suffice it to say, both are internationally respected, trailblazing medical anthropologists, and models of the publicly engaged intellectual. Vance, for example, has received two major awards (the Simon and Gagnon award and the Kessler award) for career contributions to the field of sexuality studies. And Hopper, past president of the National Coalition on the Homeless, was recently described in an American Anthropologist article as “a model for all of us in his dedication to collaboration, systematic research, and careful writing.” Hopper and Vance have each given more than 25 years of dedicated service to the department of sociomedical sciences, in which they have been central to the design and operation of certificate programs as well as Mailman’s core curriculum, and they taught and advised a huge number of master’s and doctoral students. Disrespecting long-standing members of the Columbia community with such summary dismissals is shocking to us, and it goes against the values that the University professes. Moreover, the notion that eliminating these effective and experienced faculty members will be a money-saving move is frankly ludicrous. Moving their salaries off the department’s balance sheet doesn’t solve the problem of paying for the work that they do—work that can only be performed by experienced faculty members.
We are gravely disappointed by the months of silence on the part of the institution. Your silence and these dismissals call into question Columbia’s commitment to academic innovation and teaching excellence, which opens the question: What is the administration’s vision for the future of the University? Will Columbia continue to fire its most popular and dedicated professors, while expanding degree programs so that an increasing number of master’s students can serve as economic engines for University expansion?
We would find this vision reprehensible for both our community and our students. We would appreciate the courtesy of a response. We are not going away, as the issue is too serious. It calls into question Columbia’s commitment to academic excellence, which is the cornerstone of our pride in the community we have helped build as faculty, students, and alumni of Columbia.
Rebecca Jordan-Young, Public Health ’00
Tow Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Lesley A. Sharp
Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Anthropology
Joseph L. Buttenwieser Professor of Social Science
William Peterfield Trent Professor of English and Comparative Literature
Associate Professor of Women’s Studies and Sociology
John D’Emilio, CC ’70, GSAS ’72, GSAS ’82
Gender and Women’s Studies Program
University of Illinois at Chicago
James Trostle, GS ’78, GSAS ’80
Professor of Anthropology
Lynn Morgan, GS ’80
Mary E. Woolley Professor of Anthropology
Mount Holyoke College
Ilan H. Meyer, Public Health ’93
Senior Scholar for Public Policy
UCLA School of Law
Katrina Karkazis, Public Health ’95, Public Health ’02
Senior Research Scholar
Center for Biomedical Ethics
Svati P. Shah, GSAS/Public Health ’06
Assistant Professor, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Maria Dulce F. Natividad, Public Health ’04, Public Health ’12
Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Women’s and Gender Studies
Sahar Sadjadi, GSAS/Public Health ’12
Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies
Claire Edington, Public Health ’13
Postdoctoral Fellow, Mahindra Humanities Center
Ph.D. Candidates in Sociomedical Sciences:
DrPH Candidate in Sociomedical Sciences:
MPH Students in Sociomedical Sciences:
S. Alexandra Ulrey
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