By ALLIE ENGLERT
A woman without regrets
The Georgetown College community prides itself on the close-knit environment of its faculty and students. Thus, when Dr. Stephen Mergner’s application for tenure was denied, many members of the GC community were shocked. Serving as the current chair of the political science department, Dr. Mergner is a professor revered by a large number of students across Georgetown’s campus. Morgan Floyd, a senior political science major and advisee of Dr. Mergner says, “Dr. Mergner has become an important part of my Georgetown College experience. Anyone who has had him in class can tell you how much he cares about his students and personally invests in their lives.”
When asked to comment on the situation, Dr. Mergner says that he “was one hundred percent blind-sided and devastated by the decision of the faculty committee.” Upon further discussion, Dr. Mergner revealed that he never received a negative evaluation during his six years as a professor at Georgetown College, and thus, had no cause for concern when he submitted his tenure application.
The committee gave him a good/excellent rating in the category of teaching and an excellent rating in professional activity. In addition, Dr. Mergner received a good rating for research and satisfactory for student advising. The letter from the faculty committee claims “After 2008, it is much less clear where Dr. Mergner is active on campus in student-related activities in a sustained capacity.” Considering how many students speak highly of Dr. Mergner, this account seems to be an inaccurate description of the relationship he has with his students.
The area of concern that ultimately led to the committee’s decision to deny Dr. Mergner tenure concerns an issue with “institutional relations.” The Georgetown College Faculty Committee ranked Dr. Mergner “minimally satisfactory” in this area. This area is based on how often Dr. Mergner attended VIP days, required Commencement ceremonies and other extraneous college activities. “The complaint was that I didn’t make myself as available on nights and weekends as they would have liked, and I admit that it is a challenge.” Dr. Mergner resides in Cincinnati with his wife and three young sons; he explains that due to his wife’s job requiring her to work extremely long shifts on the weekends, it was incredibly difficult for him to find childcare on weekends to attend these events.
Dr. Mergner went on to explain, “It’s deeply distressing that the college would give you positive evaluations and make you believe that you have nothing to worry about.” When asked if he had any reason to believe that this aspect of criteria might be an issue of concern within his application for tenure, Dr. Mergner simply said no. “No one ever pulled me aside and told me that this could be a potential issue,” he explained.
Georgetown College students who believe the committee’s tenure refusal as an mistake will be pleased to know that Dr. Mergner has appealed the committee’s decision. His application for tenure was resubmitted to Dr. Rosemary Allen and sent to the faculty committee yesterday. If the committee upholds their original decision, Dr. Allen will then have look over the application and make her own call. “Then Dr. Crouch will review the case as a whole and make his own call. If he believes that I should be granted tenure, my case will be discussed at the next Board of Trustees meeting on April 26.” However, Dr. Crouch must rule in the affirmative in order for Dr. Mergner’s case to reach the level of the Board of Trustees.
Without tenure, Dr. Mergner will have a one- year contract that terminates at the end of the next school year. If tenure is not granted after his appeal, he plans to leave academia. “Students ask me if I am angry, if I never want to come back, and the answer is absolutely not. I love my job. Georgetown is a teaching school, teaching is the most important aspect of education here, as it should be.”
Many students have expressed their outrage over this situation. Randy Doss, a political science major, is saddened that GC has decided against a professor who Randy describes as “inspirational.” He explains, “I firmly believe that Dr. Mergner has taught me many things in my college career that have not only prepared me for my career path but also for life in general. He is one of the most passionate and deserving professors I have ever met. This is why it truly disappoints me that my college does not see and value the same individual that every student past and present has come to love.”
Tanner Mahoney sees the failure to tenure Dr. Mergner a mistake. “I have always encouraged and supported a progressive Georgetown College education, one that prepares students for life after college, whether it be graduate school or a career of their choice. Professor Mergner embodies this standard of education that Georgetown College professors should strive to imitate within their own classrooms. His passion and dedication to students is unmatched on campus, and it is a disservice to the student body to alienate him from the prestigious academic commendation of tenure. I give my full support to Professor Mergner in all of his endeavors and would encourage others to do likewise.”
Jake Conner, a political science minor, says the decision to not tenure Dr. Mergner will show “how out of touch the administration is with what really matters to the students.” He went on to describe Dr. Mergner as “one of the most effective and entertaining teachers” at Georgetown.
All students who spoke with this writer expressed their hope that the situation will be revoked through Dr. Mergner’s appeal. Randy Doss said, “I hope their will be a reconsideration, but either way I know Dr. Mergner will continue to teach and inspire in anything he does. It has been an honor and a blessing to be able to learn under him.”
Despite the devastation of the faculty committee’s decision, Dr. Mergner has remained positive and appreciative of the support he has received from the students of the Georgetown community. “The one light of absolute joy in this whole situation is that I have received a tremendous outpouring of love from past and current students.”
Dr. Mergner’s dedication in the classroom is evident from the outcry of his students. One can only hope that Georgetown College makes the correct decision as Dr. Mergner’s application for tenure is reevaluated.
And if you don’t know, now you know, Tigas.