Commentary: Many outraged by ‘unjust’ dismissals

Unjust, disgusting, outrageous and cruel were several of the less profane words used by classmates in my public speaking class after we heard our professor had been unceremoniously dismissed by the university.

Told with three weeks left in the spring semester to have their offices vacated by May, several professors in the College of Arts and Sciences were let go because of a plan initiated by President Joseph Aoun last Thursday.

After two days of online petitioning, a number of students met with James Stellar, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, demanding an explanation. The explanation was that to meet the rising quality of incoming students, the College of Arts and Sciences has implemented a plan to hire more staff members with terminal degrees, the highest in their fields, replacing professors without such degrees, Stellar said.

In and of itself, it’s an admirable policy; no one can argue with raising the teaching standards within the university. The problem is that we are losing the opportunity to learn from professors who, instead of additional schooling, chose to gain practical experience in their chosen fields. At Northeastern, a school that prides itself on the concept of “experiential education,” this is hypocrisy.

Ask any student why he or she chose Northeastern and most will give you the same answer: Co-op. According to President Aoun’s inauguration speech, one of the most important hallmarks of Northeastern’s excellence is experiential education. So we, as students, and Aoun, do agree on one thing; learning from experience is key.

Why then, are professors with extensive and diverse experience in their chosen fields being laid off in favor of instructors who, despite their education level, may not have as much practical knowledge?

The bottom line is that we, as students, have already lost several valuable and beloved professors, and if nothing is done, we stand only to lose more as time goes on. But we can also affect changes to this policy.

Most of us never have the opportunity to repay the professors who have had the most influence on our lives, those professors who have changed us in some way. If there’s a professor who has had a profound impact on your life, find out if they have a terminal degree. If not, I urge you to be proactive-nominate them for an Excellence in Teaching Award, tell the head of your department or just get it in writing. This is our call to action, our chance to say thank you in some small way to those that have motivated and influenced us.

-Lindsay Hirdt is a sophomore journalism and communication studies major.

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