Students plan hunger strike to keep professor Ken DeBevoise at University

Two years after the original “Keep Ken” movement, students are once again standing up in support of political science instructor Ken DeBevoise, who is again at risk of not getting his contract extended after 16 years at the University. @@*DeBevoise*@@

In 2009 to 2010, the University prolonged extending DeBevoise’s contract until a mass of support, including testimonials from current and former students, led to his reinstatement. According to a number of students — most of whom know or have taken a class from DeBevoise — the University is again letting the clock run out on his contract, leaving many students questioning whether DeBevoise will be teaching courses at the University next fall, or ever again.

Ted Sweeney, a senior planning, public policy and management major, is especially agitated by DeBevoise’s alleged treatment. Although he will be graduating this spring, he fears that other students will not have access to the classes in which he believes were the most beneficial to him in his four years at the University. @@*[email protected]@

“Two years ago, students came to an understanding with administrators that Ken DeBevoise would be retained, recognizing the significant contribution he makes to the quality of undergraduate education at the University. Now, Ken isn’t being told whether he can teach next year and his classes are not on DuckWeb,” Sweeney said. “I want to know how we can help the administration understand that Ken’s classes continue to provide some of the most challenging and engaging undergraduate learning experiences on campus, as they have for the last sixteen years.”

DeBevoise’s list of courses feature some of the most specialized and unique classes offered at the university, most of which revolve around Middle Eastern topics.

“Ken is the source of nearly all of the courses on campus focused on the Middle East,” Sweeney said. “If the school lets him go, students at the University will have much less opportunity to study a region within which our country is involved in.”

Sweeney is just one of hundreds of students, past and present, who have expressed support for retaining DeBevoise at the University. Former University student David Delmar, who is currently studying law at Harvard, wrote a letter to the heads of the College of Arts and Sciences pleading that DeBevoise be retained and that it would be tragic for the University to lose him. Delmar claimed that DeBevoise’s courses could teach you more in one term than most students learn in four years and directly attributes DeBevoise to his academic success. @@Harvard is too cool to let me check their [email protected]@

“In all of my life, including my time at Harvard Law School, I have yet to encounter anybody who is as an effective teacher and devoted to students as Ken is,” Delmar said. “Ken is constantly involved in educating students, from the time you sign up for one of his classes, to well after you graduated and well into your career. It’s important for excellence to keep someone that devotes their life to teach.”

Currently there is no new information regarding DeBevoise’s contract. DeBevoise, declining to comment himself, is not scheduled to teach any classes in the fall and according to students has yet to hear back from his department about the status of his contract despite many attempts by him and students to contact department heads and administrators about the issue.

Now, some students are planning a course of action if a resolution is not reached soon.

Biology major Muhammad Khalifa — a former student of DeBevoise’s — along with a short list of other students, is planning to go on a hunger strike starting Tuesday, May 29, if DeBevoise is not approached by his department about his contract. Khalifa believes the problem goes beyond DeBevoise’s contract and speaks to the deeper issues of student’s voices not being heard by administration. Khalifa and many others reached out to the heads of the CAS, to which there was a resounding silence. @@*[email protected]@

“The only way to get them to hopefully pay attention is to nonviolently protest in a way that will attract the most attention,” Khalifa said. “People have shown a lot of commitment and willingness to do it and I think that’s testament to the value of the classes people have taken and could still potentially take with Ken.”

Khalifa said that they are hoping it does not come down to a hunger strike, but he and others are fully prepared to strike if there is no positive progress.

“Ken’s contract status is what brought this issue to light, but the strike itself is more about undergrads wanting to express that they expect a certain amount of accountability and commitment from the school who should have an obligation towards their students to give them input towards their education,” Khalifa said.

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