UO journalism school lays off five non-tenured faculty

The University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication has laid off five non-tenured instructors as part of the university’s effort to cut costs in the face of a budget shortfall.

Juan-Carlos Molleda, the dean of the SOJC, did not renew the contracts of two visiting assistant professors, as well as one full-time and two part-time non-tenure track faculty.  His decision came after receiving input from the journalism school’s directors and associate deans. The deadline for administrators to notify faculty if their contracts will be renewed is May 1.

“It is among the hardest decisions a dean has to make,” Molleda told the Emerald.

Molleda declined to release the names of the faculty members who lost their jobs.

The SOJC needs to cut $1.9 million from next year’s budget. Molleda said that a committee in the journalism school is looking into increasing the workload of the non-tenure track faculty who remain next year.

Journalism instructor Leigh Anne Jasheway is one journalism school faculty member who, after eight years of teaching, was not asked to return next year. The stand-up comedian, motivational speaker and writer teaches part-time at the SOJC, teaching its mandatory grammar class, J101, as well as “Comedy in Media.” She also taught freshman seminars and interest groups centered on comedy.

Leslie Steeves, an SOJC associate dean, notified Jasheway on April 19 that her contract would not be renewed. But the news came as a surprise for Jasheway.

Earlier this year, Jasheway was invited to be a keynote speaker for the Oregon Diversity Conference in Salem in September, and wanted to make sure there were no conflicts with her teaching if her yearly contract was renewed. At the time, she reached out to Peter Alilunas, an SOJC area director, asking about her teaching status for next year. Alilunas replied by email that she was scheduled to teach Comedy in Media twice a week during the fall term of the 2017-18 school year.

“It is a little distressing that in this approach that people who are good at what they do, have been there for a long period of time, are dismissed one day,” Jasheway said.

Taylor McKnight, an undergraduate student taking Jasheway’s comedy and media class, heard the news from Jasheway herself, who announced it in class.

“I think it’s sad. I feel like there is no other teacher who could really replace her experience and the subject that she teaches,” McKnight said.

She said that studying comedy can make people feel self-conscious, but Jasheway provides an environment where students can feel comfortable to express their work.

“She’s pretty quirky and outgoing, and I don’t think she’s afraid to say what’s on her mind, which is cool because you feel really comfortable in her class,” McKnight said.

For the second straight year, UO is laying off non-tenured faculty in the face of budget cuts. Jasheway said she feels that maintaining non-tenured faculty is important to quality of teaching at a university.

“A lot of full-time faculty have experience, but it may have been from a while ago, and because they are full-time teachers now, they aren’t actually doing what they are teaching right now, while those of us who are part-time faculty are,” Jasheway said.

The Emerald has not yet learned the names of the other four faculty members who were laid off. If you know something, send us an email.

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Andrew Field

Andrew Field

Former Japan Times intern. Daily Emerald reporter and FishDuck editor. Tokyo-Singapore-Houston-Eugene, but Oregonian forever. West Ham United and Portland Timbers fan.

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