Prof’s dismissal raises ire
By Michael Huang/Correspondent
Though many of her students give her rave reviews, Donna Toma – a part-time lecturer in the Psychology Department – will not be re-hired next semester.
To add insult to injury, Toma said she was not informed of the department’s decision until a student e-mailed her and said a class she had been slated to teach over the summer was no longer being offered.
Department Chair Barbra McCrady said decisions about re-hiring instructors to keep on board are made based on qualitative aspects.
“She is the most wonderful teacher I’ve ever had, she’ll help anyone,” said Kelle Slater, a student who has had Toma for three classes. “She’ll spend hours with you to help academically or personally, she’s a really great person.”
Toma said the department did not inform her of its decision not to re-hire her before notifying students that she would no longer teach a class she had been slated to.
“I had already received the roster for who was teaching Summer Sessions and what room I was teaching in,” she said. Toma later received a call from a student registered for one of her summer classes where she found out the department had sent out an e-mail saying she would no longer be teaching that class, she said.
Toma said she feels the decision about her may stem from an incident involving e-mails to students.
After the first exam in one of Toma’s classes had been administered, Psychology Department Vice-Chair Arnold Glass sent an e-mail to each student to ask how the class was going.
Some students responded to Glass’ initial e-mail by informing him that Toma was late to class.
Later, a complication from an incurable chronic disease from which Toma suffers put her in the hospital. She asked Glass’ office to send e-mails to her students notifying them that her next class would be cancelled, but the e-mail was never sent, she said.
Toma said she had never been more than five minutes late for a class except for that time. The disease, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, is one she said the department knew she suffers from.
Jennipher Samms, a University College senior, said Toma often stayed later than class to address students’ concerns.
“There are instances where there would be a line of 20 people waiting to talk to her after class,” said Samms. “[Toma] stayed and waited to speak with every single student, and she did it night after night so that they would understand. Most teachers would just tell you to come to office hours.”
According to McCrady, the department chair, the decision was fair.
“Each year we make a decision on an annual basis who we will be hiring,” she said.
When asked about the situation with Toma, McCrady said, “I do not make personnel decisions based on personal feelings. We are following all the rules.”
Although McCrady felt it inappropriate to reveal the specific criteria behind dismissing instructors, she said it includes a lot of qualitative aspects.
One way in which qualitative aspects can be measured are by the reports handed out to students at the end of each semester asking students to rate their professors on a scale of one through five, called student instructional rating surveys.
In spring of 2005, Toma taught two sections of Adolescent Development. Of the ratings given, 77 percent were a four or a five. In the other section, 73 percent of all ratings were a four or five. In a class taught spring of 2004, 81 percent of all ratings given to Toma were a four or five.
On the other hand, in fall 2005, students rated 51 percent of ratings given to Glass as a four or five, and in fall 2004, 69 percent of ratings were given a four or five.
According to http://www.ratemyprofessor.com, which rates professors according to easiness, helpfulness and clarity, Toma is given an overall quality of 3.5 out of 5, and a 3.6 in helpfulness.
Toma has been a part-time lecturer for the undergraduate Psychology Department for more than 6 years, she said.
Douglass College’s Mabel Smith Society has awarded Toma several times for her work with students. She has also won The “Apple-Pie” Award from the Athletic Department for her work with student athletes. She participated in a Jeopardy-style trivia game that pitted students against teachers to raise money and awareness on National AIDS Day and has served as an adviser and mentor for students working on honors theses and internships.
Amy Bahruth, the American Association of University Professor’s bargainer for part-time lecturers, said that a part-time lecturer who works six years or six consecutive semester is entitled to a written explanation of the non-hire decision.