Community protests for Adams

Members of the “Justice for Carlos Adams at BGSU” committee held an unexpected, and at times intense, meeting with two top University academic officials last Friday, capping a vocal on-campus rally and march that led them into that day’s Board of Trustees meeting.

The discussion gave committee members a long-awaited chance to personally express their frustration with the University’s decision to not offer a new contract to Carlos Adams, a former ethnic studies instructor.

They fired questions at Don Nieman, dean of the College and Arts and Sciences, and Mark Gromko, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, for more than an hour in the Union Theater.

Adams himself joined the session in a rare appearance with the “Justice” committee, which was created and conducts most of its business without his involvement.

Adams debated with Gromko whether he could have gotten a fair examination by the ethnic studies search committee because he and the search committee’s members had had rocky professional relationships.

“You obviously have three people who are biased against me,” Adams said. “One member will not talk to me.”

Adams left the room after the exchange and did not return.

Later, Joelle Ruby Ryan, an American culture studies graduate student, questioned Nieman on why Timothy Messer-Kruse, the ethnic studies chair whose hiring in 2006 Adams opposed, would be allowed to serve on the search committee.

Nieman responded that “very often the chair plays a large role” in instructor searches, especially ones that occur later in the term.

The search committee informed Adams of their decision on April 30, the first day of finals week.

Several student supporters of Adams questioned why student evaluations and testimonies were not taken into greater consideration by the search committee.

Said one, Stacy Barrett: “Education is everywhere, not just in the classroom.”

Gromko and Nieman responded that search committees function differently from promotion and tenure review committees, which put strong emphasis on student evaluations.

“Student opinions are one valuable source of information in search committees,” Gromko said. “We respect that and treat it as such.”

Multiple factors were involved in the decisions, Gromko and Nieman said, and even “stellar” teaching records might not be enough to earn a new contract.

As the talks wore down, Errol Lam, an emeritus professor at the University who heads the “Justice” committee, called it “very noble” for Gromko and Nieman to have met with the group.

But, Lam said, “I think we’re still at the same point [as] when we came in here.”

“You will be hearing more from the group,” he said.

The discussion followed a protest that took the “Justice” committee from Shatzel Hall, where the Ethnic Studies department is based, to the Union’s McMaster Meeting Room.

Outside of Shatzel, they held signs and took turns speaking in support of Adams.

“We are not standing aside,” said Faye Lam, Errol’s wife. “We know that our side is right, we know it is the right thing to do,” she said.

They praised Adams for his commitment to students, including regularly attending student groups’ events.

“It’s not just about ‘We like Dr. Carlos Adams,”’ said Richard Segovia, sophomore. “Dr. Carlos Adams is an asset to this University,” he said.

“This University needs to recognize that Dr. Carlos Adams has changed the lives of so many students.”

“What lives have you changed with your research?” he asked.

The group marched near MacDonald Hall and the Offenhauer towers, to the Union’s free speech zone and eventually to where the trustees had begun their full meeting.

“Ethnic Studies at BGSU: The New Plantation,” read one sign they carried.

“White Chair? Where’s the Color?” read another in reference to Messer-Kruse.

They caused no apparent disruption to the board’s activities.

The committee had sent copies of their petition to trustees weeks ago but received no response.

One of the Board’s actions Friday was to formally approve a list of changes in faculty status that included Adams’ contract not being renewed.

A few minutes after entering, Lam and the others were informed of the offer to talk with Gromko and Nieman. They soon agreed and quietly departed.

Gromko later said he came up with the idea after hearing of the planned protest.

“We didn’t want to ignore them,” Gromko said. “I suggested, ‘what if [Nieman] and I volunteer to speak to the committee at a different location?'”