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UND dean recommends tenure for professor who faced job loss

GRAND FORKS — The dean of the University of North Dakota’s College of Arts & Sciences said a French professor should receive a promotion and tenure, despite her department’s recommendation to the contrary.

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Dean Debbie Storrs sent a letter to Tom DiLorenzo, provost and vice president for academic affairs, in support of professor Sarah Mosher on Dec. 4.

“I make a recommendation based on what the department criteria (are), looking at her file,” Storrs said in an interview. “And so that’s what I did.”

Almost a month earlier, however, Languages Department Chairwoman Birgit Hans wrote a letter agreeing with faculty that Mosher shouldn’t be promoted or receive tenure.

Mosher, who came to UND as an assistant professor in 2008, received a terminal contract in April that would have effectively ended her employment at UND. She appealed earlier this year to the University Senate’s Standing Committee on Faculty Rights.

Witnesses in the Languages Department said Mosher lacked “collegiality” during those open proceedings, but the committee concluded that was not part of the criteria for determining who should receive tenure. Mosher’s supporters touted her research and teaching skills, and offered opposing views on alleged personality issues.

In October, UND President Robert Kelley agreed with the committee’s recommendations that her terminal contract be changed to a normal academic year contract and she should be allowed to pursue tenure.

Mosher is currently going through the same process as other professors who are seeking tenure, UND spokesman Peter Johnson said.

Dean’s letter

In a letter dated Nov. 13, Hans wrote that Mosher’s “scholarly productivity has never been in question and she has scored consistently high in this category over the years. She is to be commended for efforts in that regard.

“As the reviews over the years show, the concern has always been that she has not functioned as a part of a collaborative teaching team,” Hans wrote. Mosher did not participate in departmental meetings for most of the semester, she added.

She wrote that only two out of eight of Mosher’s colleagues voted that she should receive tenure, and only one out of seven voted that she should be promoted. Four people abstained from both votes, according to the letter.

But Storrs wrote that she evaluated Mosher based on “research, teaching and service expectations” that are spelled out in department policy.

“I support Dr. Mosher’s promotion to associate professor and tenure because she has met or exceeded the requirements for research, teaching, and service stated in the ‘Languages Department Expectation and Evaluation Policy’ document,” Storrs wrote.

DiLorenzo was traveling Tuesday and was unavailable for comment. Hans did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday afternoon, and Mosher declined to discuss her tenure review on the record.

Whether Mosher or any other professor will receive tenure is ultimately up to the State Board of Higher Education.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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