Arabic professor challenges dismissal from position

Arabic professor challenges dismissal from position

Lilly Young, Staff Writer

There has been a push to re-instate the recently discontinued Arabic program.

The Arabic program, which has been present at the University since spring 2008, was discontinued May 2017 when professor Darius Jonathan was asked to resign by the College of Arts and Sciences Feb. 3, according to a letter sent to Jonathan by CAS Dean William Falls.

During the 2016-2017 academic year, Jonathan said CAS offered him a new teaching contract. He rejected the part-time position outlined in the contract.

Jonathan then received a letter in the mail stating if he did not answer the dean’s office, they would assume he was resigning, he said.

Jonathan responded, saying that he was not resigning, he said.

The dean’s office disregarded Jonathan’s response, he said.

Jonathan was asked to “pack his stuff up by 4 p.m. May 31” and leave UVM, Jonathan said.  

Jonathan has taken steps toward legal action against the University and has contacted a lawyer to represent him, he said.

Jonathan is planning on talking to the faculty union as well because he believes CAS violated his contract, he said.

He talked to Falls in person after receiving the letter, Jonathan said.

Jonathan felt the dean “told him lies” regarding the letter, felt no respect from the College and considers the letter to be discrimination because of the way the College asked him to leave, he said.

“I can say that we had hoped Dr. Jonathan would stay on,” Falls stated in a Sept. 21 email.  “Indeed, at the time, we were interested in hiring an additional instructor in Arabic to work with Dr. Jonathan to advance Arabic language teaching,” he stated in the email.

In a letter sent by Falls to Jonathan, Falls said that Jonathan called the .75 Full Time Equivalent an “injustice.”  

Falls restated the .75 FTE nine-month offer and gave Jonathan until Feb. 1 to accept, according to a Jan. 27 email from Falls.

If Jonathan did not accept or did not respond, Falls would consider him to have resigned, effective May 31, according to the email.

“I have not yet received any response from you to date,” Falls stated in the email. “Your resignation is accepted and will be effected as of May 31, 2017.”  

After hearing the Arabic program would be cut from the University’s curriculum, many students were upset.

Sophomore Grace Ruvelson, a former Arabic student, was shocked and disappointed with the University, she said.

SGA President Chris Petrillo is also a former student of Jonathan’s.

“Darius was phenomenal,” Petrillo stated in a Sept. 11 email.

Arabic is useful for aid work and politics especially for political science and economics majors, he stated.

SGA and students’ parents wrote individual letters to the dean explaining how important Arabic is, Jonathan said.

Ruvelson started a petition in spring 2017 to keep the Arabic program.

The petition accumulated around 200 signatures from students taking Arabic as well as those who were not,  Ruvelson said.

When Ruvelson brought up the petition to Jonathan, he told her the petition was not going to change anything, she said.

Jonathan explained to her that he had already left UVM and a petition was not going to bring him back, Ruvelson said.

As a result, Ruvelson decided to not bring the petition to CAS.

She said Jonathan is currently tutoring her and two other classmates at his home. These tutoring sessions do not count toward their degrees, she said.

UVM has never had a major or minor in Arabic, stated John Jing hua Yin, chair of the department of Asian languages and literatures, in a Sept. 20 email.

In order for a subject to be offered as a major, there must be a tenure-track position as well as a lecturer, Yin stated.

But “Darius did not accept the 0.75 Full-Time Equivalent [or part-time] teaching position offered to him,” Professor Yin stated in a Sept. 8 email.

Even though there has been consistent interest in Arabic on campus, the “teaching position [is no longer] attractive enough,” Yin stated.

He “personally think[s] that the reason is related to the number of students…able and willing to go on to the second-year Arabic language learning,” he stated in the Sept. 20 email.

Jonathan has no plans to return as a professor at UVM, he said.