|Wednesday, October 21, 1998||
Volume 64, Issue 42
Core Curriculum Discussed
group uses Web to step up efforts
Planners hope quest for anthropology professor's tenure will set precedent for student-administration interaction
By Carolyn DePew
The Student Organized Tenure Campaign for Quetzil Castaneda, the effort of a grop of students to get tenure for the UH anthropology professor, added a Web site to its efforts this semester.
The site, www.quetzil.com, contains information about Casteneda, the group's eforts and how students can get involved.
In addition to information about the history of the Castaneda tenure case and information about the UH tenure process, the site includes the e-mail addresses of UH President Arthur K. Smith and UH Provost Edward Sheridan as well as prewritten letters that can be sent to those administrators.
The campaign hopes the site will increase awareness of its efforts in the UH community.
"We came up with the idea of creating a Web site so that students culd easily access information from anywhere about our organization, Dr. Castaneda and his case," said campaign representative Roberto Gonzales.
Fellow campaign representative Erin Williams called the site "an innovative and postmodern approach to the notion of student protest and campus politics."
Castaneda has been teaching a UH since Fall 1991. When his tenure came up for review in Fall 1997, it was denied.
The campaign group consists of about 40 core members and hundreds of supporters who are students and faculty, Williams said. More than 40 letters have been sent to administrators, and Smith was delivered a petition of 578 signatures in August.
Another petition of more than 600 signatures is being passed around, and the group plans on a rally this semester, Williams said.
She said the group has been trying to go through the proper channels, but no channels exist. She said it has been nothing but respectful and is frustrated by the administration's reaction.
"Administrators don't know how to react to our group," Williams said. "As far as I know, wer are the only student group at UH that has ever challenged a tenure decision."
Cindy Suggs of UH External Communications said she did not know how unusual this effort is. "This students taking a stand one way or another on this issue is unusual, but I doubt it is unique," she said.
UH's tenure review process takes into accoutnteaching, reserch and service, according to Suggs.
Teaching is rated through student and peer evaluations, research is rated according to the amount and quality of articles published, and service is rated by how the professor has served the University and outside communities.
"Basically, the denial of tenure is being fired," Williams said. Because of that, campaign members say student should have a greater part in determining who will be educating them.
"We need to have an active role in our education," Williams said. "We should be a part of the tenure process and the administration needs to respect us for taking an active role in our education."
Suggs said students already have a voice in the tenure process, since the review committees consider teacher evaluation forms students out each semester.
The campaign is formed of students who object to the decision. They mentioned that Castaneda has been nominated twice for teaching excellence awards and is the recent recipient of a $25,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.
The campaign also said he uses a multidisciplinary approch in his teaching, integrating various outside topics into his anthropology classes.
"With the University's move towards interdisciplinary teaching, we are confused as to why they would fire him when he's already doing that," Williams said.
Castaneda's case is for the University Grievance Committee at this time, the last stage of appeal in the University.
Neither Castaneda nor the administration would comment on the case because it is still under consideration and is such a sensitive issue.
In fact, Castaneda said hi finds the atmosphere on campus to be tense. "I am trying to spend as little time at the University as possible . . . given the circumstances," he said.
In a June 25 Houston Press article about the campaign, however, many of Castenda's colleagues did comment -- sometimes sharply.
Anthropology Chairman Norris Lan told the Press that "Dr. Castaneda continually behaved as if he felt that rules of conduct were for others (and) not to be applied to him."
Further, the article quoted a tenure review report as saying that "No one from the past in the present has received the number of complaints concerning his teaching style and his manner of responding to student complaints."
Several students, in fact, complained about his allegedly using offensive language in the classroom, and the Press said one student found his term paper had received a grade of "Bull Shit."
The Web site's commentary on the Press article is brief. "Some of us hate the article because it makes a circus of the situation," it reads. "Others think it's, well, not so bad. We decided not to hide it," The site then provides a link to the text of the article.
Williams said she hopes the inroads the campaing is making with the administration will allow other student groups to communicate more directly and effectively with administration.
"We will make a difference. We may not get Dr. Castaneda tenure, but we will set a precedent for other groups who want to get involved in the future," she said.
"We are about students," Williams said. "It's about Dr. Castaneda,
but it's not at the same time. It's about the right to teach, doing what
is right, knowing that you can make difference and being recognized and
Reach Depew at
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