By Lauren Orsini
Professor Gregory Stanton is the James Farmer Professor in Human Rights, the founder and president of the internationally recognized Genocide Watch program, and a graduate of both Harvard and Yale.
He is also about to lose his job at the University of Mary Washington.
“It’s very disappointing to me. My understanding when I took on this position was that it would be regularly renewed and I would continue to work here,” Stanton said.
His potential dismissal has upset many students, some of whom began circulating a petition to keep him at the university.
Stanton came to UMW six years ago as a visiting professor. While his contract was supposed to last for one semester, it was extended to three years until the college finally made a position for him as a James Farmer Professor in Human Rights.
He said the position is not on a tenure track, but renewed year to year instead.
“This year, my department chair [Professor Jeffery McClurken of History and American Studies] went to see the dean of faculty [Rosemary Barra] and asked how she viewed my prospects for next year,” he said. “She told him, ‘definitely negative.’”
When a Bullet reporter asked Professor Jeffery McClurken for confirmation, he said that only Dean Barra had the authority to discuss Stanton’s position.
Dean Barra said she was surprised to see that this was an issue.
“The James Farmer Professor position is originally a rotating type of position. There was no guarantee that he would be here for multiple years,” Barra said. “We’ve extended Professor Stanton’s time here for a number of reasons, but now we’re opening the position to bring other individuals to campus to talk about different issues in human rights.”
Barra said that while she does not yet have a replacement for Stanton, she is currently searching for potential applicants.
Stanton said he thinks that he might lose his position because the school is going in another direction under an initiative led by former President Frawley.
“Unfortunately, Frawley had asked a committee led by Professor [Craig] Vasey to write a proposal for a new human rights center that is completely at odds with our current program. In my opinion, the proposal is completely unfeasible because of the budget crunch,” Stanton said.
“However, I wrote a proposal as well for a program called the James Farmer Center for Human Rights, where we’d create a minor in human rights using resources we already have. We already have plenty of courses about the subject,” he said.
Stanton also said that he does not think the budget crunch has anything to do with his position. This was confirmed by Dean Barra.
Students were angry to hear about Stanton’s release. A Facebook group titled “Petition to Keep Dr. Stanton at UMW” already has over 150 student members. Junior Farrah Tek is one of the group administrators as well as the author of the petition.
“Mine and a lot of students’ reaction to Dr. Stanton not being invited back is mixed feelings of frustration, sadness, and disappointment,” she said. “We are all [in] disbelief at the University’s decision to not offer such a more-than-qualified man tenure here. Because of our dedication to him, many of us have written personal letters to Dr. Hample asking her to reconsider that decision and I’ve organized a petition.”
Tek said that the petition is currently in the American Studies Office in Monroe and can be signed by anyone interested.
Junior and petition signer Amanda Gardner said that Stanton is “amazing.”
“He’s my inspiration for what I want to do in my life – to go into the Peace Corps and then study international law so I can try to fix the problems we’ve discussed in class. He’s been a very important part in my development as a student and a person,” she said.
Fellow movement member and junior Kevin Kallmyer agrees.
“Dr. Stanton is one of the most accomplished professors at UMW- he’s internationally recognized. To throw [his position] away would be extremely short-sighted,” he said.
Stanton said he found out about the student movement last Sunday.
“My son told me yesterday, ‘Do you realize there’s a petition on Facebook for you?’ and I said, ‘My God, I did not.’ I think it’s extremely gratifying that my students value me as much as I value them,” he said.
But Stanton remains optimistic.
“This is the third time they’ve told Barra not to renew my position, but there’s always been some kind of intervention,” he said. “I don’t have many reasons to think that President Hample would make this move.”
Stanton said he has a meeting with President Judy Hample next week.
“I made an appointment with her a month ago to tell her about my ideas for the Human Rights program. That will still be my main subject, but now that this is out, I can’t help but say something about it,” he said.