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SCSU group backs professor in renewal of her contract

Professor believes her testimony may have lead to an unfair evaluation

(Saint Cloud Times, Michelle Tan, 3/1/01)

The Student Coalition Against Racism is leading a charge they hope will get their voices heard.

Members of St. Cloud State University student group SCAR are working to help save Laurinda Stryker's job. Their efforts include starting a petition on Stryker's behalf and posting fliers to raise awareness of the issue. They have also worked to secure a joint hearing at the state Legislature.

Stryker, a third-year assistant history professor specializing in Holocaust studies at the university, said she could lose her job based on an unfair evaluation. She believes some members of the history department and administration assume she is in collusion with a former co-worker Arie Zmora, who has filed a federal complaint against the university.

"I was informed (in December) that (the department chair and college dean) were recommending non-retention," Stryker said. "They said I was not performing satisfactorily despite proof that I had good student evaluations, I was published and attending international symposiums by invitation."

She said she received positive reviews during the summer and was told she was a productive faculty member. A departmental committee, which also evaluated her work, recommended that she stay.

Stryker holds a tenure-track position, which is an assessment period before tenure might be granted. If the non-retention recommendation is approved, Stryker will have until May 2002 to appeal.

She believes the turning point came when she testified to investigators looking in to zmora's complaint.

Zmora, a former history professor, filed an employment discrimination charge with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last October. He charged that the university discriminated against him because he is Jewish. Zmora, who has left St. Cloud State, joined the university in 1998 under a two-year fixed-term position. He later applied for a tenure-track position and was promised an interview. Zmora was not granted an interview. EEOC investigations into Zmora's complaint haven't begun.

"We're still waiting for the university's responses to the charges of discrimination. It's still in the really early stages," said Judy Scherner, Zmora's attorney. "We obviously want to see how the university responds to the charges."

University officials are unable to comment on Zmora's charges.

Stryker said her file is currently at the university's academic affairs office.

Suzanne Williams, vice president of academic affairs, said she couldn't discuss personnel matters.

"Contractually, we can make recommendations for non-renewal but only the president can make the decision," Williams said. "There are five criteria and that is the only basis for any recommendations for non-renewal."

The criteria are taching effectiveness, scholarly and creative activity, professional growth and development, contributions to student growth and service to the university and community.

"My responsibility is reviewing these files and make sure my decision is based on only the five criteria," Williams said.

Her decision is due to university President Roy Saigo by April 16. Saigo will have until Aug. 1 to make his decision.

Catherine Ryan, Senate education committe administrator, said there will be a hearing on St. Cloud State issues. It will be a joint hearing between the state government, economic development and judiciary finance division and the education committee, said Sen. Richard Cohen-DFL.

Cohen said the hearing would probably take place in June. No date has been set.

Robbi Hoy, a sophomore history major, is working with SCAR to support Stryker.

'she;s the best professor we've had on campus since I've been there," Hoy said. "She goes above and beyond, making sure we understand and not just memorize."

Stephan Bulawski, co-chairman of SCAR and St. Cloud State junior, said group members will do anything they can to support Stryker.

"This is just a drop in the bucket," Bulawksi said. "This is part of a system that's broken and needs to be fixed. We're very hopeful that we'll educate a lot of people and bring this to the forefront."

He said their main goal was to ensure that such things aren't ignored.