Grambling State University in Louisiana is one of two public universities in the country that offer undergraduate programs in linguistics and comparative literature.
However, when the university is not being challenged by the current administration, its faculty and staff often struggle to keep up with students’ demands.
“There are a lot of students who are angry and upset about the changes in the way that we do things.
And they’re not getting the support that they need,” said Lyle Tarkington, an associate professor of linguistics at Grambling.
Tarkington is one among many faculty members at Gramling who are feeling underrepresented.
“I think one of the biggest problems that we have is that we don’t have a voice in the university,” Tarkenton said.
“We’re not even being heard in terms of what we’re doing.
And if you want to see how that goes, look at the protests in the past year, and look at what’s happened in recent weeks in Baton Rouge.
People are frustrated and they’re angry and they feel disenfranchised.”
In addition to students’ concerns, some faculty members worry that the changes are making it difficult for them to get tenure.
“We’re still working to have a faculty tenure system that is based on merit, based on what people are saying about what they’re doing, not just on what’s happening in the classrooms,” said Tarkhill.
“That’s the only way we can have that tenure system,” he said.
While the university’s administration has responded to students and faculty with some transparency, Tarkhall said the administration doesn’t appear to be listening to students or faculty.
“They don’t listen to what students are saying, they don’t respond to what faculty members are saying,” he added.
For many students, a major part of the frustrations stems from the current university’s lack of transparency.
The Grambling Daily News reported last month that some of the most controversial changes in recent years have included the hiring of several people who did not have any teaching experience or experience as a professional.
These changes were made in an attempt to hire people who could be “experienced in teaching,” the newspaper reported.
The hiring of the people in question, however, was part of a larger plan to replace faculty and hire more administrators.
“It’s the university trying to replace itself, and that’s a big problem,” said Sarah Brown, a graduate student in the Department of Linguistics.
“It’s an enormous problem because it means they don, in fact, have the expertise to run the institution and they don to know what to do about the students.”
Brown said the lack of oversight of the hiring process is also frustrating to students.
“You feel like there’s no accountability, and it’s frustrating,” she said.
Talks are underway to address the hiring problems and restore academic autonomy.
Brown is hoping that the new administration will take this issue more seriously, and ensure that the school’s faculty, staff, and students are represented in the process.
“The university is trying to do a better job of communicating that this is something that we’re not just trying to fix, but that we actually want to fix,” she added.
“But when the student body does not have an influence on the decisions that are made by administrators, I think that’s really problematic.”