Amid cheering and enthusiastic rounds of applause by students and colleagues at Monday’s Honors ceremony, Professor of Spanish Elia Armacanqui-Tipacti was presented with two of the three awards given annually to faculty at the event.The news came as a surprise to many at Lawrence because the awards—both of which emphasize service to the campus and the wider community—went to a professor who reportedly fell short of a tenure recommendation earlier this year due to insufficient contributions to community service—the first time in recent memory that such a decision has been made on those grounds alone.
Armacanqui-Tipacti received the Mrs. H. K. Babcock Award by a majority vote of all students, faculty, and staff on campus. The award is given every year to “an outstanding member of the faculty, administration, trustees, alumni or friends of Lawrence who … [has] generously given of her time and energy to assist, guide and advise students” through both academic and social activities.
She was also selected by members of Mortar Board, the senior honors society, to receive its honorary award, celebrating the faculty member or administrator who best exemplifies “the ideals upon which the group is founded,” including scholarship, leadership, and service. Armacanqui-Tipacti was cited in particular for her “dedication to students studying Spanish and her devotion to Viva! [the Spanish club] and the Fox Valley Hispanic community.”
Monday night’s awards ceremony has brought a sense of vindication for Armacanqui-Tipacti, who has been fighting her negative tenure review since she was first notified about it late last December by President Warch—who later affirmed the committee’s findings in February. Her effort has recently culminated in a written appeal in which she contests the methods used to evaluate her application for tenure.
“I was surprised and delighted and very moved to know the appreciation students have for the contributions I’ve made,” she said. “Especially during one of the most difficult moments of my professional life.”
Since the recommendation was made, many of Armacanqui-Tipacti’s students have risen to the defense of the Spanish professor to provide outspoken support for her work in community service and other areas.
Junior Catherine Ptaschinsky, a biology major who served as vice president of Viva! last year, said that she was shocked when she first learned that Armacanqui-Tipacti was recommended against tenure based on community service. Ptaschisnky pointed to the professor’s “extensive service” to campus student groups such as Viva!and Lawrence International, and to the larger Fox Valley community, seen in her participation in scholarship fundraisers, political events, free clinics, and charities to benefit the Hispanic community of Appleton.
“She does so much with the Lawrence community and the Hispanic community in the area,” she said.
Ignacio Morande, junior and Spanish language assistant, agreed, saying that “it’s impossible to quantify her contributions to campus.”
Morande added that as language assistant for the department, he has been able to observe Armacanqui-Tipacti’s working relationship with her students in both academic and service-oriented roles. “I get a feeling about what people think of her,” he said. “And from the students’ perspectives, nobody understands why she’s not getting tenure.”
But despite the efforts of students and colleagues on Armacanqui-Tipacti’s behalf, it is doubtful that recent affirmations of her standing on community service will have a direct bearing on the professor’s appeal process.
In an interview with the Lawrentian last week, Warch emphasized that the appeal process is not a second tenure review, in which Armacanqui-Tipacti’s community service record will be reevaluated by a new committee. Rather the appeal process will determine whether the original tenure committee’s recommendation was compromised by either a violation of the rules governing the review or by discrimination due to race, sex, religious beliefs or sexual orientation.
Unless Armacanqui-Tipacti is able to demonstrate that her review was affected by any of these illegal considerations, he said, the recommendation will most likely stand as decided on the final report of the appeals committee.
Nevertheless, Armacanqui-Tipacti remains hopeful.
“I am confident that the president will reconsider … and grant me tenure,” she said.