As a student, I am generally happy with my Lawrence education, even if it is not perfect. I understand that there are constraints on every university and limits to their resources, both intellectual and monetary, that keep it from reaching perfection. But for all the good decisions Lawrence has made within these confines, there have been bad decisions made as well, and there is one that is particularly grievous to me. That was the choice to deny Wendy Nicholson tenure.As a first term sophomore, I took an introductory history class taught by Ms. Nicholson. The class, which focused on early U.S history, was well organized and comprised of inciteful and engaging lectures. Ms. Nicholson went beyond the call of duty to help her students understand and enjoy the subject matter. I can not recall one question that went unanswered or a time that she did not bend over backwards to accommodate her students. It was my first history class at Lawrence and, because of Ms. Nicholson, I decided to become a history major. Her class was the perfect model of an introductory course.
I was upset when I heard that she would not be returning to Lawrence next fall. The tenure committee decided not to renew Ms. Nicholson because of her failure to publish. However, publishing is only one of three criteria (the others being teaching ability and community service) for receiving tenure. I believe what she lacked in the one category was more than made up for in the others. Exceptions have been made in the past, and I can not understand why one should not be made for her.
Ms. Nicholson is an intelligent professor with great credentials, the ability to communicate her subject to the students, and an admirable dedication to her profession. Denying Ms. Nicholson tenure is not a case where monetary resources are holding the university back, so we must look at intellectual resources the school is lacking. I can only hope the tenure committee has information that I do not in this matter, because if the new direction of the “Lawrence difference” is denying Wendy Nicholson tenure, I want no part of it.