Armacanqui-Tipacti appeals tenure recommendation

Lance Benzel

Dissatisfied with the methods used to evaluate her application for tenure, Professor of Spanish Elia Armacanqui-Tipacti pursued a formal appeal this month to overturn the negative review she received late last December from the Committee for Tenure, Promotion, Reappointment, and Equal Employment Opportunity. The appeal will be the last chance for Armacanqui-Tipacti to reverse the faculty committee’s recommendation, which was affirmed by President Warch in February. “I’m appealing the decision because … it [is] my right to do so,” Armacanqui-Tipacti said in an interview with The Lawrentian Wednesday.

According to the faculty handbook, which outlines the procedures governing the tenure process, a tenure candidate may contest a recommendation only by demonstrating that the committee’s findings were compromised by failure to follow proper procedures, violation of academic freedom, or discrimination based on sex, race, religion, or sexual orientation.

Armacanqui-Tipacti declined to name the specific grounds for her appeal, but did say that she felt her work at Lawrence over the past five years should easily satisfy each of the three criteria used for tenure evaluations — which include instruction, scholarship, and community service.

In fact, Armacanqui-Tipacti told The Lawrentian that she was “unanimously given high marks on teaching and scholarship” but was judged insufficient in the area of community service, a judgment she called surprising because she considers it to be her “strongest area” among the three categories.

The university’s expectations for community service, as outlined in III.13 of the faculty handbook, call for candidates to make contributions “to the life of the University beyond their individual courses and scholarly or artistic endeavors.” Within campus, the service requirement includes contributions to a faculty member’s own department, sharing professional interests with the campus as a whole, and fulfilling routine or special committee assignments.

Beyond the campus, faculty members are required to contribute to their broader professional communities by organizing conferences and seminars, providing assistance to corporations, nonprofit institutions, and governmental agencies, and participating in professional organizations.

Armacanqui-Tipacti ardently defends her record of community service. In her interview, she called attention to her involvement with intellectual life at Lawrence, saying that among other accomplishments she was instrumental in bringing Isabel Allende, acclaimed Latin American novelist, to speak at Lawrence’s Honors Convocation in May of 2000. She also pointed to her contributions to the larger Fox Cities community, saying that she has organized a number of activities and events to help “build a bridge between the Hispanic community of Appleton and Lawrence University.”

Armacanqui-Tipacti said that given her history of service to the community—both on and off campus—the criticism seems an invalid basis for denying her a tenured position in the department. Moreover, she noted that “there is no precedent that a candidate for tenure was denied … because of community service,” a fact that President Warch later supported, saying that he could not think of such a case in his twenty-two years at Lawrence.

“Why are different standards being applied to me?” she asked.

President Warch, who declined to discuss any of the details surrounding either the original tenure review or Armacanqui-Tipacti’s appeal, defended the integrity of the tenure process thus far by saying that, according to his judgment, the committee made its decision strictly according to the criteria spelled out in the faculty handbook.

“There are and always will be differences in opinion on these matters,” he added.

Armacanqui-Tipacti’s appeal, which was originally submitted to the president, is currently under consideration by a specially created appeals committee, consisting of three faculty members who have served on tenure committees in the past but who are eligible only if they are not members of her department and if they did not serve on her tenure committee.

The committee will be responsible for investigating Armacanqui-Tipacti’s claims in full. This involves a review of her written appeal along with the president’s written decision and may also include meetings with the president, the Committee on Tenure, Promotion, Reappointment, and Equal Opportunity, and Armacanqui-Tipacti. The appeals committee will have up to four weeks to determine if the tenure committee’s findings were in any measure affected by violation of proper procedures, academic freedom, or unlawful discrimination.

Based on the evaluation of the appeals committee, the president will have two weeks to come to a final decision on the matter, at which time he must report it to Armacanqui-Tipacti.