Students, alumni circulate petition for instructor's tenure

Junior Gayumi Perera is circulating a petition and obtaining signatures from both alumni and students in the effort to ensure that assistant professor of political science and international relations Victoria Farmer receives tenure. Perera, who is a member of the College Senate, discovered that Farmer was denied tenure during a College Senate meeting early in the fall 2013 semester. Perera said students at the meeting expressed their initial desires for Farmer to remain at Geneseo and proceeded to send letters and requests to Perera asking her to do something about this.

“Dr. Farmer’s been personally and otherwise very helpful, very knowledgeable, very willing to disperse her knowledge amongst the college population, so I decided to do something,” Perera said.

At this point, Perera decided to contact the administration directly.

“I know a lot of seniors, alumni and current students wrote personal letters to [Interim] President Carol Long, but I also knew a lot of people wouldn’t invest that much time to write a letter, so I decided to write a letter myself from everyone to Dr. Long combining all the messages of the people who wanted Dr. Farmer to stay,” Perera said.

But her efforts did not stop there.

Perera began gathering signatures from members of the campus community to send with the letter. In addition to this, Perera said that having people sign a physical paper petition was also very limiting in that only current Geneseo students could sign it.

“There were so many alumni who were sending me about this saying ‘Can you add my name to [the petition]?’ that I decided to use social media and make one gigantic thread. And that worked wonders. I would add one 2010 alumni, and he would add a whole batch of political science and international relations people,” Perera said. Signatures accumulated rapidly after this development.

In order for a petition to be considered official, it needs 100 signatures – something Perera accomplished within the first few hours of creating the social media thread.

Some people have confused her efforts to secure Farmer’s position as a “feminist movement,” Perera said, because there are no female tenured professors in the political science and international relations department.

“This isn’t an anti-Geneseo, anti-professor, anti-administration thing. I made it very clear to everyone that was signing that this is only pro-Farmer,” she said. “Our goal is not to try and change the administration and what they’re doing with their tenure process. That’s not our problem and not our business.

“We have a very short term goal: get Dr. Farmer tenure because she’s very well appreciated and she’s a great professor and we want her to stay. That was our argument,” she said.

She mentioned that, whether or not Farmer does receive tenure, Perera will make sure that Farmer receives a copy of the list of signatures so that she knows that the students tried their best to help her stay. But at the end of the day, Perera said she feels that her efforts will not go unnoticed.

“I definitely feel that with the kind of support that this petition has had, I don’t feel like, at least I hope not, that the administration will just look over this and brush it under the rug,” Perera said.