A controversial decision to deny Dr. Timothy Bostic tenure, effectively ending his employment as an English professor at Old Dominion University, has left many faculty members and students disconcerted.
“The loss of Tim Bostic is a heavy blow to the English Department,” professor Manuela Mourao said. “We will be hard pressed to hire someone to replace him who will match his extraordinary energy, dedication and talents, or who will bring to the department’s Teacher Preparation Program his extensive knowledge about, and connections to, the area’s high schools.”
Formerly a teacher at Maury High School, Bostic is a renowned and respected educator and member of the Hampton Roads community. He serves as coordinator of the teacher prep program and faculty member in the masters and Ph.D. programs at ODU.
He was also one of the plaintiffs in this year’s landmark marriage equality case. Some are suspicious the decision is a consequence of his involvement with the federal lawsuit.
“Denying his tenure cannot have anything to do with his competence nor his effectiveness,” student Gary Welliver said. “I have to believe it must be political. My opinion of the character of the university leadership has been dashed.”
Provost Carol Simpson declined to comment, but noted the lawsuit was unrelated to her decision. Dean Charles Wilson of the College of Arts and Letters also declined to comment, saying tenure decisions are a personnel matter.
Professors can apply for tenure after six years at the university. An applicant must be approved by department, college and university committee as well as by a department chair, dean and provost.
If denied, applicants are allowed to continue working for one year and are also given the option of appealing the decision. Bostic decided not to appeal and is resigning at the semester’s end to return to public education.
Faculty and administrators take into consideration the applicant’s research and publication record, teaching and department service. According to those who worked closely with Bostic, he excelled in each of these areas.
Dr. Joyce Neff, retired professional writing professor and graduate program director, said she was “shocked, saddened, and angry,” when she heard the news.
She was on the search committee that hired him as a specialist in English Education and was a top candidate among dozens of applicants. Neff said Bostic “has more than lived up to the department’s expectations.”
“Dr. Bostic is a fabulous teacher by all measures, a committed scholar who published a co-authored book and wrote several grants in the past 3 years, and a dedicated university citizen,” Neff said. “I have never seen a colleague work so hard for the university.”
Neff also served on the promotions and tenure committee this year and many past. She said the committee gave Bostic a unanimous vote in favor of tenure and is “at a loss as to why he was denied tenure.”
Mourao said the tenure review process is “designed to evaluate whether the contributions of a faculty member to ODU and to the scholarly community at large are substantial enough to merit tenure.” She said the process generally comes to a fair conclusion, but in this case, she believes it failed.
“The English Department was unanimous and enthusiastic in its recommendation of Dr. Bostic for tenure,” she said, “but our sense that he is an exemplary colleague and an essential member of the department whom we very much need was not enough to change the outcome of the process.”
Should Bostic decide to appeal, Mourao said, the department would fully support him. This support is echoed among the many students Bostic has impacted during his time at the university.
“In my opinion…no other professor in the English Department can hold a candle to Dr. Bostic,” Welliver said. “What an incredible man. I am a non-traditional student who is returning to school after 21 years in the Army and think I know a little about people with true character; Dr. Bostic has true character.”
Rachel Randolph called Bostic a “deeply caring individual” and said the greatest repercussion of the decision is that education students will not be able to experience Bostic’s “wealth of knowledge and compassion.”
“I can honestly say that I would not be the same teacher candidate without his loving guidance,” she said.
Christina Kanu said Bostic touched her life and went “above and beyond” to ensure her success, never giving up on her when she wanted to quit.
“He pushed me during my journey at ODU and always saw the best in me,” she said.
Even ODU alumni caught wind of the controversy. James Avery said Bostic was the only reason he continued to pursue a career in education.
“His encouragement, knowledge, and genuine concern for the wellbeing of his students was unmatched by any other professor I encountered in my four years at Old Dominion,” Avery said.
“This is a loss that is very difficult to accept but I will never forget the impact he had on my life and how he reached out to me when no other professor did.”
Bostic did not wish to make tenure an issue for the ODU community, but it is apparent the decision has affected many faculty members and students. Although he did not wish to comment on the administration’s decision, he did leave students with a few final thoughts.
Bostic said he wants students to “learn to control their own narrative and not let other people try to write it for them. For my pre-service teachers, I would tell them that the work they are doing is of vital importance, not only for the young people who they teach, but for the health of the nation as a whole. A maxim that my father taught me from a very early age is that education is the one thing that no one can ever take from you.”
by: Adrienne Mayfield & Derek Page
Copy Editor & Editor-in-Chief
Dr. Timothy Bostic was at first reluctant to make comments regarding his decision to resign from his position at Old Dominion University. After the issue in which this story was featured was sent to the publisher, Bostic had a change of mind and sent the Mace & Crown the following comments regarding his reasons for leaving; reasons, he said, which have more to do with deciding it was time to move on than not receiving tenure:
“I truly believe that if I had wanted to stay and appeal and take the other steps that I could have taken, I would have reached a mutually satisfying resolution with ODU. However, I have been thinking for the last year about re-entering the public school system. In fact, when I first started my PhD it was with the intention of returning to a public school system not to go into higher education. So, yes, while the non-recommendation was a catalyst, it certainly was not the sole reason for my decision.
I did consulting for the Virginia Department of Education back in January or February of 2013, and it was at that moment that I realized that as a faculty member at ODU, I am too far removed from the day to day work of public schools and public school systems, and I realized then that I might want to make a move. Everything that I have ever done in my career has been to make educational institutions more equitable and effective in reaching all students. After being in higher education, I realize that my goals would best be accomplished working within a school system rather than outside of one.
Additionally, I have had a number of major losses in my life over the last year that have made me do a lot of soul searching and thinking about where I am going with my career. In the middle of February, completely unexpectedly, my partner’s brother died, and it was that event more than anything that made me realize that it was time for me to make a change and get back to my roots so to speak.
Finally, in the last couple of years, I had the unique opportunity to teach 3 cohorts of Virginia Beach public school teachers and partner with a high school English teacher to do research. I also do outreach to a Norfolk high school. It was during these experiences that I realized how gratifying it was working with schools and school systems to make things better for their students and teachers. I realized how much happier I was when working with schools, school systems, and public school personnel, and these experiences also contributed to my decision to resign at the end of this semester.
I have had a number of really exciting possibilities open up for me in the last few months, and I am looking forward to a new chapter in my career. I have truly enjoyed my 8 years at ODU and working with the students. I feel that it has been beneficial for me, both personally and professionally, as well as the institution.
Please know that my decision had absolutely nothing to do with the lawsuit. In fact, it wasn’t even a consideration in my decisions.”
-Dr. Timothy Bostic