DSUfaculty
I stand center stage in the Dunford Auditorium with my advanced poetry writing class at their end of semester performance.

This is not an apology. It is not a retraction, or a justification. This is a personal response to what I feel has been a misinterpretation.

On Sunday The Independent ran a satire written by our own Jason Gottfried titled, “Dixie State University disappoints record number of freshmen.” The article played off of an actual news story we’d run the week before, “Dixie State University welcomes largest freshman class in its history.” Many of you read this piece as I believe Jason intended it: firmly poking fun at DSU’s administration and the affect they are having on that institution.

While I cannot speak for Jason, I don’t believe that Sunday’s humor column was meant to target DSU faculty, staff, or students. Still, some of you interpreted it this way. As I responded on Facebook (which I usually don’t do, but when a friend and former colleague tags you in the post it forces your hand), as editor of The Independent, I stand by Jason’s article. I do not feel his satire was inappropriate, especially considering the genre. The choice of lead image was regrettable and should have been caught, but it has since been replaced with a different image.

We at The Independent have been outspoken in our critique of DSU’s current administration, and should they continue to make unethical decisions, we will continue to hold their feet to the fire. Their morally reprehensible actions have been well documented and investigated by our own Dallas Hyland. After DSU’s ridiculous and unprofessional statement following the Varlo Davenport verdict, I made my own stance as The Independent’s editor publicly known.

None of this should be interpreted as an indictment of DSU’s faculty, staff, or students. As a former DSU faculty member — and someone who still holds a great deal of respect and love for those working at DSU — I feel the need at this time to take a public stance in their defense.

DSUfacultyMe
Members of the committee that developed DSU’s creative writing emphasis gather with state poet laurete Katharine Coles after a poetry reading. (LR: Elaine Wilson, Chelsi Linderman, John Chavez, Jim Haendiges, Katharine Coles, Darren M. Edwards, Stephen B. Armstrong).

To anyone who read Sunday’s humor column as an attack on DSU faculty, staff, or students —  especially those who may have agreed with that misinterpretation — let me affirm that the vast majority of the individuals teaching for DSU are among the hardest working, most dedicated educators I’ve known. They produce high quality courses for their students despite the circus that the administration is running around them. I cannot think of one full time faculty member who stops at 40 hours a week. During my experience as a full time faculty member, I put in well over 40 hours every week, and I know there were and are many who put in far more hours than I did to ensure that their students learn as much as possible.

I can’t tell you how many times I sat in meetings where members of the administration urged faculty to demonstrate “Dixie Spirit,” by working above and beyond what they are paid to do. Let me say that again, DSU faculty and staff are expected not only to do their job, a task which already includes committee work and community engagement/service, but they are told to do more. For free. To this day, I cannot hear the phrase “Dixie Spirit” without getting a rancid taste of hypocrisy and manipulation in my mouth (if you’re wondering, hypocrisy and manipulation taste like rotten milk and orange rind).

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An ad for the weekly creative writing open mic I ran during my time at DSU runs on a campus info screen.

Before teaching at DSU, I spent three years teaching at Utah State University. The faculty members I had the privilege of interacting with at DSU are every bit as qualified and produce the same standard of work as the faculty at USU. And while it’s true that some students today suffer from a self-defeating sense of entitlement, the overwhelming majority of my students at DSU were hardworking, intelligent individuals of the same quality as those I taught at USU.

These experiences and relationships are why I find the actions of DSU’s administration and the disregard for faculty, staff, and students that those actions show to be so upsetting. Not only are the faculty and staff doing an outstanding job, they are doing it in incredibly difficult circumstances.

The thing pulling DSU down is not its faculty, staff, or students. What is pulling DSU down is an atmosphere of intimidation and fear created by a self-concerned administration. It is an atmosphere that runs counter to free speech and the open exploration of ideas. It is an atmosphere that only offers lip-service to being inclusive of diversity (that is not to say there aren’t those on DSU campus who are truly dedicated to being inclusive of diversity).

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A Christmas gift from a student which hung in my office in the Holland Building.

These are the things DSU faculty have to work through. Because I’ve been asked not to use names, I will not identify specific individuals, but the fact remains I’ve listened to numerous faculty members express frustration and fear in regards to the atmosphere between faculty and administration at DSU. Several of them have also provided examples of the administration directly interfering with the way they teach their courses. For an institution of higher learning, this is unacceptable. It is all unacceptable.

Yet, while we rant about what’s going on at DSU, while we dig at and shine a light on the mess the current administration is making, these outstanding individuals, DSU’s faculty and staff, are doing exceptional work within that mess, despite that mess, in-spite of that mess, to guarantee their students receive the education they deserve, the one they’re paying for.

 

ARTICLES RELATED TO IN DEFENSE OF DSU FACULTY, STAFF, AND STUDENTS

DSU’s statement on the Davenport verdict causes strong reactions, and it should

 

Dixie State tried to coerce a grade from Varlo Davenport

 

Professor resigned under threat and coercion from DSU President Biff Williams

 

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