Group Boycotts Sociology Position Search
By John Byrne
College’s decision to terminate an Asian American faculty
member in the Sociology department last year drew nationwide attention
in the field and a caucus of Asian American scholars has vowed to
boycott Oberlin’s recruitment efforts to fill the position.
“Oberlin College has exhibited a systematic pattern of ‘pushing
out’ faculty of color, and especially women faculty of color
and of Asian and Pacific Islander origin over the past 15 years,”
their resolution reads.
The Association for Asian American Studies, which is composed of
more than 500 members from 64 institutions, declared that Oberlin
fails to support faculty of color and should reopen the case before
an institutional committee “whose composition reflects greater
appreciation of the challenges facing faculty of color both in the
Academy and at Oberlin, in particular.”
“We serve notice,” it continues, “that until Oberlin
College fulfills the above-mentioned conditions, members of the
Association have agreed to formally boycott this position, and publicly
condemn the unfair labor practices and violation of due process
apparent in this case.”
The College terminated Antoinette Charfauros McDaniel, a tenure-track
professor in the Sociology department, because she had not completed
her dissertation even after being given a two-year extension. It
opted not to renew Charfauros’ contract after she appealed
“She was in the process of appealing the [College Faculty
Council’s] decision to terminate her contract; and a candidate
was brought in for a job interview to replace her, despite the College
Mediation Committee’s recommendation to suspend such a search
before her appeal process had begun or her final appeal had been
submitted to the Board of Trustees, as stipulated in the Oberlin
College Faculty Guide,” the resolution states.
The Association’s president, Dana Y. Takagi, a professor of
sociology at U.C. Santa Cruz, also wrote a personal appeal to College
President Nancy Dye in May.
“A large number of our members formally endorsed the petition
request for Oberlin to reconsider Professor Charfauros’ termination,”
Takagi wrote. “They also pledged to boycott Oberlin’s
attempt to fill the vacated position, until your institution has
resolved Professor Charfauros’s case in a just manner.”
President Dye declined to comment.
Dean of the College Clayton Koppes stated that he sent a letter
to the Association in February regarding Charfauros’ case.
He also rebuked assertions that the College hasn’t worked
hard towards retaining and hiring faculty of color.
“As a faculty member I worked closely with the Asian American
students and with other faculty members to establish the first position
in Asian American Studies,” he said. “And in the History
department I worked to establish the first position in Asian American
“One of my principal goal as Dean,” he continued, “has
been to diversify the faculty. That means hiring and retaining faculty
Sociology Department Chair Clovis White stated that he doesn’t
know what effect the boycott will have.
“We don’t have any information to suggest how much of
an impact this is going to have, if at all,” White said. “Most
applications tend to come closer to the ending date.”
The closing date for applications is Oct. 21.
According to student officers of Oberlin’s Asian American
Alliance, communication between high administration officials and
the Association was reestablished Sunday.
But hurdles still remain, they said. Oberlin’s AAA is insulted
that the College did not make any mention of the Comparative American
Studies program, of which they believe the sociology position is
supposed to be a part, in the department’s published statement
of the professorial search.
AAA officers say they met with Dye and White and asked them to extend
the deadline until an agreement with the Association has been reached,
or at least until they can be assured of more input in the process.
They cannot review or take part in the search process until after
all applications have been received.
“As of now we don’t know what the Sociology department
is doing and we don’t know how many applicants they have,
so we’re basically kept in the dark until after the deadline,”
senior AAA Co-Chair Freedom Nguyen said.
“There’s so much riding on this position for the Asian
American community, for CAS and for the outlook of the school,”
added sophomore AAA Secretary Nancy Nguyen. “That’s
why it’s so important.”
“AAA is in need of help right now,” she said. “We
need the campus to stand behind us.”
White said that student input will be considered, but admitted that
students cannot review applications until they have all been received.
“Students on the majors committee will be assisting in the
process of selecting and interviewing,” he said. “Students
are always involved.”
Chair of the Comparative American Studies Program and Sociology
professor Bill Norris asserted that although a sociology position
is not formally a CAS position, the new professor will still be
a part the program.
“Asian American Studies is part of CAS,” he said, “and
I assume that the person who is hired would be a part of CAS through
If the College does not extend the deadline for applications, it
can still opt to conduct another search if the applicant pool is
“If we don’t have the quality of candidates we want,
we will postpone the search and have it later,” Koppes said.
But he also noted that this is the second search to fill the position,
since the first, in the spring, was not successful.
page of the Association’s website dealing with Charfauros’
case, prepared by Charfauros herself, is available online at: http://chnm.gmu.edu/eoc/issues/antoinette.htm.