Written by Alexandra Clark
After being elected at the end of last year, Professor Fawzia Afzal-Khan was to return to her position as Director of the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Program for the current academic year. However, an anti-Trump tweet from an incoming Montclair State University adjunct professor in Afzal-Khan’s program resulted in the adjunct being dismissed and Afzal-Khan being removed from her position.
The tweet was posted by Kevin Allred, a former adjunct professor at Rutgers University who was fired for similar inappropriate posts on social media. In his recent tweet, he focused on his disapproval of President Trump
saying, “I wish someone would just shoot him outright.”
According to Afzal-Khan, even though she didn’t directly hire Allred, she is being held responsible for his actions. Julie Farnum, an Assistant Professor of Anthropology, was the one responsible for hiring
Allred, and held the position of Director of the Program of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies after Afzal-Khan was awarded a one-year sabbatical.
Farnum stepped down from the position last year, and to avoid leaving the position vacant and the program leaderless, Afzal-Khan put her name in the running and was re-elected to the directorship position.
She started attending to administrative tasks which included reaching out to new faculty, including Allred, about expectations before the fall.
According to Afzal-Khan, after news broke about the tweet, she did what was asked of her: halting the paperwork for Allred and not answering emails or queries from the media about the tweet. She was shocked when she was called into Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Robert Friedman’s office to be told she would not be returning to her directorship position.
President Susan Cole started issuing a series of decrees after Allred’s tweet got picked up by the media. “And one of the decrees she issued was that [I had] to go,” Afzal-Khan said.
“It’s damaging my reputation,” Afzal-Khan said about the university giving her no reasonable explanation behind her removal from the directorship.
“Any directorship of an academic program is not a permanent appointment and has no relationship
to faculty rank or status,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Willard Gingerich in a statement to The Montclarion. “Many faculty across the colleges and schools hold these positions on a year-by-year basis, and the appointment to any such position is never a promotion and the departure is never a demotion, just a reassignment.”
“It’s throwing the program into jeopardy and it questions the integrity of an institution,” Afzal-Khan said of her dismissal from the directorship.
Afzal-Khan was first elected as director of the program in 2009 when it was called Women and Gender Studies. It was a position she was proud to hold as the first woman of color elected to the directorship of the program at Montclair State University.
“We were really building a very strong program that turned out to be very attractive to luring this
new generation of students,” Afzal-Khan said. Before she left on her one-year sabbatical in 2015, the number of students majoring in the program had more than doubled during her time as director.
She struggled with acquiring resources throughout her six years as director of the program after repeated attempts to submit for higher budgets from Friedman and the Acting Associate Provost of Academic Affairs, Kenneth Sumner.
“The students had started to sign up because we had changed the program and we were promising them all of this wonderful new stuff,” Afzal-Khan said. “Once they got into the program they were
finding out it’s not giving them what it was promising to them so they were angry.”
Her removal from the directorship in August 2017 left the program leaderless three weeks before the start of the fall semester. There is currently no director for the program, but Friedman has made Emily Isaacs, the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, the interim director of the Sexuality, Gender and Women’s Studies program until a suitable replacement can be found.
“I stand and have firmly stood for social, racial economic justice—that’s what I teach,” Afzal-Khan said. “That’s what my writings are all about. That’s how I treat my students and they loved it. And that’s the direction in which this program was headed.”
Afzal-Khan has been confirmed to speak at the Sept. 29 University Senate meeting so she can shed some light on her current situation. She said a lot of the faculty at Montclair State haven’t been told about what happened or the exact details behind her change of position.