Modern languages professor Laurence Jay-Rayon Ibrahim Aibo was terminated this August, leaving many students upset about her sudden termination and concerned about how the department will move forward in her sudden absence.
On June 21, Jay-Rayon was notified that her contract was going to be renewed for the upcoming academic year. In July, Jay-Rayon prepared for the upcoming year by moving to a new office space and continuing her work for the department.
On Aug. 2, she received an email from Robert Friedman, the dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, saying there was “bad news” regarding the updated contract from the university that she was waiting to receive.
Jay-Rayon was informed that the administration had decided to eliminate her position and would not be offering her a new contract. Jay-Rayon was not on a tenured track, but the news came as a surprise after the previous indication that she would be welcomed back.
“I thought it was a misunderstanding and you don’t change your mind about something like that,” Jay-Rayon said. “You don’t change your mind about someone’s life.”
Some students were confused about the termination of someone they consider so integral to the department, especially nearing the start of the school year. Noah Johnston, a junior double-majoring in French and linguistics with a concentration in translation, led a student effort to email members of the dean’s office and the provost’s office looking for answers.
“She was the translation expert within the department,” Johnston said. “She gave us extremely useful and pertinent information that we as students really thrived on.”
In addition to teaching French and German language courses, Jay-Rayon served as the director of the Center for Translation and Interpreting. She also spearheaded two grant projects, led the new translation concentration within the French graduate degree, and worked to increase visibility and create programs across the modern languages department through a translation guest speaker series and an international translation conference.
Jay-Rayon has yet to receive any formal rationale for her dismissal.
“I was told over the phone is that enrollment is low,” Jay-Rayon said.
Provost Willard Gingerich said that when students email his office with questions or concerns they should receive a response, but none of the students who emailed the provost’s office regarding Jay-Rayon were responded to. He also said there might be a “limited response” regarding personnel actions.
“We do not discuss personnel actions on any public forum.” Gingerich said.
Daphney Vastey, a graduate student pursuing a Master’s degree in French studies, worked on one of the grant projects run by Jay-Rayon.
“Is this a bad joke?” Vastey said. “If the university really cared about the students, she should have had her job as long as she wanted it.”
Dustine Finck, a graduate student pursuing a Master’s degree in French studies with a certificate in translation, was one of about fifteen students who emailed members of the administration to advocate for Jay-Rayon.
“It is a lot less exciting to get started this semester,” Finck said. “Most of us look forward to having Jay-Rayon and being in her class. Morale is low. Nobody is advertising the center or advocating for the department.”
Jay-Rayon feels that there is no expert in translation now for the university.
“There is no leadership in this area,” Jay-Rayon said. “There is no one to drive this car. It is a very complex industry.”
At the time of her termination, Jay-Rayon’s supervisor cited low enrollment in the new Master’s program as the reason for her dismissal. The new program had only been approved in April and had not received any funding for advertising.
“What can you expect in September if you invest not a dime, not even a dollar on advertising,” Jay-Rayon said. “The damage on my academic career has been immeasurable.”
While she describes her termination as a “destructive experience,” Jay-Rayon is also grateful for the student support.
“Students wrote emails of protest,” Jay-Rayon said. “They were very brave and courageous.”