UCSD Fires Teaching Center Director Without Reason; Hires Administrator’s Wife Instead

The Teaching + Learning Commons located on the first level of Geisel Library. Photo from The Commons Facebook page.

More than 70 faculty members are asking for answers after the Director of the Center for Engaged Teaching (CET), Jace Hargis, was terminated from his position this year and the encompassing center was reorganized with a new lead: Carolyn L. Sandoval, the wife of Vice Chancellor Dr. Becky Pettit.

“The administration, without our input or consent, is releasing Jace Hargis, the current director, from his position there without any evidence to support their decision,” Anthropology Professor Dredge Kang wrote to the Faculty of Color Network in an email obtained by The Triton. “I’m not one to advocate for white men in general without reason, but Jace has been instrumental in advancing teaching effectiveness on this campus and numerous sets of faculty letters are going around to support him.”

The Center for Engaged Teaching, housed under the Teaching + Learning Commons in Geisel Library, is the only resource for faculty on campus that provides professors with assistance with teaching and redesigning their course curriculum. In the last year, the Center has hosted 100 workshops for faculty, 12 three-day conferences for faculty to redesign their courses, and provided services to over 500 faculty on an individualized basis.

Strangely, Hargis was terminated without any input from faculty or the eight faculty members on the CET’s Advisory Board, the very people he works for and the very people who are meant to advise the direction of the center.

“So many of us have benefited from Jace’s expertise and collegiality, and the supports that he has created for excellence in teaching have translated to better learning experiences for undergraduates in hundreds of courses across our campus,” said Continuing Lecturer Leslie Lewis, Director of Urban Health and Equity Initiatives for Urban Studies and Planning. “We have serious concerns about the process for changing CET leadership… since no faculty were consulted regarding this decision, which affects student learning so profoundly.”

On February 1, over 70 faculty members, including several Department Chairs, submitted a letter to Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs (EVC) Elizabeth Simmons, Academic Senate Division Chair Farrell Ackerman, and Faculty Director of Teaching + Learning Commons Gabriele Wienhausen.

Wienhausen, Hargis’ direct superior, has provided no answer as to why Hargis was terminated and has yet to respond to any request for comment. Despite being paid a yearly salary of $200,358, she has also been unable to explain how services will remain the same if Hargis is removed. Neither has EVC Simmons.

“As the full scope and breadth of the Commons’ mission has been unfolding, we have come to realize that its original organizational structure was limiting our ability to achieve the synergistic environment envisioned for the Commons and the ‘vertical’ integration of its work with students, teaching assistants, and faculty…” Simmons wrote in an faculty-wide email following the appointment of Sandoval. “All currently offered services and programs will continue to be provided by the Commons, without interruption.”

The email provides no concrete reason for the removal, nor does it clarify “synergy” or “vertical integration.”

According to several faculty members, after the letter was released, EVC Simmons contacted several of the faculty that co-signed the letter and asked them to not speak out on the topic or to contradict the EVC’s office.

In the context of UCSD’s continued advocacy for free speech, this is not only inherently contradictory, but also points to a continued trend of campus administration picking and choosing what issues it takes stances on, based on their level of controversy.

Hargis will continue out his position until June 30, as there was no immediate reason for his termination. Sandoval will start her role as the associate director of the Teaching + Learning Commons on May 7, 2018. Wienhausen is set to become faculty director of Commons, maintaining a role as Sandoval’s supervisor. There is no word on how services will not be interrupted, considering that they are reorganizing the center and taking it in a different direction. There is also no word on how this will impact the CET’s Advisory Board.

“This seems like an issue that should matter to students; it is the people, centers, and resources of this campus that create the conditions in which students learn and develop,” Lewis said. “When there are problems, and there are always problems, we should address them.”  

Gabe Schneider is the News Editor at The Triton. You can follow him on Twitter @gabemschneider

Correction: This article was updated on April 2, 2018 at 1:50 a.m. with three revisions. A previous version incorrectly titled Continuing Lecturer Leslie Lewis as a professor. In addition, the original story stated that Hargis would continue in his position until the end of the year. We have added his exact last date of June 30 for clarification. Lastly, Sandoval will be the associate director of the Teaching + Learning Commons, not director as previously mentioned.

  • xicano sandiego

    Superb reporting by The Triton. The events described here raise serious concerns about multiple issues: 1) lack of consultation with faculty on matters of teaching and curriculum, 2) potentially corrupt hiring and firing practices (especially given the optics of an apparent backroom spousal hire), 3) possible coordination of Commons director and VC-EDI, 4) autocratic demand for loyalty by an EVC who is new to the campus, 5) lack of oversight of Commons director (given her apparent dismissal of faculty input), 6) Chancellor Khosla’s degree of knowledge of his underlings’ decisions, 7) complete lack of transparency vis a vis the broader campus community. A full explanation from the administration of all of these matters is required ASAP.

    • Marcus

      We already know that Khosla is a corrupt bag of dirt. He probably endorsed the move himself for something under the table later.

  • Leslie Lewis

    Since I am quoted a great deal in this piece, I want to respond to it. My stomach has been lurching since I read it. My concerns, when I spoke with the author about this issue, were over the continuation of teaching supports for faculty through the Center for Engaged Teaching (CET), especially because they have tremendous implications for student learning; well-prepared and supported faculty are better able to create positive, effective learning environments. I and other faculty who have benefited from working with Jace, the current Director of the CET, were indeed troubled to learn that his contract was not to be renewed, and we raised questions about lack of faculty input about this decision.

    I did not realize that the article would take such an accusatory tone, nor do I endorse it. Campus politics aside, from a simple human perspective, I was disturbed reading it because words have power and can harm egregiously. I didn’t know anything about the new director being hired when I spoke with Gabe about this story three weeks ago, and I don’t want to be a part of impugning anyone’s character, least of all people that I do not even personally know. As a general rule, I tend to believe that people are doing the best they can in any given moment. I prefer to know context and history, and to hear people’s own explanations before trying to understand their motivations. I think we all have the right and responsibility to push one another, and to raise questions and concerns when we perceive an injustice. Journalism is a powerful tool in this; it can shine a light on important issues, and give a voice to people whose stories might not otherwise be told. But I prefer to temper righteousness with humility, civility, and compassion.

    I have great respect and appreciation for the work of VC-EDI, Becky Petitt and the Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, so I cringe at the thought that this matter would take anything away from their important efforts on this campus, efforts of which I am a part.

    One last thing: my final quote in the piece was not complete, and it was from three weeks ago, not in response to the previous paragraph in the article, which I fear it seems to be. What I said was:

    This seems like an issue that should matter to students; it is the people, centers and resources of this campus that create the conditions in which students learn and develop. When there are problems (and there are always problems) we should address them. However, if something is working very well (as was the case with the CET under Jace Hargis’ leadership, it makes no sense to change it, especially so abruptly, and without explanation, input, or seeming recourse.

  • Pavithran M

    It sucks that the Anthropology prof who wrote the letter against the firing has to preface it by customary bullshit like “I’m not one to advocate for white men in general without reason, but Jace has been instrumental in…” to avoid being labeled a racist/sexist (or white supremacist, despite himself not being white) by some anti-white racist idiot who sees nothing but skin color and gender of people.

    Even I am doubtful if I would make this trivial comment on this post if I were still at UCSD, or “worse”, if I were white.

  • Leslie Lewis

    I posted an extended comment last night, and it was removed for some reason (reported as spam? There was nothing in it that would indicate spam). I am reposting below.

    Since I am quoted a great deal in this piece, I want to respond to it. My stomach has been lurching since I read it. My concerns, when I spoke with the author about this issue, were over the continuation of teaching supports for faculty through the Center for Engaged Teaching (CET), especially because they have tremendous implications for student learning; well-prepared and supported faculty are better able to create positive, effective learning environments. I and other faculty who have benefited from working with Jace, the current Director of the CET, were indeed troubled to learn that his contract was not to be renewed, and we raised questions about lack of faculty input about this decision.

    I did not realize that the article would take such an accusatory tone, nor do I endorse it. Campus politics aside, from a simple human perspective, I was disturbed reading it because words have power and can harm egregiously. I didn’t know anything about the new director being hired when I spoke with Gabe about this story three weeks ago, and I don’t want to be a part of impugning anyone’s character, least of all people that I do not even personally know. As a general rule, I tend to believe that people are doing the best they can in any given moment. I prefer to know context and history, and to hear people’s own explanations before trying to understand their motivations. I think we all have the right and responsibility to push one another, and to raise questions and concerns when we perceive an injustice. Journalism is a powerful tool in this; it can shine a light on important issues, and give a voice to people whose stories might not otherwise be told. But I prefer to temper righteousness with humility, civility, and compassion.

    I have great respect and appreciation for the work of VC-EDI, Becky Petitt and the Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, so I cringe at the thought that this matter would take anything away from their important efforts on this campus, efforts of which I am a part.

    One last thing: my final quote in the piece was not complete, and it was from three weeks ago, not in response to the previous paragraph in the article, which I fear it seems to be. What I said was:

    This seems like an issue that should matter to students; it is the people, centers and resources of this campus that create the conditions in which students learn and develop. When there are problems (and there are always problems) we should address them. However, if something is working very well (as was the case with the CET under Jace Hargis’ leadership, it makes no sense to change it, especially so abruptly, and without explanation, input, or seeming recourse.

  • Jdubbb62

    Here stands another example of UCSD’s malicious lack of process, vision and philosophy. Playing favorites and changing direction midstream serve as the norm, while providing logical explanations simply does not exist. No wonder UCSD still lacks an identity not only as part of the UC system, but within it’s own community…

  • Leslie Lewis

    I’ve posted my comment twice, and will give it one more shot here. Please do not remove it; it is obviously not spam.

    Since I am quoted a great deal in this piece, I want to respond to it. My stomach has been lurching since I read it. My concerns, when I spoke with the author about this issue, were over the continuation of teaching supports for faculty through the Center for Engaged Teaching (CET), especially because they have tremendous implications for student learning; well-prepared and supported faculty are better able to create positive, effective learning environments. I and other faculty who have benefited from working with Jace, the current Director of the CET, were indeed troubled to learn that his contract was not to be renewed, and we raised questions about lack of faculty input about this decision.

    I did not realize that the article would take such an accusatory tone, nor do I endorse it. Campus politics aside, from a simple human perspective, I was disturbed reading it because words have power and can harm egregiously. I didn’t know anything about the new director being hired when I spoke with Gabe about this story three weeks ago, and I don’t want to be a part of impugning anyone’s character, least of all people that I do not even personally know. As a general rule, I tend to believe that people are doing the best they can in any given moment. I prefer to know context and history, and to hear people’s own explanations before trying to understand their motivations. I think we all have the right and responsibility to push one another, and to raise questions and concerns when we perceive an injustice. Journalism is a powerful tool in this; it can shine a light on important issues, and give a voice to people whose stories might not otherwise be told. But I prefer to temper righteousness with humility, civility, and compassion.

    I have great respect and appreciation for the work of VC-EDI, Becky Petitt and the Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, so I cringe at the thought that this matter would take anything away from their important efforts on this campus, efforts of which I am a part.
    One last thing: my final quote in the piece was not complete, and it was from three weeks ago, not in response to the previous paragraph in the article, which I fear it seems to be. What I said was:
    This seems like an issue that should matter to students; it is the people, centers and resources of this campus that create the conditions in which students learn and develop. When there are problems (and there are always problems) we should address them. However, if something is working very well (as was the case with the CET under Jace Hargis’ leadership, it makes no sense to change it, especially so abruptly, and without explanation, input, or seeming recourse.

  • California Defender

    “Anthropology Professor Dredge Kang wrote to the Faculty of Color Network in an email obtained by The Triton. “I’m not one to advocate for white men in general…”

    Clearly, UCSD has many problems from nepotism to corruption to anti-white racism.

    If Hargis had been replaced by an Asian under the exact same circumstances, its likely Kang would be enthusiastically applauding the decision.