“When Tom Kychun chose to study philosophy at the University of Akron three years ago, he wasn’t aware he would be applying his education to a real-life ethical situation so quick. Kychun’s academic advisor and department head, Howard Ducharme, Ph.D. Ducharme, an Oxford graduate with more than 20 publications, was demoted last Monday from his 11-year position as chair of the philosophy department in the College of Arts and Sciences.””
When Tom Kychun chose to study philosophy at the University of Akron three years ago, he wasn’t aware he would be applying his education to a real-life ethical situation so quick.
Kychun’s academic advisor and department head, Howard Ducharme, Ph.D. Ducharme, an Oxford graduate with more than 20 publications, was demoted last Monday from his 11-year position as chair of the philosophy department in the College of Arts and Sciences. According to Ducharme, the controversy began after he left his office at 4 p.m. Feb. 6 to continue work at home.
I kept working on things at home, Ducharme said. At about 4:30 p.m., Dean Lavant called me. He said, ‘I called your office, and you’re not at your desk.’ Then he told me that I was in violation of a policy.
This policy, according to Levant, is nonexistent.
Neither the Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences nor this university has a policy that requires chairs of academic departments to be at their desks from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, Levant said via email. I have stated clearly to Dr. Ducharme and the other chairs that I do not see chairs as hourly employees, and I would never expect them to ‘punch a clock.’
Ducharme refuted this argument; he said it was common knowledge that Levant enforced this policy on the Arts and Science’s chairs.
I asked him about the policy, and he said that I was (neglecting) my duties as a chair, said Ducharme. Levant told me that in order to be away from my desk between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., I must have written preauthorization.
According to Ducharme, Levant could not produce any written policy on this issue.
I was told that ‘being on leave is a military concept, and when one is away from their duty station without permission, they are AWOL,’ Ducharme said.
Ducharme’s demotion became official on March 14th due to reasons that Levant refused to name.
Out of respect for my colleague, I am refraining from discussing the details of the reassignment of his administrative duties, he said. However, I feel compelled to state that the issue of office hours was not the driver of that decision.
Ducharme’s students disagreed that the situation should remain quiet.
It seems to be a public matter to me, philosophy student Andrew Miller said. This is a public university. It seems to be a matter of politics rather than education.
Philosophy student Barbara Hanselman also agreed.
I think that to the administration, the quality of our education is the lowest criteria, Hanselman said.
Kychun, Hanselman, and Miller concurred that Ducharme was always available whenever they needed to get in touch with him.
He’s easier to get in touch with than most professors, Kychun said.
According to Kychun, Ducharme is a great resource to have at the head of the department and his loss will effect how philosophy programs are managed.
Ducharme being removed as a department head is obviously going to effect the quality of education that students are getting now, Kychun said. The study abroad program that he set up at Oxford University was something I was planning on doing in 2009. Now that he’s not the department head, it’s no longer on his list of duties. This program that was set up that was going to open a lot of doors for me will now be shut down.
Philosophy students were not the only ones who took Ducharme’s loss hard.
The faculty (is) stunned, said Dr. Priscilla Sakazles. He’s been the best chair we’ve ever had.
Sakazles mentioned that the philosophy faculty was about to publish a new review for Ducharme. The review stated that under Ducharme’s direction as chair, there was a 206 percent increase in philosophy credit hours taken, and included multiple personal evaluations.
That review indicates that Ducharme could not have been fired for any legitimate reason related to his job performance, Sakazles said. He was retained as chair twice before, under Dean Roger Creel, and continued to improve his performance even more in the past four years.
The most disturbing result, Sazkazles said, was that the faculty had no say in Ducharme’s demotion.
One of the things we object to the most is that the Dean can do this, she said. The chairs serve at the pleasure of the Dean, and apparently the Dean can fire any chair he wants – all he needs is the approval of the provost and the president.
We have not received any real explanation and justification in this decision, added Dr. Eric Sotnak, another colleague of Ducharme’s. The administration has not met with us prior to the decision, and has had not tried to since.
According to Sotnak, the complaint that Ducharme was never in his office was groundless. In addition to Ducharme being easily accessible to both faculty and students, Sotnak said that it is sometimes necessary for professors to do work from home.
Sometimes you have materials at home that are not available to you in your offices at school, he said. Just about every professor in the university does a significant amount of work at home.
Kychun took a guess as to other reasons for Ducharme’s dismissal. According to Kychun, a heavy issue that was raised was that the philosophy department was not graduating enough PhD and graduate students.
What’s ironic is that the university doesn’t have a master’s or doctoral program at all in philosophy, he said. It looks like the source of the problems is that the administrators are trying to impose a ‘from the top down’ business model. They’re looking at management principles and statistics rather than actual education.
Philosophy student Jerrod Nazarian expressed his concerns about a new department chair.
On a nationwide scope, people must be wondering what the reasons are for his demotion, which would defer applicants from the position, he said. The students worried about the quality of the department in the future.
Dewey’s been great for the department, and he’s been great for us.