Two prominent national faculty organizations have accused Texas A&M University at San Antonio of dismissing an adjunct lecturer for publicly criticizing how the university had handled the intimidation she encountered when she complained about Christian crosses on a campus building.
In letters sent to the university's president, Maria Hernandez Ferrier, both the American Association of University Professors and the New Faculty Majority, which represents adjunct faculty members, have denounced the university's decision not to renew the lecturer's contract and have called for her immediate reinstatement.
The university's administration has denied retaliating against the lecturer, however, and said that she was just one of about 20 adjuncts who lost positions there because the university is attempting to shift to employing more tenure-track instructors to meet accreditation standards.
The adjunct, Sissy Bradford, a lecturer in criminology and sociology, became a controversial figure on the campus last fall, when she spurred a successful effort by advocates of church-state separation to have the college remove crosses from a tower near the campus's entrance. She completed the academic year—her second teaching there—and had been told she would be rehired for the coming fall.
The university changed its plans, however, and informed her of its decision not to renew her contract in an e-mail sent to her on May 16, the same day a San Antonio weekly newspaper, The Current, published an article in which she complained that university police officers had done little to protect her from threats and harassment stemming from the cross controversy.
Marilu A. Reyna, a university spokeswoman, acknowledged on Friday that the university had asked Ms. Bradford to teach four classes in the fall before it decided not to offer her a new contract after all. But, Ms. Reyna said in an interview, it is common for the university to offer tentative class assignments to adjuncts for planning purposes, with the understanding that the arrangements are not final until semester-by-semester contracts are signed.
A statement issued by the university said William S. Bush, the interim dean of the university's School of Arts and Sciences, was not aware of the article on Ms. Bradford in The Current when he sent her the e-mail telling her that her contract would not be renewed. Ms. Bradford was one of eight adjuncts in the school who were told on the same day that they would not be awarded new contracts. Ms. Bradford had already made it clear to the university that she did not plan to stay there in the long term, informing Mr. Bush in an April 2 e-mail that she would not be available to teach after the end of 2012.
Ms. Bradford could not be reached on Friday for comment. In an article published on Thursday, she told the San Antonio Express-News that she had hired a lawyer and was considering suing the university. The AAUP's letter to President Ferrier, sent on Thursday, said Ms. Bradford had told the group that most or all of the classes she had planned to teach have been reassigned to other faculty members, and that the administration had taken action against her, without offering her any hearing or other recourse, out of its displeasure over her involvement in the cross controversy.
The New Faculty Majority is asking adjuncts to sign an online petition demanding Ms. Bradford's reintstatement. It says, "Adjunct faculty know why she was fired! It's because she dared to speak up and voice an opinion that was contrary to her employer's interests." The group also plans to send Ms. Ferrier a letter protesting Ms. Bradford's treatment.
Other advocacy groups, including the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the local chapter for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, also have weighed in on Ms. Bradford's behalf.