College of Idaho students who showed up in force April 18 to protest the sudden dismissal of two popular professors said it was news to them that C of I President Charlotte Borst was willing to sit down and talk to them about what she insisted was a non-renewal of contracts rather than "firings."
"Each of the faculty members mentioned by the protesters was on a visiting contract that, according to guidelines in the Faculty Handbook, runs out after this year," said Borst, adding that she understood some people "want a reason for the decisions" but could not share details "of our personnel process."
Approximately 150 students at the Caldwell liberal arts college spent part of a particularly nice early spring afternoon in the campus' Morrison Quadrangle, not to soak up the sun, but to air their frustrations over the pending departures of Dr. Isaac Hunter, a visiting psychology professor since 2014, and Dr. Chris Saunders, a visiting chemistry professor since 2012. Both professors are C of I alums—Hunter graduated in 2004 while Saunders graduated in 2002.
Protesters said they're concerned about the prospect that the institution was placing a greater emphasis on faculty-led research over quality of education.
"We want our school to prioritize students and the students' education as its main goal and not towards the focus of research," said student Natasha Dacic, her remarks echoing through the quad via loudspeaker.
Dacic, a sophomore at C of I and co-organizer of the protest, was joined by other speakers and students who held signs that read "Education Over Publication" and "Stand With Saunders."
"I'm here to stand up for these two professors that have made a big, positive impact on my life," said sophomore chemistry student Noelle Quong. "The College of Idaho emphasizes frequent and meaningful interaction with faculty as part of a liberal arts education. With Professor Saunders and Professor Hunter not returning, we as students are concerned about what's going to happen next."
Meanwhile, Borst said, "I appreciate their concerns, and I will continue striving to serve the best interests of our student body, the faculty and the entire College of Idaho community."