Retribution on the High Plains Odessa A 40-year-old government professor at a heretofore obscure junior college on the West Texas plains has become the latest focal point in the continuing battle to bring academic freedom and tenure into fuller reality in Texas. Robert Sindermann, a mild-mannered, respected, studious lecturer, seeks to establish the right to express his views as a private citizen without losing his teaching jobs in the process. Sindermann was fired in May after serving four years on the faculty of Odessa College and after having become deeply involved this spring in the dispute that has flared between Midland and Odessa people as to where the University of Texas campus for the Permian Basin will be located. Compounding Sindermann’s “problems” The writer covers the Permian Basin for a West Texas daily and is a resident of Odessa. 6 The Texas Observer Washington, D.C., Odessa, San Marcos and Austin The national office of the American Association of University Professors reports from its Washington, D.C., office that an inquiry as to the possibilities of the association investigating the firing of Robert Sindermann, teacher at Odessa College, has been received, and that further information is to be provided the organization. Nothing has been heard from the four professors who were given one-year terminal contracts recently by Southwest Texas College, San Marcos, evidently for their roles in investigating questions raised about the doctoral dissertation of the lately resigned SWT president, James McCrocklin. “However, we’ve rather been expecting to get something in the mail any day from Southwest Texas on that,” Dr. Jordan Kurland of the AAUP office in Washington tells the Observer. The association’s national office has been in touch with the San Marcos situation since late last year. The four fired SWT teachers are Allen Butcher, an instructor in government for six years; Dr. Robert Smith, assistant professor of history for three years; Steve Marshall, English instructor for two years; and Dr. Y. K. Malik, assistant professor of government. All but Malik were among the group of ten professors with his academic superiors here has been his advocacy, as the new president of the Texas Junior College Teachers Association, of a bill that would put on the state statute books academic freedom and tenure policies for Texas colleges. Sindermann was elected president of the TJCTA last February. “Many junior college teachers were thoroughly disgusted with Mildred Chaffin TJCTA,” he recalls. “We were resolved that the organization had to either be disbanded or it had to be improved.” The former leadership of the association was replaced by a new group who pledged themselves to a program of legislative action on behalf of junior college teachers. Sindermann pledged to work in particular in behalf of the academic freedom and teacher tenure bill which, he felt, was needed to put teeth into the Coordinating Board’s statement of October, 1967, on these questions. who earlier this year signed a letter in the campus newspaper saying they believed that McCrocklin question should be fully resolved. The other seven signers of that letter all had tenure. Malik, though not active in the controversy, was known to support the faculty inquiry. Dr. Leland E. Derrick, named acting president after McCrocklin resigned, told the Associated Press that Smith and Marshall were being let go because of their activities in the McCrocklin matter. Butcher, said Derrick, had taken too long to get his doctoral degree \(Butcher Derrick declined to comment on the Malik matter. As for the Sindermann case, the Associated Press reports that Dr. Jack Rodgers, OC president, said the teacher was fired because he was a member of a committee trying to make the school a four-year institution. The college’s official policy, the AP noted, is to remain a two-year school. State Sen. Joe Bernal, San Antonio, said he believes that Sindermann’s contract was not renewed because the teacher left Odessa to testify before a Senate committee in favor of the bill defining academic freedom and tenure policies for Texas colleges. G.O. Returning to Odessa, Sindermann three times sought permission to be relieved of classroom duties so he could appear before the Senate State Affairs Committee in behalf of the academic freedom bill, SB 512, sponsored by Sen. Oscar Mauzy, Dallas. The measure had been drafted by the TJCTA and the Texas Association of Classroom Teachers and endorsed by the Texas conference of the American Association of University Professors. Despite denials of permission to go, Sindermann twice went to Austin in April when hearings of the bill were scheduled. Each time, however, the committee agenda was too crowded for the bill to be brought up. LEN FOR the second time a hearing on SB 512 was postponed Sindermann testified instead against SB 531, introduced by Sen. Pete Snelson of Midland, which would establish the UTPermian campus at Midland and leave Odessa College a two-year junior college. Among backers of the Snelson bill is Tom Sealy, chairman of the Coordinating Board, Texas College and University System, a Midland man who long has been a political power in Texas, most notably during the administration of Gov. John Connally. It appears clear to those who have followed developments here that Sindermann’s opposition to the Sealy plan was instrumental in his dismissal. In an 11-page letter issued Sindermann by Dr. Jack Rodgers, OC president, to explain the dismissal, it is noted that “Mr. Sindermann saw fit to align himself with [an organization formed to elevate Odessa College to four-year status] in contradiction to a policy statement of the [OC] board of regents in the matter.” One of the nine OC regents has bitterlif fought the Sealy plan. Mrs. Betty Dooley considers the regents stand a “sellout,” and she supports Sindermann’s right to take his stand. “Private citizen and Ector County taxpayer Robert Sindermann joined with 24,000 others in Ector County in petitioning the Texas legislators to elevate the school to four-year status,” she says. “And it is for this reason, and this reason alone, that he is now being dismissed from the OC faculty. We can’t afford this loss we have lost too many other good teachers already as a result of our repressive atmosphere at Odessa College.” It appears that the regents intended to keep word of the Sindermann firing quiet until after the Legislature adjourns June 2. At a May 6 meeting the school’s 105 other faculty members’ contracts were renewed. At that time, Mrs. Dooley says, it was decided to fire Sindermann as of May 31. Also, it was voted to postpone the next regular meeting of the regents until June 3, the day after the Legislature adjourns. However, Mrs. Dooley wrote Sinder The AAUP Awaiting Further Developments at Odessa, SWT
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