Gallant finds out the decision of the provost on Tuesday. She is not optimistic about the decision.
Gallant claims that there is gender inequality within her department. A year and a half ago, Gallant sought out the help of a lawyer and recently filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding these issues.
She believes this is a case of differential treatment.
“They don’t enforce gender policies and procedures in a gender neutral way,” she said. “What I was being told to do, when you matched it up to what the men were being asked to do, wasn’t equal.”
Conferring with her male colleagues allowed her to confirm such discrepancies. Lehigh could not give her a clear answer as to why this was happening.
“We celebrate 40 years of women at Lehigh, but women have never really been accepted here,” she said.
The turnover of female faculty is greater than that of males at Lehigh, she said. There is only one department within the College of Business and Economics that has ever had a female department chair, she added. Currently, all of the chairs are male.
When a new department chair was appointed in 2012, Gallant was disappointed by the lack of change.
“I thought maybe it was tied to people, but then when things didn’t change, even though people changed, I realized [the problems]are systemic and cultural,” she said.
“I think I have a different level of caring, of empathy, compassion, for students just because I walked the very same path as them,” she said.
After graduation, she held a variety of jobs in marketing for over 25 years. Gallant’s marketing experience includes consulting and brand management for companies such as Brandsolutions, Pfizer, Kraft Foods and Procter and Gamble.
“I bring practicality into the classroom with my real life experience,”Gallant said. “I teach from my experiences and engage people to try to get them to love what I love, which is marketing.”
After working in the industry, Gallant started her career as an adjunct professor and loved it. She has taught nine different courses during her time at Lehigh. Gallant’s job has consisted of teaching and service to the university.
“I’m a career adviser, I’ve worked all of the contacts I’ve had over the past 30 years. I work to try to help students get jobs, and I do a lot with the fraternities and sororities,” she said. “Whatever it is that students ask me to do, I do. My kids say that I live here.”
When she has a student-athlete in one of her classes, she makes a point to go to at least one of his or her games. Gallant believes it makes for a better classroom experience.
“If students know that you’re engaged in what they do, then they’re engaged in what I’m trying to do,” she said.
But recently, administrative differences have gotten in the way of Gallant’s future at Lehigh.
“It’s not been the greatest environment in terms of gender, but you endure, because I love what I do and most of my time is in the classroom with the students,” she said. “If you don’t speak up, nothing changes.
“I’m fed up with the part of our culture here at Lehigh where people will watch bad things happen and they’ll literally step over you to get to whatever they want to do. I don’t think that’s a great way to live.”
Gallant said the silver lining in this situation is the fact that she has heard from students who graduated over eight years ago. They have called and e-mailed to tell her how much they loved her as a teacher and attribute their success to her.
“It’s heartbreaking that I can’t do that for more students because I won’t be here,” she said. “If I’m packing up my office in three weeks, which I most likely will be, at least I leave behind that I spoke up and I hope people hear it. Even if just one board of trustees member says, ‘something’s not right,’ then if I did that then I feel like it was worth it.”
About two weeks ago, students found out that Gallant’s contract might not be renewed and started an online petition. There are over 450 signatures encouraging Gallant’s reappointment, along with over 100 comments from students supporting her.
The petition reads: “Professor Beth Gallant, a second generation Lehigh Alum, always takes a personal interest in her students’ success while at Lehigh and after graduation. She is being terminated at semesters end. The administration’s reasoning for continuing with this decision violate Lehigh’s Principles of Our Equitable Community. Please help us stand up against this unwarranted termination and prove Professor Gallant’s importance to the Lehigh Student Body and Alumni. We are a group of students committed to supporting Beth.”
Messages on the petition read:
“Will never donate a dollar to Lehigh should they let her go.” — Derek Kelliher
“My experience at Lehigh as a marketing student would’ve been completely different without her support for the last 4 years.” — Mary Brune, ’14
“I am abroad right now and Beth is the only faculty member who has made an effort to see how my travels/studies have been.” — Sam Elgort, ’15
“She has become one of the only professors within the business school community who has shown an interest in my work, during undergraduate and after graduation this spring.” — Kristina Gretz, ’14
The newly created Facebook page named “Help Save Beth” has gotten the same type of feedback and support.
Three years ago, Gallant was faced with a similar situation when she decided she wanted to teach full time at Lehigh and had trouble securing the job.
There was a full-time job available; Gallant said she was never notified when it was posted. She had expressed interest and says she never got any clear answers as to why she was never told. But once she found out about it on her own, she applied and lost it to a man.
“Students went to the Provost’s office, dean’s office, and sent hundreds of emails,” Gallant said. “I was kind of in awe.”
She was happy that she made enough of an impact to get students to care.
With the support of the students she was finally offered a three-year contract as a professor of practice. When this occurred the first time, Alex Nicolosi ’12 started a petition to keep Gallant at Lehigh that got over 800 signatures.
A student’s perspective
David Canfield, ’14, a marketing major, has taken two of Gallant’s classes. He took consumer behavior his junior year and is currently in Gallant’s retail marketing class.
Canfield attributes his success to Gallant. She got him interested in marketing and helped him secure his job for next year. “It’s because of her that I became a marketing major,” he said.
He said he uses what he has learned in Gallant’s classes more than any others he has taken at Lehigh.
“I’ve never had a class besides hers where you looked forward to going for the discussion,” he said. “I’ve never had a class with that much participation since.”
Gallant has acted as a mentor to him, he said. He reached out to her because he knew she worked at Crayola and he felt comfortable asking for her help. He said he liked that he never felt rushed when he talked to Gallant.
Gallant has a personal relationship with the YMA fashion scholarship fund. She encourages her students to apply and mentors them. She told Canfield to look into applying; he and fellow marketing student Brune each ended up winning a $5,000 scholarship.
Canfield said that if Lehigh loses Gallant, it loses connections and opportunities.
Regarding Gallant’s possible departure, he said, “It’s indicative of the problem in our school and in a lot of institutions which are so Ph.D. [and]tenure track focused they don’t take into account the value of the MBA.”
Canfield believes that there has been a de-emphasis on undergraduate education at Lehigh. He believes that professional experience, not just a doctoral degree, is what drives expertise.
He said, “Can you imagine a chemistry professor who has never done a chemical reaction? Yet in the marketing school, we have professors who have never sold a product. It’s crazy.”
When he heard about what was happening with Gallant through Facebook, he thought someone had seen what happened three years ago and it mistakenly resurfaced.
Canfield reached out to people in the department and no one would give him any information, saying it was a confidential matter. He spent a lot of time trying to contact the proper administrators, but was not able to get many answers.
“You would think that the process would be more transparent than it is,” he said. “It’s not like we all have time, but it’s something that we’re passionate about so we’re going to make time, and it feels like no one wants to make time to listen to us.”
He felt powerless and as though his letters and requests fell on deaf ears.
“No one on the administrative body wants student opinion because it feels like they’ve already made up their mind,” he said.
This incident has caused Canfield to see the College of Business in a different light.
“I would never encourage anyone to come here for business, if that’s the way business faculty is treated,” he said. “If someone were saying they were going to declare marketing as a freshman, I would say you should reconsider if [Gallant] is not here.”
As someone who is about to be an alumnus, he said, “I won’t give a dollar [to Lehigh]until she is reinstated or is given a formal apology for the way she’s been treated.”
Canfield is speaking out about this because he believes the university is making a mistake.
“It doesn’t affect me, I’ve had her, I have a job, and I’m leaving,” he said. “I’m doing it on my conscience, I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t truthfully say what an impact she’s made on me.
“If this many students are saying that someone is extremely important and extremely valuable, then what does it take for them to listen? Four hundred people aren’t out of their mind.”
He said that no one has observed either of the classes he had with Gallant to review her teaching, so he does not understand the reason why she isn’t being reappointed. He added that Gallant goes to football games and he sees her frequently around campus.
“There’s two parts of Lehigh, there’s an academic and there’s a social, and she’s part of both,” he said. “If you have someone who is clearly a very good faculty member, knows her stuff, and loves Lehigh and wants to make the community better, why would you get rid of them?”
Story by Brown and White news writer Sam Tomaszewski, ’17.
A quote attributed to David Canfield was misleading and has been corrected to clarify the intent of the statement.