Lehigh University marketing professor of practice Beth Gallant, ’86, has not been reappointed to her position as a professor of practice for the coming year.
After being reviewed by the dean and the marketing department, the final decision regarding her reappointment was made yesterday by the provost. Her contract of three years will end this semester.
She received notification of her employment status via mail today.
“My phone has just been lighting up all day long with either texts from old students, present students, emails, so it’s so nice that they send a lot of personal love my way, so that makes it worthwhile until I sit back and I go — but I won’t be going back, and that’s the hard part,” Gallant said. “So a lot of tears today — A lot of crying emojis.
“It’s very, very sad to think I won’t ever be back — I just won’t, so that’s kind of tough and obviously it’s been a labor of love and a passion.”
Gallant has taught at Lehigh for several years after working for more than 25 years as a marketing professional. Her career at Lehigh began when she was a visiting lecturer; eventually, this led to a full-time job as a professor of practice.
“I think that a lot of the decision was made supposedly on the criteria that were laid out for them — my teaching and my service to the university — I do believe that I didn’t get reappointed because they [Lehigh] retaliated against my allegations of gender discrimination,” she said. “So I do think that folded into it. I think the fact that this was sort of in retaliation for bringing up the discrepancies that I saw in asking for the ability to be treated fairly — I do think that this is in retaliation for that.”
The Brown and White contacted David A. Griffith, the chair of Lehigh’s marketing department, for comment. He deferred to Jordan Reese, Lehigh’s director of media relations.
“Lehigh University takes great care to conduct faculty evaluations in an equitable manner, believing that securing the most dedicated faculty is one of the greatest responsibilities for an institution of higher learning,”Reese said.
“We believe publicly stated claims of discrimination or retaliation are totally without merit,” he added.
Through the reappointment process, Gallant has been supported by her students, both current and past. A petition encouraging her reappointment received over 500 signatures. There was also an email chain that circulated among many members of the Lehigh community yesterday featuring messages of support for Gallant.
“At first I was shocked (about the petition), astonished that students — when I look at it from a professor’s point of view, you have a job to do which is to go to school and I would never think that anyone would ever take my job or me into consideration — any students who took the initiative to organize the petition the way they did and create a document and then get people to raise awareness that this was happening and then to build on it was gratifying, I was really touched by it,” Gallant said. “I just couldn’t believe that anybody would take the time out of their studies and other things to make me a project of theirs, so to speak.”
“We are aware of the petition and we did communicate with students who contacted us directly. We provided the policies that govern evaluation of professors of practice,” Reese said.
The Brown and White contacted the office of Interim Dean of the College of Business and Economics, Thomas Hyclak, and is waiting for comment.
Gallant filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last summer regarding issues of discrimination in the workplace. She feels that she has been treated unfairly as a woman in the work environment at Lehigh.
“In the College of Business, I’m the only woman professor of practice who has been denied reappointment,” she said. “All the men who are professors of practice have always been renewed. As the only woman that has ever gone up for renewal, I’m the only one who has ever been turned down.”
In this round of renewals, there were two male professors of practice whose contracts were up for renewal and Gallant. The two men were granted renewal; Gallant was not.
There is currently a second female professor of practice in the College of Business, but she has never faced renewal yet.
Several Lehigh students, upon being informed of Gallant losing her job, voiced their displeasure with the university’s decision.
“I teared up when I heard the news,” Lucy Hernandez, ’14, said. “Professor Gallant is more than just a professor, she’s a mentor and a role model to me. It’s truly upsetting to know that the person I look up to won’t be around anymore.”
Eric Hess, ’14, was also saddened by the news that Gallant would not be returning Lehigh next fall. Hess believes that Gallant will be greatly missed in the College of Business and Economics.
“I choose to attend Lehigh for the opportunity to have mentors like Professor Gallant, people who take a genuine interest other’s success,”Hess said. “The students of Lehigh deserve to have a faculty that cares about them, we deserve to have Beth Gallant as a professor.”
Jennifer O’Leary, ’14, shared similar sentiments. O’Leary said that Gallant is the most caring, helpful and passionate faculty member she has had the experience of working with during her four years at Lehigh.
“If Lehigh is truly interested in their students’ success and wishes to uphold their policy of ‘securing the most dedicated faculty,’ they will reconsider this decision,” she said.
Mary Brune, ’14, attested to Gallant’s success as a professor as well, but believes that Gallant’s work outside of the classroom is equally as important to address.
“She is an amazing mentor in regards to career development and even personal guidance,” Brune said. “I have never seen another professor, in any department, take as much of a personal interest in her students’ well-being — even extending to life post-grad. I’m still hoping the Lehigh faculty and administration will reconsider her employment for the sake of the future of the marketing department.”
Gallant reflected on the experience of speaking up, which she believes ultimately may have played a role in her dismissal as a professor for next semester.
“So my parting words are: Never watch something happen in life that you don’t think ethically or morally is right,” Gallant said. “You have to speak up. If you think about history, nothing has ever changed unless people have spoken up. Things will never change in your world if you just sit back and are passive.”