Outspoken professor nearly cut from faculty
By Gus LÃ»Bin, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Thursday, January 27, 2005
After half a year of uncertainty and doubt about his employment status at the College, professor Ron Edsforth is again teaching Dartmouth students as part of an apparently permanent, albeit fragile, position within the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program.
The high-profile 11th-year visiting professor was out of a job last January when his regular courses in the history department and war and peace studies program were filled by other faculty members. Left with no definite employment since January, a new position for Edsforth did not open until Sept. 15, just 10 days before the beginning of Fall term.
Edsforth is teaching one course this year for the MALS program and is set to teach two classes next year. He is also teaching one course this year for the history department to replace another member of the faculty on maternity leave.
The employment gap came as a shock to many people, including Edsforth himself, though he expressed a renewed confidence since being re-hired.
"I believed before that people in positions of power were appreciative of what I did on campus, so I was fairly surprised when I didn't have a job anymore last winter. But now that those people worked to get me back on staff, I realize that I was right and I really was valued," Edsforth said.
Edsforth's outspoken dynamic and political character on campus generated some vocal critics and hordes of even more vocal supporters. Much of his following derived from his active role in the world peace movement and protests against the war in Iraq.
MALS chair Donald Pease counts himself among Edsforth's supporters and said he has worked to bring Edsforth back.
"I consider Ron Edsforth to be both a great teacher and a very strong scholar and an important communal presence to Dartmouth, so I made sure that we could have some position open up for him in MALS," Pease said.
Pease hired Edsforth as the chair of globalization studies in the MALS program and made clear that this position should be seen as a job for perpetuity, despite Edsforth's continued status as a visiting professor.
College President James Wright was also an instrumental figure in Edsforth's return, as the president's office worked with the Dean of the Faculty and the provost to find a way to get Edsforth back on the faculty. This effort included the utilization of parts of the president's discretionary fund, according to Edsforth.
Michael Mastanduno, the associate dean of the faculty for the social sciences, said all the people involved were thrilled to bring Edsforth back to Dartmouth.
"We're really happy things broke his way, because Ron is a valuable member of the community. There was never any intention not to give him courses," Mastanduno said.
When Edsforth's status was still uncertain, he said he considered applying for a job at the University of Massachusetts or New York University but ultimately came to the conclusion that Dartmouth was the only place he wanted to be.
"I am old enough to look ahead and see the end of my career, and this is where I want it to end," Edsforth, 57, said.