Students Spread Petition for Professor

Lizzy Hardison '16, Associate News Editor

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A message on the blackboard outside of Prof. Berger’s Althouse office.

Dickinson students have begun to mobilize in support of Associate Professor of Economics Sebastian Berger, who is rumored to be in jeopardy of losing his teaching position.

Taylor Wilmot ’13, who took Berger’s Environmental Economics class in the fall of 2011, said that on Wednesday, Nov. 28, students first heard rumors that Berger’s position on the faculty was in dispute. In a Dec. 3 meeting with Faculty Personnel Committee Chair Professor Barry Tesman and Dean Neil Weissman, students who were supporting Berger learned that he was under review by the committee, but neither Tesman nor Weissman could reveal whether he will keep his job.

Courtney Blinkhorn ’13, who also took Berger’s Environmental Economics class and is planning an independent study with him in  the spring, said that an alumnus was the first one to alert students of Berger’s situation.

“We found out…that he had gone to a hearing with the faculty personnel committee,” Wilmot said.

Wilmot said that as of Sunday, Dec. 2, 46 letters had been collected for review by the Faculty Personnel Committee, Weissman and Professor Ebru Kongar, chair of the economics department.

Soeller was one of the many students to write a letter.

“Since I’ve gotten to know him over the course of the semester [in Environmental Economics] and visited him constantly in his office hours, [I thought] that it would be better if I wrote from personal experience,” he explained.

Wilmot and Soeller received replies from Tesman that said that student input is “valued and considered” in the review of college faculty. According to Wilmot, Berger has found support from an array of students.

“It’s not just environmental studies students, but students in the economics department as well…and students who were looking forward to having him in class in the future,” Wilmot said.

Soeller and Wilmot cited Berger’s involvement in the Idea Fund as an important aspect of his teaching. According to Soeller, Berger’s students have the choice between doing economic case studies in a textbook or working with the Idea Fund.

“It’s a part of the class that will actually give back to the whole campus,” Wilmot said.

Wilmot said that she collected letters until midnight on Sunday, Dec. 2, and then delivered them to Weissman, Kongar and Tesman. She noted that Berger has not been involved in the student movement.

“We feel it’s best that he’s removed from the movement,” explained Blinkhorn. “We’d like to give a packet of the letters to him when we’re all done, but in the meantime we’d like to keep it to ourselves,” she said.

Students supporting Berger lament the possible loss of the critical perspectives he brings to the study of economics.

“He challenges students to think critically about the economic system in a way that is…extremely valuable to the economics department and the environmental science department,” summarized Blinkhorn.

Berger was unavailable for contact at press time.