T.A. dismissal prompts call for discussion at faculty meeting

English Department Chair Gordon Braden sent an e-mail to the entire English Department faculty yesterday to clarify details surrounding the Monday dismissal of English graduate student Justin Gifford from his teaching assistant position.

Some faculty members have requested a collective discussion of Gifford's dismissal at a faculty-wide departmental meeting. Braden decided not to initially discuss the decision to relieve Gifford of his teaching position at a general departmental meeting for confidentiality purposes, according to Braden's e-mail.

Gifford and 23 students from his detective fiction class were charged with trespassing Sept. 23 during a field trip to an abandoned building owned by the University Foundation. The charges were dropped Sept. 28 in exchange for $66 per person in court costs.

"It may indeed be a good idea to have a meeting on this soon; even if we can't get to deeply into the details of the case, we can certainly discuss what we think are the proper procedures and criteria for dealing with this sort of thing in the future -- though I dearly hope and actually expect that this particular sort of thing is never going to be any regular part of what we have to deal with," Braden wrote in his e-mail.

In a telephone interview last night, Braden did not specify how many faculty members had approached him with concerns over the Gifford's dismissal.

"I take whatever my colleagues say to me pretty seriously," Braden said. "We will probably discuss this matter at a departmental meeting sometime in near feature."

"We'll be talking about whatever my colleagues want to talk about in relation to the case," he added.

The University has since agreed to cover both the students' court costs and the costs to expunge the incident from students' records, according to Braden. Gifford said the University did not relieve him of his fine.

The English Department is exploring options to reassign Gifford to a non-teaching position within the department this semester, Braden said.

"We are looking at employing him in non-teaching capacity for this semester -- whether he's interested, I don't know," he said. "A specific procedure has been arranged to evaluate him for [a future teaching position], which will take place in about month."

Braden declined to discuss details of the evaluation procedure, but said Gifford has been made aware of the process.

Gifford said he has not made any decisions on employment within the department.

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