Northern Iowan

School of Music petitions for tenured professor

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KOREE DEERING, Staff Writer

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UNI conducted a search for a new assistant professor of Bass and Music Theory. The search was recently closed by the dean of College of Humanities, Arts and Sciences (CHAS), leaving some past and previous students of current bass professor Alexander Pershounin upset.

A petition was created on Change.org for students, faculty and anyone else to sign. It was created to call for reopening the search in order to allow Pershounin the opportunity to earn the tenured position.

The petition was created by a past student of Pershounin who feels he has earned tenure for his extensive work at UNI. The student directed the petition toward Provost Jim Wohlpart, the Dean of CHAS, John Fritch, and director of the School of Music, Jeffrey Funderburk.

As of press time, the petition has a goal of 500 signatures and currently has more than half of that, at 252.

According to Clayton Ryan, a senior student in the bass studio, there were two candidates for the position. Ryan said the petition was created before any information about the situation was disclosed as an immediate response from students, so the petition did not portray the situation accurately.

Fritch canceled the pursuit to fill the position after being given information regarding problems with the search process on both sides of the candidates.

“The bigger concern is that the students and faculty — including Dr. Pershounin — have been left without answers, and students don’t trust the administration,” Ryan said.

According to Funderburk, the average amount of music majors in the UNI School of Music is between 300 to 325, which doubles if the number of students participating in the various vocal and instrumental ensembles is included.

Pershounin has been a professor of bass studio and a director of jazz studies at UNI for four years.

Before he began teaching at UNI, Pershounin performed classical music and jazz all over the United States and Europe. He has also performed and composed pieces at well-known music festivals in numerous places such as Switzerland, Belgium, Finland and New Orleans, and collaborated with renowned artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Bob Berg, Conrad Herwig, Ray Charles and others.

According to UNI’s webpage, he earned his Doctorate in Musical Arts and a Master’s of Fine Arts degree from the University of Southern Mississippi, and a Master of Fine Arts degree and a Bachelor of Music degree from the Gnessin State Musical College and Gnessin Russian Academy of Music, the most prestigious music school in Russia.

According to the reasons for the petition, since Pershounin began his career at UNI, he has helped the bass studio grow to larger numbers. Before that, he played in UNI’s bass ensemble band in one of the top ensemble positions until enough bass players joined and were ready to take on those positions themselves. He has also taken over many classes and rehearsals when they could not be covered by others.

The Northern Iowan (NI) reached out to Pershounin, but he declined to comment due to how personal the situation is to him.

“Dr. Pershounin is not leaving UNI. He will be returning to UNI in the position he held this year in the double bass studio,” Fritch said.

“I plan to meet with some of the students in the School of Music this week. Dr. Jeff Funderburk, director of the School of Music will be at the meeting as well,” Fritch said. “In the meeting, I will discuss the concerns of the students with them. I look forward to meeting with them and listening to what they have to share as we all work to make the School of Music as strong as it can possibly be.”

“All of our faculty searches go through a standard process that must be adhered to if our searches are going to be fair,” Wohlpart said. “We do not grant tenure to individuals as a result of petitions, as that would violate our handbook and standard procedures.”

Wohlpart said that the UNI Faculty Handbook lays out all the procedures for giving professors tenure. They can be found in Section 3.6, titled “Principles, Standards and Procedures for Promotion and Tenure.”

According to the handbook, there is no guarantee or right for a person to be given tenure.

Pershounin has been an instructor at UNI for four years, which fulfills the minimum time requirement to be promoted to assistant professor. As an assistant professor, he would need to serve at least six more years to be promoted to associate professor and then six more years to be promoted to professor.

Some of the requirements to be tenured is to have a documented record of accomplishment in one’s field, a doctorate degree and recommendation from colleagues.

“Students understand that protocol needs to be met to keep these searches fair and beneficial to the university, but to be kept in the dark for two months, and to not be able to hold anyone accountable has been frustrating to say the least,” Ryan said.

“We are still awaiting a formal statement to the students that the position was cancelled,” Ryan said. “And the students have a right to know who is making decisions on their behalf and why the decisions are made.”

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School of Music petitions for tenured professor