UTAH TECH UNIVERSITY'S STUDENT NEWS SOURCE | April 23, 2024

Students find error in university statement after two DSU faculty fired

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Dixie State University released an inaccurate public statement on personnel policy March 6 after the termination of two tenured professors, Glenn Webb and Ken Peterson, that caused confusion within the music department.

Upon further research, the statement was corrected on March 12 over spring break.

Part of the original statement said, “The University has secured faculty to take over the workload of these professors for the remainder of the semester.” 

Since Webb was put on leave in January Amanda Morrill said she was asked to cover his percussion classes on Jan. 18 and started doing so on Jan. 19. Likewise, Director of Bands Bryant Smith took over Webb’s jazz ensemble classes since January, Morrill said. Peterson’s classes have been without instruction since his termination earlier this month.

The updated statement said, “The University is working on securing faculty to take over the workload of these professors for the remainder of the semester.”

Jyl Hall, director of public relations, said although the classes were without instruction the week of the release of the statement, replacement faculty members were contacted and have already agreed to take over Webb and Peterson’s classes until the end of the semester.

Jeffery Jarvis, dean of the College of The Arts, said Amanda Morrill will assume Webb’s teaching duties in percussion. Morrill is a long-time music adjunct and former student of Webb. Merrill became full-time faculty upon Webb’s termination.

Smith will continue to assume Webb’s duties with Jazz Ensemble, and Dr. Timothy Francis was selected as interim department chair for the music department. Jarvis said he’s been meeting with students for senior recitals, and Director of Orchestras Dr. Paul Abegg will take over rehearsals for Opera Scenes Workshop. Jarvis said private vocal lessons will continue with some students shifting to Dr. Roger Hale, director of choral activity. Emily Workman will take over classes for Vocal Pedagogy. Workman has degrees in vocal performance from BYU and Yale. Jarvis wrote in an email “[Workman] comes to us highly recommended, both locally and nationally.”

Gwyn Gable, a senior vocal performance major from Ahwahnee, California, said it was not known by officials that her Vocal Pedagogy and Voice Lab classes were being held this semester when she asked about replacement faculty. Both classes were taught by Peterson. Gable said she wasn’t notified of Peterson’s dismissal. 

“I came here specifically to study with Dr. Peterson,” Gable said. “The person I paid money for is no longer available to me…I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Kari Young, a junior music education major from St. George, said replacement faculty won’t change the fact that the dismissal of Webb and Peterson is unfair to students. Young said she initially heard of the terminations through word of mouth and hasn’t felt properly notified since. Young would have liked to see the terminations happen at the end of the semester.

“I don’t feel that slander is a terminable offense for a tenured professor and having it happen at the end of the semester would have been ideal so it doesn’t interrupt our education,” Gable said. 

Lyndee Walker, a fresh man music education major from Lyman, Wyoming, agreed the terminations happened at an unfavorable time.

“To do this in the middle of the semester was shocking and very frustrating,” Walker said. “We’re already seeing the repercussions of that…it’s taking away from my education, and I pay a lot of money for my education.”

Walker said she feels the original DSU personnel policy statement was untrue because she, along with her peers, hasn’t received notice of replacement efforts.

All three students said the terminations had a negative effect on themselves, the music department and DSU as a whole. They said Peterson had instilled in them a level of confidence they never had in vocal performance.

“[Confidence] is huge as a vocalist because you need to go out and perform, and Dr. Peterson was really good at [bringing confidence] in his students,” Young said.

Young said she was planning on taking vocal lessons in the summer with Dr. Peterson but now is being told that it isn’t an offered class. Young said she now worries about her education and its stability. 

Gable said until recently, the students in Webb and Peterson’s classes were afraid to speak their minds in fear of retaliation from administration, but have received support from the community and others at DSU that makes them feel more confident amid the turmoil.

“I don’t feel comfortable on campus knowing [this administration] is running this institution,” Gable said.

The three agreed the timing, circumstances and lack of communication during the terminations caused them to worry about their future at DSU.

Walker said she plans on transferring schools next semester because Peterson was such a critical part of her experience at DSU, and she disagrees with how the administration are handling the terminations. Walker worries about the values of the institution and wishes to pursue her degree elsewhere.

“I would like the administration take responsibility for their actions and actually be held responsible for those actions because what they are doing is wrong,” Gable said.

Jarvis said the music faculty have been active in recommending replacement faculty, and DSU officials believe the selected individuals are qualified to cover the areas of work assigned.