You don’t know Jack: adjunct professor’s contract not renewed

Matt Mertes / Sun Star

Two days before this semester began, on Jan. 11, Jack Finch an adjunct professor of metals at UAF for 15 years, was denied renewal of his employment contract.

According to Finch, it was because he filed Title IX complaints against a professor.

Several students from the art department on campus have risen to support Finch’s return.

“We don’t really know what is happening,” Helenmarie Matesi, a metals student said. “We just know what a great teacher he was, he was the best teacher I’ve had as well, and I am a teacher. I’m a good teacher and I think I can tell another good teacher.”

Autumn Fish, a student minoring in art, started a petition to bring Finch back on She felt Finch deserved better and wanted to help show her support. So far the site has collected around 250 signatures Fish said.

Two summers ago Finch and other faculty members began Title IX training. It was extensive and informative, according to Finch. He believes Title IX training should have been done years ago, and that it had not been completed properly in the past.

A professor in the art department, whose name he would not reveal, approached him last summer and asked him some, in Finch’s words, “outrageous” questions. Throughout their conversation the professor asked about the relationship Finch had with his students, Finch said. Finch claims that when he told the other professor of the platonic nature of his relationship, with one student in particular, the professor asked why Finch was not having sex with her.

“That’s something a professor should never say,” Finch said.

Finch said he put in writing in a complaint that he gave to the University Police Department (UPD). Finch claims that his complaint was turned over to Tanya Coty, one of the Title IX investigators, after the UPD did an investigation. Coty was unavailable for comment.

“We can’t discuss the case, except to say that nothing criminal was found,” Deputy Chief Steve Goetz said, confirming the UPD did conduct an investigation into Finch’s claims. “We don’t disclose or give out police reports. I believe the entire thing was handled through HR.”

UAF Public Information Officer, Marmian Grimes, clarified that Finch was not terminated. Adjunct instructors’ contracts are renewed at the discretion of the university. Grimes spoke with the Title IX office and was told by an investigator that if a Title IX complaint had been made there would definitely be an investigation. Lead investigator, Mae Marsh, was unable to be reached for comment.

“The university did make the decision not to renew his contract for this semester, but he is still eligible for rehire at the university,” Grimes said.

The university was trying to protect Jack’s privacy and could not give any specifics on the matter, according to Grimes.

“We don’t give specifics on our employees, at all,” Grimes said, “Nobody would want that, so it makes it really tough for us to say very much.”

All employees of the university are entitled to professional privacy when they are hired by UAF. No one from the Human Resources (HR) Department could be reached for comment.

Finch had been acting increasingly odd leading up to the recent events of this semester, according to David Mollett, one of the art department chairs.

“Basically he transgressed in some areas, you know, made statements and did some things that drew HR’s attention,” Mollett said. “Then he did it again, and I got a real strange call, not just HR, but UPD were investigating his charges.”

About a year ago Jack stopped participating in faculty meetings, Mollett said.

“Jack had become lost in his own world,” Mollet said.

The art department staff and faculty seemed to be getting along with Finch, according to Mollet. They had always had a respectful, functioning and all around good relationship with him.

“We all thought we were getting along fine with him, but then this thing, it came out of the blue,” Mollett said.

Finch believes that he has been targeted by the faculty of the art department since his arrival. This is a culmination of a series of events to try and remove him, according to Finch. The second or third semester he taught at UAF, faculty members tried to “eliminate” him as an instructor by accusing him of stealing money and silver from the students’ silver supply, Finch said. This was determined to be a false accusation.

The students found out about the plan to eliminate him and wrote a petition to Phyllis Morrow, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, at the time. The petition included about thirty or forty signatures, enough to get the attention of Morrow, who had an investigation into the claims.

Finch said his books were scrutinized, after which they were proven to be balanced. After the investigation, Finch said the books of one the other instructors who had implicated him were off by about $1,000 per class, per semester. Morrow had told him there was no way to prove the theft. The instructor was told to keep a detailed record of all metals materials bought and sold, according to Finch

After the investigation, the instructor who had implicated him for stealing started locking the tools and materials away from Finch and his students, Finch said. Finch claims he tried to obtain the keys and combinations to the locks from them, but was continually denied access.

Morrow suggested Finch file grievances, but he did not feel comfortable doing so at the time. He was new to campus and did not have many friends in the department, Finch said.

Finch cites this as the beginning of his being outcast to the faculty of the art department. The department mentality is one of “us and them.” Finch said the art department has been this way as far as he can remember.

Todd Sherman, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said the issue between Finch and the university is one of confidentiality. More then anything, the university is trying to protect Finch’s privacy.

“I know Jack [Finch] to be a very good teacher, he’s attentive, he puts in a great deal of time and he cares for his students,” Sherman said.

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