By Nicole Lafond
The administration has decided to discontinue the contract of Dr. Brian Woodworth, associate professor of criminal justice, after May 2013. In response, some students have voiced their opinions of disapproval.
At a Nov. 14 meeting with Dr. Gregg Chenoweth, VP of Academic Affairs, Woodworth was told his contract would not be renewed after May 2013. He has until February to decide whether or not he will be returning to ONU for the 2012-2013 school year. Woodworth has been an associate professor of criminal justice at Olivet for five and a half years.
Students from the criminal justice major were quick to react to the university’s decision to not renew Woodworth’s contract. Junior Katie Farris has taken all of her criminal justice courses with Woodworth and disagrees with the university’s decision.
“Not only is Woodworth a great professor, he’s also a great mentor,” she said. “His students can talk to him about anything. ONU has always wanted professors and students to have a good relationship … I have grown so much as a person because of him.”
Professor Craig Bishop was recently hired to the criminal justice department and has a police background while Woodworth teaches with a law background. Because of his prominence in the department, students are worried about its future once Woodworth leaves.
One such student is sophomore Lindsey Tobias, who is concerned the department will regress. “Whoever replaces him will have some big shoes to fill,” she said.
Despite concerns, Woodworth is not worried about the future of the department. He has “no doubt” the University will find someone competent to take his place.
Frustrated students have written letters and met with members of the administration to voice their opinion on the matter. A Facebook page has even been created, titled “Keep Prof. Woodworth at Olivet!” The page was designed to allow students to share their frustrations and let their professor know how much he has impacted them, as cited in the page description.
Sophomore Faith Cavender sent an email to Dr. Bowling expressing her frustrations.
“I love being here at Olivet, but this will greatly change the criminal justice program and it has made me think twice about coming back,” Cavender’s letter stated. “The University is losing one of its greatest professors and role models. If [Woodworth] does not measure up to the University’s standards, I am not sure who would.”
For Woodworth, the outpouring of support from students and alumni has been a reassuring affirmation of what his mission has always been as a professor. “My mission is to be a professor, mentor, father figure and friend to all of my students,” Woodworth said. “I serve my students by teaching them values and knowledge.”
His students know he will do anything to help them, Tobias said. “I can ask him for help on anything and he will drop whatever he’s doing to help me.”
Although disappointed, Woodworth’s initial reaction to the news was relief.
“It’s hard to describe. I didn’t know what the future would hold from the end of last semester until the meeting,” he said. He had met with Chenoweth last February. At the meeting, Chenoweth indicated the non-reappointment of his contract was a possibility. Woodworth said the school has been fair to him and he was aware this was a possible outcome.
The University’s reason for not reappointing Woodworth’s contract cannot be commented on, according to Chenoweth. “Disclosure might satisfy curious or upset inquirers, but exposes the employee to disrespect,” Chenoweth said of the University’s policies.
Woodworth also chose not to comment on the details of his contract. “The decision was made based on differing philosophies … [and] a difference of opinion as to the mission and service of being an Olivet faculty member,” he said.
Despite the “differing philosophies,” Woodworth loves Olivet and respects the University’s decision. “I am grateful for the early notice Dr. Chenoweth gave me. He really didn’t have to inform me of the decision until [this coming] February.”
If he had a choice after all of this, Woodworth would continue to teach at Olivet because of his students and the relationships he has developed with members of the faculty and staff. However, he views his predicament as a question of whether he is doing what he wants to do or what he believes God wants him to do.
“I would rather go where God wants me to be, because He will fully take care of me, ” Woodworth said.
He will continue to work at Olivet until he finds a new job.
“I am thankful for the extra year I have been given on my contract. Whether or not I will return next semester or next year depends on when I get a new job offer.”