Dear Texas A&M,
I found myself crying on my bicycle ride home late tonight. I realized I was mourning the loss of our relationship, though it isn’t quite over yet. I can’t see a way forward. I haven’t been able to see a way forward for a while. You may have better days ahead of you, but I think they are going to be without me.
Since we are at the end, there are a few things I want to thank you for.
First, thank you for giving me care of your students. Every day, I have been honored to be in classrooms with them. Every semester, I have gotten to watch them grow in intellect, but more important, in spirit. I have watched these young people learn that they have the power to effect change in their lives.
Second, I want to thank you for what you’ve taught me about myself.
I wanted to teach, but I didn’t know how good I would be at it. I still don’t live up to my own standard most of the time, but I keep growing and getting better. I’ve been grateful for the Center for Teaching Effectiveness. For Wakonse South. For my superb Academic Professional Track Colleagues in Math. They embraced me when I was a visiting assistant professor. They welcomed me into their ranks three years later as a lecturer. They supported me when I went up for promotion. They helped me figure out how to write a syllabus, how to write exams, how to work the classroom computers. They’ve been generous with their notes, week-in-reviews and course materials. They’ve accepted and helped me lead when I’ve been asked to do that. They’ve given me many insights into better teaching.
I came to you thinking I didn’t really ever want to do math or programming again, but slowly, day by day, class by class, you’ve brought me back around to seeing my love for both. I find myself talking over and over again in class about the wonder of the material I teach. And I’ve found myself programming Project Euler problems in my spare time.
You helped me find mentors that have helped me to be able to pull my professional academic credentials together and see that they are worth something on the tenure-track market. If I hadn’t had these people to believe in me first, I would have had a hard time believing in myself. And they’ve been right. I am getting interviews. I may not be right for every school, but I have skills that are extremely valuable in the job market.
Last, you’ve taught me that I am not a doormat; I will stand up for what is right. This past year has been so so hard for me, as I’ve watched things happen that I could not, with integrity, remain silent about. It has been terrifying to speak up. To continue to speak up. And to realize that speaking up required me to start looking elsewhere for employment. I am sad that a better conclusion wasn’t in the cards for us. And I’m angry with you for not having better to offer after all I’ve given to you. But the bottom line is that I am stronger for having lived through this. As angry as I am about what’s gone wrong, I cannot help but be grateful for the growth.
One concept that’s always been dear to my heart is the idea of Aggie Honor. As often as we have students violate our honor code, when you sit them down to talk about it, you can tell that being Aggies and embodying that honor means something to them. Honor means something profound to me too. Integrity. Willingness to do what is right even at a great personal cost. Willingness to speak up when I would prefer to remain silent. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen much honor in you lately, and that makes me sad. I believe you can do better, Texas A&M.
We are going to have some difficult discussions tomorrow. I don’t expect change to happen for me with you, though I hope it happens eventually. I hope, more than anything else, that you can find your way back to honor. To see yourself as I see you. To bring to our students our very best.
I hope you are up for it. I’m not sure I can keep believing in you for now, and that’s part of why I have to go. I know that it is through our darkest moments that we have the most profound break-throughs. I hope for one for me. I also hope for one for you.
With love, and profound sadness,