Photo by Linda Braus
By Linda Braus, Editor-in-Chief
Students and alumni of Carroll’s physical therapy graduate program were dismayed in early February when Dr. David Bazett-Jones’s tenure was denied at the end of a seemingly positive 6-year process of teaching, service, scholarship and review.
Shortly after Bazett-Jones (also known as DBJ) broke the news to his students, a petition to reconsider the decision surfaced online.
“The 2018, 2019 and 2020 Doctorate of Physical Therapy classes have joined forces, along with other faculty and alumni, in support of our beloved professor, colleague and mentor,” according to the petition.
Current physical therapy students and alumni also emailed university president Dr. Cindy Gnadinger to present their concerns and urge the board of trustees to reconsider their final decision, which came after the tenure and promotion committee of Bazett-Jones’s peers recommended him for tenure.
“Dr. Bazett-Jones’s teaching style exemplifies excellence,” wrote first-year DPT student Morgan Auman in an email to Gnadinger, shared with The New Perspective. “Dr. Bazett-Jones uses a flipped classroom where we are responsible for watching his lectures before class, which allows us to ask questions and apply different concepts while in the classroom.”
“[He] also sets time aside to help us as people,” she explained. “He has taught us meditation practices to help us during exams and practical skill checks, he encourages us to write goals, he has taught us to celebrate our successes and our failures and he teaches us to be successful outside of his classroom.”
The decision came as a shock to Bazett-Jones and his peers, in addition to his current and former students.
“At six years, you’ve gone up twice, and the idea is that two years, you’re told ‘okay, you’re on the right path’ or ‘you’re not.’ At four years, you should know if you are up for tenure, you have a high likelihood of success, and then at six years, it should be — well, if you did everything up to that point — then the committee would grant tenure,” Bazett-Jones explained.
“I think it went very well,” he said of his experience. “They [the faculty] recommended me to the provost. After that — I have no idea. So, all I was told is that they didn’t feel like I met the standards, and that I wouldn’t be successful moving forward.”
Bazett-Jones remained transparent about the outcome following the decision.
“I felt like before word got out, I tried telling other faculty members, that ‘hey, this happened.’ Next morning, I told the students, because I wanted them to hear it from me, not through the grapevine,” he said. “Word travels fast, right? And so I felt like it was respectful for me to tell them myself.”
He considers the students’ response a silver-lining to the experience.
“Their response has just been — for me personally — overwhelming. I have received so many emails, copies of emails that were sent to the president; they sent me the petition, which has 370* signatures,” he said. “I mean, that just blows my mind. I’m very humbled by that.”
Bazett-Jones shared about his teaching style and the reasons, reflecting the reasons his students were moved to advocate for him.
“We just went down to the [Milwaukee Public Museum] yesterday. This the fifth year that I’ve done that. The first year I did it, they told me I couldn’t. They didn’t think it would work. [The students] take and look at exhibits and try to understand how culture and the environment can affect how we move and our posture,” he explained.
“My class is very biomechanics and technical; I want them to think about things from a different perspective as well. And so I try to get them out of the classroom and into a different environment where they can think differently and be challenged and the museum offers a great opportunity for that. So it’s sad that it will be the last year that it happens.”
Through these unique experiences, Bazett-Jones hopes to truly reach his students.
“That’s the fun part about being a teacher, is trying to be creative and find different ways to teach. Each person learns differently,” he said. “To be able to help them learn to their best ability, that’s a teacher’s job, right? To find different ways of teaching each person, as an individual, instead of just saying, ‘here, this is the way I teach, learn this way or don’t do well.”
This is what Bazett-Jones has enjoyed doing throughout his time at Carroll, and he continues to feel positively about it.
“What makes Carroll special is the students. It’s not the programs, it’s not the administration, it’s not the teachers,” he said. “I believe Carroll attracts hard-working students who want to make a difference in the world. You can’t manufacture that. You can’t create a program for that. For some reason, Carroll attracts those students, and that’s what makes Carroll different.”
Despite these stories and student action, the decision regarding Bazett-Jones’s tenure remains unchanged.
When reached for comment, President Gnadinger offered the following statement: “Yes, I received emails, as well as other notes of concern, from students and alumni affiliated with the Physical Therapy program in regard to a recent tenure decision on campus. I have responded to each one individually. I appreciate that students have shared their positive Carroll experiences and also feel comfortable sharing their concerns with me, when they arise. While I am unable to comment on any specific personnel issue at our university, tenure decisions at all universities can be complicated and difficult matters that comprise a multitude of factors over many years. I do wish to assure our students that our faculty and administration are committed to providing the most outstanding education for all Carroll students.”
And what’s next for Bazett-Jones?
“I’ve applied all over the country already,” he said. “My area of expertise is very specialized — there’s very few people who are biomechanists but also clinically trained like I am, and so, I am applying.”
Despite his clinical experience, he has no intention to leave teaching.
“I love teaching. I love affecting the students on an educational level and on a personal level. I think that students are people first, students second,” he said. “So I try to always respect that and encourage them to be people first.”
“Be a person and the rest will come.”
*At time of this posting, the petition has 390 signatures.