Renowned and beloved Arab studies professor Samer Shehata denied tenure
Yesterday, Georgetown confirmed its decision to deny tenure to Dr. Samer Shehata, assistant professor of Arab politics at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown. This rejection comes as a tremendous surprise to Shehata, who has taught at Georgetown since 2001 and is extremely well-regarded by both his students and his colleagues in the field of Arab studies.
“This was unexpected. My record speaks for itself,” Shehata said. “Nothing in my scholarship, teaching, or service to Georgetown justifies the denial of tenure.”
Many of Shehata’s students agree. A petition with over 200 supporters appeals to President John DeGioia to reconsider the decision to deny Shehata tenure.
According to the Georgetown University Faculty Handbook, “Through the institution of tenure, the University seeks to retain outstanding faculty and protect the academic freedom essential to the best research, teaching, and service.” Tenure can only be approved by the president after an application and review process. The handbook lists three requirements for receiving tenure: a highly-rated teaching career, lasting many years, “scholarly accomplishments,” and service both inside and outside the university.
Shehata believes he is more than qualified in all three of these areas.
“My teaching record is stellar,” he said. “This has repeatedly been reflected in my student evaluations, which have been excellent. Since I began teaching at Georgetown in 2001, my average overall evaluation of instructor score, in over 25 courses, is over 4.6 out of 5.”
Shehata has made significant contributions to the field of Arabic studies, especially since the Arab Spring and the installation of a new government in Egypt. He’s written numerous articles and book chapters and has appeared on The Colbert Report a few times.
Shehata believes his first book, Shop Floor Culture and Politics in Egypt, has the kind of uniqueness and insight which separates him from other scholars. To write this book, Shehata worked full-time in an Egyptian textile factory for 10 months. “The result is an empirically rich, theoretically sophisticated analysis of class formation at the point of production in Egypt,” he said. “My book represents the only study of this kind to have been undertaken in Egypt and one of only a few such studies in the world.”
His studies on the situation in Egypt are ongoing. “I am presently writing a book, under contract with Stanford University Press, on the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s electoral and political participation, a topic I have been working on and writing about for the last few years,” he said.
What makes the university’s denial of his tenure even more perplexing is its continual promotion of his work. Just a few weeks ago, Georgetown tweeted about an appearance Shehata made on NPR.
Shehata has done more than just scholarship for the benefit of Georgetown. His record of service is equally impressive. “I established two new academic programs at Georgetown, the Qatar Arabic Language Scholarship Program and the Qatar Post-Doctoral Fellowship Program, which have brought hundreds of thousands of dollars to the University,” he said.
“Georgetown gave me no previous indication that my teaching, scholarly or service record was deficient in any way—this is because it is not deficient,” Shehata said.
The university has offered no formal explanation to Shehata as to why his tenure was denied. “Given my dedication and service to the University and its students for over a decade, as well as the serious nature of my tenure application, it would seem appropriate for the administration to provide a detailed explanation for its denial of my tenure application,” he said.
David Edelstein, chair of the School of Foreign Service Faculty, explained to Vox that any details regarding Shehata’s tenure denial are confidential.
Shehata will no longer continue to teach at Georgetown. An email he received from the University on Monday informed him that May 31 will be his last day of employment.
Shehata will not let this be the end of his career, however. “Georgetown’s unfair denial of my tenure and termination of my employment will not affect my dedication to my students or deter me from teaching future generations of students about the Middle East,” he said. “I will continue to research, write, and teach about Egypt and the Middle East.”
Photo from Shehata’s blog