By FAITH DUARTE
Piper Professor nominee Hoan Duong received an employment letter Oct. 29 to allow him to continue teaching in the U.S., the president of this college’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors announced during the citizens-to-be-heard portion of Tuesday’s board meeting.
“His ability to remain teaching at SAC for the next few years will ensure that our math department can continue its tradition of engaging and preparing students for graduation and successful transfer to four-year colleges,” Librarian Celita DeArmond said during the presentation.
The delay in getting the letter signed by a district official had attracted the attention of Faculty Senate, the AAUP chapter and the San Antonio College Faculty Legal Action Association, which had planned to speak to the board on Duong’s behalf.
The letter is required for the Canadian citizen to maintain a Trade NAFTA visa, a special status for professionals that allows Canadian and Mexican citizens to live in the United States. Without this verification, his employment for the spring would have been in jeopardy.
Duong, who has taught in the math department since 1998, requested a letter in September and said he learned in early October that although it was submitted to the district by college President Robert Zeigler, a district representative had not signed it. Duong said it seemed as if the district was stalling.
The college AAUP chapter, faculty legal association and the college’s Faculty Senate became involved after hearing about Duong’s situation from math Professor Gerald Busald Oct. 3 in a closed meeting of Faculty Senate.
Faculty Senate created a resolution dated Oct. 22 in support of Duong, who is one of four nominees for Piper Professor from this college. The nominee chosen by peers to represent this college will compete statewide for one of 10 $5,000 awards for teaching excellence.
According to the resolution, the district has no policy regarding the employment of noncitizens.
Busald, vice president of the Faculty Legal Action Association, said Thursday the organization was prepared to provide legal support for Duong if the situation was not resolved before the board meeting. “We were prepared to have our attorney at the meeting, so we were prepared if it came down to a battle,” he said.
DeArmond said an email describing Duong’s situation was sent Oct. 28 to the Alamo Colleges board of trustees and Zeigler.
“Let’s just say movement happened all of a sudden,” she said after the presentation.
“I think there was some kind of confusion as to what kind of visa he needed to be on,” she said after the presentation. “It just seemed there wasn’t enough effort to understand the situation before the big ‘no’ happened.”
Linda Boyer-Owens, associate vice chancellor of human resources, declined to comment Thursday on reasons for the delay but said she signed the letter of employment Duong received Oct. 29.
“We’re pleased that it worked out the way it did, and we’re pleased that everybody is pleased,” she told The Ranger Thursday.
About 10 faculty members, including Busald, and one student stood with DeArmond during the presentation to show support for the professor.
“He (Duong) has a high level of involvement within our academic community, is an excellent professor, and is well-respected by his students and colleagues,” DeArmond said during the meeting.
Math Chair Said Fariabi said Duong is an asset to the department that has seen its full-time faculty decline in recent years from a high of 62 to 31 this semester. “I’m so happy that we could have him in the department because he’s been helping the department and the students in any way he can,” Fariabi said Wednesday. Duong teaches math and computer science courses, which “makes him unique in that sense,” Fariabi said.
This semester, Duong teaches MATH 0303, Intermediate Algebra; MATH 1314, College Algebra; MATH 2413, Calculus 1; MATH 2314, Calculus 2; MATH 2318, Linear Algebra; and COSC 1315, Fundamentals of Programming.
Fariabi said the district would have given Duong until the end of the semester to submit a letter of employment and would have allowed him to teach for the remainder of the semester. “We had a plan to assign his (spring 2013) classes to somebody else, but I’m glad it didn’t go that far,” Fariabi said.
Duong did not attend the board meeting because he was teaching his 6 p.m. Calculus 2 class.
“They said from now on there would be no problems, and I hope this is (just) a misunderstanding,” Duong said Wednesday.