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Honors Director Dismissed without Cause

Last updated on Oct 6, 2019

By Ashley Bowden


Dr. Joan Digby, English professor, was dismissed as the director of the Honors College as of September 1. Digby received word of her dismissal from the director position two weeks prior to the start of the fall 2019 semester, and did not receive a direct response as to why she was being replaced. “I do wonder why I was edged out and what they have in mind for changing the Honors College,” she said. Digby is a tenured faculty member and will continue to teach English this semester.

(Ashley Bowden)

Digby learned of her replacement from Vice President of Academic Affairs Ed Weis while inquiring about her contract stipend in mid-August. It is unclear who made the final decision concerning her replacement. Digby said she would have been happy to introduce administrative faculty to people in the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) who have experience and are searching for open positions. “Being excluded from decision making about the future [of the honors program], I felt was really wrong,” Digby said.

“We are extremely grateful to Dr. Digby for her leadership in the Honors College. She played a vital role in evolving the honors program into a respected Honors College. Dr. Digby remains a highly valued and respected professor,” Weis said, in response to an inquiry regarding the reason behind Digby’s dismissal.

Having taught English on campus since 1969, Digby became director of the Honors College in 1979. “It’s been a fabulous professional life,” she said. “I’ve loved being at Post, it’s an incredibly wonderful campus to work at.” Digby admires the campus’ landscape and enjoys interacting with the local cats and horses. She also had a part in developing the equine studies minor.

Digby is the president of the LIU chapters of Phi Kappa Phi, an honorary society for junior, senior and graduate students, as well as Phi Eta Sigma, an honorary society for freshmen with a GPA of 3.8 or higher. Digby established a relationship with the National Park Service in the form of Partners in the Park, a learning program where students can experience the great outdoors. In 2018, she received the Founders Award from the NCHC for her leadership in honors.

With many changes coming to campus, including the addition of a veterinary medicine school, Digby was ready and willing to adapt the honors program to accommodate the new students and majors. In 2018, she came up with a way for students in the fine and performing arts departments to complete their tutorials and theses with a reduced number of credits.

(Ashley Bowden)

Digby’s new office is 209 in Winnick House. “Of course, I’m always glad to talk with my students, and I know a lot of my students who are upperclassmen in the program, and I’m not just going to disappear from sight,” she said.

Daniel Hanley, assistant biology professor, and Heather Butts, adjunct nursing faculty member, will serve as the new co-directors of the Honors College. “I met with the new people. They really are going to be starting honors from scratch because they have no experience directing honors,” Digby said. “I don’t know what they have in mind. I am extremely worried that their new direction might diminish the structure of the program.”

“We are very excited about the scientific research, community engagement, and public policy opportunities that they can facilitate for Honors students,” Weis said in regards to the new directors. Hanley and Butts were informed of their new positions on Sunday, Sept. 1.

“We look forward to a productive and exciting year of honors courses and events,” Hanley wrote in an email sent out to honors students on Wednesday, Sept. 11. “While you have been settling back to school, or settling into college for the first time we’ve been planning for exciting internships, professional development workshops, and community service projects for you this coming year.”

Honors students can still expect to see a familiar face when visiting the honors office. Tracey Christy, secretary for the Honors College, will be present to help students with any questions they might have. Previously, Christy took over Digby’s role twice when she was out on sabbatical. “She’s going to help the new directors get up to speed, and I will too,” Digby said.

“We are honored to be working with Tracey Christy… and helping students navigate through the program,” Hanley wrote in the same email. “For those of you who have been in the program, please do not be concerned about any changes to the program that will impact your progress. Everything will remain as it has been in terms of your requirements.” The new directors will occupy Winnick House office 126.

As for measures taken to ensure honors students have a smooth transition, Christy’s position as secretary remains unaffected. “I don’t know if or how it could change,” she said. Christy has worked with Digby for over 22 years and served as co-director of the honors program in the past.

“As long as I’m here, I will continue to help the honors students and deal with situations as I always have until I am told otherwise,” Christy said. She would like honors students to know that they can still visit the honors college office for questions regarding schedules, tutorials and theses.

“I grew to love the honors college and appreciate why we have it,” Christy said. She had a hand in recruiting for the college. There are 95 freshman enrolled in honors for the 2019-20 academic year, almost double the 49 who enrolled last year. The honors program enriches student education and prepares them for the future, according to Christy. “Tutorials and theses have helped plenty of students get jobs,” she said.

“It’s a wonderful program. Dr. Digby is just a wonderful person, she cares about each and every student,” Christy said. “She will do whatever she can to help students get ahead and to learn and to be the best they can be.”

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