By Anand Venigalla
Veronika Dolar, who was an assistant professor of economics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at LIU Post for six years, is now an assistant professor in the Department of Politics, Economics and Law at SUNY Old Westbury. Dolar left the university after the spring 2017 semester, when she did not receive tenure.
At Post, Dolar taught introductory courses in microeconomics, statistics, and macroeconomics. “I developed a number of very original courses,” she said. “I did Health Economics, Economics of Obesity. I offered the Fed Challenge two years ago ; this is the first and only time LIU Post students participated in this challenge.” The Pioneer covered the Fed Challenge in its Oct. 6, 2015 issue. Mijail Quintín Mariano, then a senior economics major, was encouraged by Dolar to be the captain of the Fed Challenge team and subsequently got a job as an analyst at the New York Federal Reserve.
Dolar also organized a study abroad program to Slovenia, her home country, during the summer of 2015. The courses were “The Transition Economies of Central Europe,” and, “The Former Soviet Union,” which took place in Slovenia from July 1 through 15.
She also worked with students on independent study projects. “I typically offered a number of independent research studies. A number of my students presented their research at the New York State Economics Association conference, Pennsylvania State Economics Association conference, and at LIU Post and Beyond, [the conference held by the College of Liberal Arts in the spring semester]. Typically, two or three students had a presentation at Post,” she said.
Dolar’s research includes more than 12 peer-reviewed publications in top-tier journals in the field, publications which dealt with economics, nutrition and more. Dolar presented twice at the American Economic Association conference. “Typically people who present there are from the very top prestigious institutions in the world,” she said. “It’s impossible to get your research accepted there.” Dolar stated that she won the LIU David Newton Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2016. Which made the denial of her tenure all the more surprising to her.
“I really don’t know on what basis I was denied,” Dolar said. “There’s no matrix or numbers according to which faculty who did get tenure were better than me. The only exception between me and them were that they were males,” she added. Student enrollment and student major numbers for both philosophy and history – the fields in which two professors received tenure instead of her – are dwindling, she said, while economics has a higher rate. Dolar feels that the university’s decision is an example of “serious sexual discrimination.” Lori Knapp, Vice President of Academic Affairs, would not discuss Dolar with the Pioneer. “Promotion and tenure cases are extremely confidential and individual cases are not documented in any public formats,” she said.
Dolar made contributions to the Honors College in the area of student enrollment. “I was teaching classes there that almost no one previously enrolled in [except for two or three students]. When I taught, within a few days, these courses filled out.”
Outside of her department, Dolar taught in the psychology department, where she worked with Nancy Frye, professor of psychology, and an advanced statistics course in the spring 2017 semester. Students were able to design research studies and conduct analyses based on those studies. “And yet,” she said, “the [university] claims that there is no institutional need for me.”
Michael Soupios, professor of political science and a member of the personnel committee that reviewed Dolar’s file, argued that there was no good reason she was denied tenure. “The suspicion among the faculty was that this was an economic decision, not an academic decision,” Soupios said. Knapp did not respond to the Pioneer’s inquiries about the basis of the decision, other than to state that promotion and tenure decisions are confidential.
“The administration referenced at least one economic reason for the denial of Professor Dolar’s tenure,” John Lutz, professor of English and head of the Faculty Council, said. “It was not a question of the university not being able to fulfill the long-term commitments of giving tenure to professors. They cited ‘institutional need’ as a reason. I can’t tell you exactly what that term means because the faculty are still seeking clarification from administration concerning the particulars about how this standard was applied to this and other cases.”
There is a three-step process in obtaining tenure that involves community service, teaching, and scholarship, according to Soupios and Frye, who are both tenured. Dolar said that she met all of these qualifications. “She did her due diligence and lived up to her end of the deal, and she was still denied tenure,” Soupios said.
Tenure is a long-term financial commitment on the institution’s part. “If the institution is not in a position to make those commitments, then a lot of professors will be denied tenure,” Soupios said. “Even if you have a good teaching record, you could be turned down.”
Frye, who observed one of Dolar’s classes, described her as “a very dynamic and enthusiastic instructor,” who “did a lot to help students understand the reason for the material.” Dolar made connections between the material and real-life examples, as well as the implications of it all. “She also taught an advanced statistics course for the psychology department in the spring of 2017 semester,” Frye said. Dolar’s students designed research studies and conducted analyses based on those studies, Frye said.
Though the option to apply for tenure a second time existed, Dolar, according to Michele Dornisch, professor of education, felt that a second attempt would not be worth the trouble. “I think that we, Dr. Frye and myself, believe that the loss of Veronica is a loss for the university community, in particular for the upcoming younger faculty,” Dornisch said. Professor Frye believes that Veronika Dolar was active in the whole tenure process and was very dynamic on the campus. “There’s an effort on campus to do more study abroad courses,” Frye said, “and Veronika had done one of those in Slovenia and was planning on doing it again.” There was also a plan to create a new minor in behavioral economics.
Though the academic community is getting back some of the dynamism that existed while Dolar was on the faculty, Frye said, she also noted that “there’s a certain energy level that’s gone,” and “it’s gonna take some time” for the energy to come back.
Dolar’s transition to SUNY Old Westbury has been smooth. “I feel very happy to be there,” she said. SUNY “basically created a new line for me to go there based on my teaching and research record.”