Student newspaper coverage of Wellstone controversy

The Carletonian, January 24, 1974

"Govy dept. ousts Wellstone," The Carletonian, January 24, 1974

The Carleton grapevine has removed the substance of this article from the realm of news, and opened the subject at hand to speculation, discussion and debate. Because the subject involves a delicate and complex manner, this article attempts to set straight the facts at hand regarding recent action involving government professor Paul Wellstone.

Professor Wellstone, currently in his fifth year of teaching at Carleton, heads the Urban Studies Program and has been an active community organizer in the area of welfare and tenant's rights in Rice County. Wellstone has been noted for his vocal criticism of the Vietnam War, and of college practices relating to pedagogy and education diversity.

Last Friday, Jan. 18, a decision handed down by the government department culminated its three-month long evaluation of Wellstone. That decision in a sense also culminates Wellstone's Carleton career, as it affirms that Wellstone will this year be given his last Carleton contract, for the 1974-5 school year.

This fall, questions developed concerning the timing and significance of the Wellstone evaluation. At that time it was determined that the current investigation was actually precipitated by a decision made last year, to give Wellstone only a one-year contract (for 1973-4).

According to Wellstone, he was the only assistant professor last year to receive a one-year, and not two-year contract. As tenure evaluation is usually conducted during the sixth year, Wellstone feels that in effect he is being dropped from the faculty a year early.

Decisions such as this are neither easily made nor easily accepted. Usually when a faculty member receives a terminal contract, both the department and the professor are excruciatingly careful not to let the matte surface publicly. Wellstone, however, having been a controversial member of the college community for a number of years, feels that his contract termination cannot and should not become a hushed and mysterious issue. Wellstone therefore did voice his immediate feelings and responses after his receipt of the notice of his termination.

"For myself and my family", Wellstone stated, "today it seems like a tragedy. The job market in teaching is presently in a depression state. With a record of being a non-conformist, it will be most difficult for me to find a job."

Wellstone taught at the University of North Carolina before coming to Carleton. While there, he was accused of conducting a "black power" class, and an attempt was made by some members of his department to have him fired. The attempt failed, but he was informed that he would never again be hired by the political science department at University of North Carolina.

Beside any personal job problems Wellstone might have, he continued to say that he felt he "offered a uniqueness to Carleton, in the kinds of classes I teach, in my capacity to do extra work in my field, in the alternative prospective and different arguments I raise. My termination", he added, "represents a loss to the college's educational policies".

Wellstone also pointed out that the students’ letters received by the Dean and Department Chairman were "highly favorable, overly positive". On letter that was read to him, however, alleged that in Wellstone's classes "all black students get A's" and went on to criticize Wellstone's "radical politics and lifestyle". In regard to the later comment Wellstone replied "That added some humor in a process where there has been very little of it".

Four of the letters written concerning Wellstone were released by various sources when news of his termination became public. A letter signed by more than 100 "minority students at Carleton", says in part, "for us, minority students at Carleton, he (Wellstone) is one of the few members of the college faculty that has taken an active role in the politics of minorities in Rice County and the immediate college community. As minority students, we believe that his attitude significantly enhances the college community's awareness of minority situations in America and therefore adds an important dimension to the educational experience at Carleton".

Another letter, from Theresa Van-Zuillen, who is the President of the Organization for a Better Rice County, a citizen's group Wellstone helped to form, read, "...Dr. Wellstone treats everyone as his equal no matter what their status in life. He has (for the first time in their lives, maybe), given incentive to old people, some who can't even read or write, to speak up clearly and express themselves to city councils, county commissioners, etc., to let their needs be known. He gave them dignity by listening, with interest, to them and becoming involved their problems. He needs no vote of confidence except to say that you'll lose a great teacher and community leader if you let him go".

Wellstone asserts that the letters are "what count most to me". He is careful to maintain confidence, declaring that he has "remained consistent" in his "political and educational commitments". "I am proud of my work and the tremendous support I have received."

Government department chairman Hartley Clark refused comment, for the most part, on the Wellstone issue, saying that the material concerned is "highly confidential" and not at his disposal to divulge at will. He did say, however, that "no crucial body of information hasn't been exchanged" between the members of the government department and the Dean's office, and that "no stone has been left unturned" in the evaluation.

Nevertheless, this is hardly the end of Paul Wellstone at Carleton College. A detailed and concise response to the charges leveled against him is forthcoming. Someone with as colorful and dynamic a career at Carleton as Paul Wellstone, is not likely to slip quietly away.