Students start a petition to ask administration to reconsider contract
By Morgan Daniels
The professor who teaches students how to teach students with disabilities, will not be back in a Trevecca classroom next year.
Dusteen Knotts, associate professor of education, confirmed Wednesday she was told by TNU administrators that her annual contract will not be renewed.
Knotts, who has taught education classes at Trevecca for four years, said she is following the proper procedure with Trevecca human relations to address the decision.
“I don’t have any answers. I’m as mystified as everyone else,” Knotts said.
Knotts, as well as human resource officials, said they could not share details about why her contract was not renewed.
Several students have expressed support for Knotts and question why her contract is not being renewed, she said.
“I’m incredibly humbled by the quality of students and their maturity,” she said.
A group of students said they are presenting a petition to administrators. The students refused a request for an interview for this story and would not say specifically for what the petition asks administrators to do.
But, a recent Facebook event was created called Prayer for Dr. Knotts by Trevecca students, Jessica Massey and Alexandria Alspach. Massey and Alspach invited around 300 Trevecca affiliates to participate in a campus-wide prayer while a small group of students will present the petition to Carol Maxson, associate provost and dean of academic affairs, the Facebook page said.
“We have formed a petition informing Dr. Boone, the deans, and the head of academic affairs of the situation at hand. We want our voice to be heard, and further investigation to be done,” the creators of the event wrote on the Facebook page. “We will give her [Maxson] the petition, and discuss with her how the students in the School of Education feel about Dr. Knotts.”
Provost Steve Pusey said that several laws prevent administrators from discussing personnel issues.
“There is nothing I can say specifically about Dr. Knotts or her situation,” Pusey said. “Hiring institutions, such as Trevecca, are prohibited by various privacy laws to discuss personal personnel information. Any violation of these restrictions makes the institution liable and puts it at risk. These are the same laws that protect the privacy of students.”
Non-tenured faculty members’ annual contracts are renewed each spring. Administrators can determine on an annual basis if a faculty member will be teaching again the following year.
Pusey said these decisions are given much thought.
“Personnel decisions here at Trevecca are not taken lightly,” Pusey said. “We do so only after considering as many issues as possible and then make those decisions in line with what we think are in the best interest of the university as a whole.”
Knotts, has served more than 30 years in the field of education as an elementary school teacher and/or university professor. She has taught education courses such as Foundations in Special Education, Ethical and Professional Aspects of Special Education, and Learning and Cognition at Trevecca, Cumberland University, Murray State University and Southern Illinois University. She is certified in special education with both licenses of mild and severe disabilities, highly educated in elementary education, and is also certified in all three levels of K-12 language arts and reading.
Thank you for your comment. We clarified the information.
Actually, the petition does not “ask administrators to keep Knotts on the faculty .” If the petition said that, it would be like praying to God for a specific outcome– trying to put limits on Him. Just like the facebook group asking for prayer for Dr. Knotts and this situation says, “We want our voice to be heard, and further investigation to be done,” that is mainly what the petition is asking for. This isn’t an “us versus them” situation. This is not an attack on the School of Education. We just love our professor. We are advocating for her, just like she continually does for us.
I am a parent of one of Trevecca’s students. I also work in the educational field. Dr. Knotts has helped not only Tiffany grow and mature in school and in her spiritual life. She has helped me in the problems I have faced in my classroom. I beleive that a it will be a big misjustice to let Dr. Knotts leave. She is the reason we have allowed Tiffany to remain at Trevecca after her first year. She goes beyond a duty of a teacher/professor to care for her students and their families.