Faculty departures leave PECS under construction

“Peace and Conflict Studies (at Guilford College) has potential,” said former Visiting Assistant Professor of Peace & Conflict Studies Jeremy Rinker. “I still feel that way. It’s just that the administration didn’t realize it quickly enough. It was frustrating.”

With the departure of Assistant Professor of Peace & Conflict Studies Amal Khoury to the University of North Carolina Charlotte last year and Rinker this year to the University of North Carolina Greensboro, the PECS department has had to restructure its program.

“When I came to Guilford four years ago, the PECS department looked good,” said Rinker. “After Vernie (Davis) and Amal left, there were two tenure track openings.

“I informed Jane (Fernandes) I wanted a full-time position even though I had been offered to come to UNCG.  She told me, ‘I don’t know what to tell you. I can’t commit a tenure track for PECS.’ That was my signal to leave.”

Without decent wages and the guarantee of a tenure-track appointment, the College has lost out on the charismatic leadership of vital faculty and staff.

Currently, the PECS department is led by former Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies Max Carter, who recently announced his retirement.

“It didn’t quite sound like God,” said Carter, referring to hearing his name called out in the parking lot between New Garden and Duke earlier this summer.

“I looked around and heard it again, ‘Max’. This time I noticed it was (then) Academic Dean Adrienne Israel and knew from her tone of voice that I was in trouble. She said, ‘Max I need you to chair peace and conflict studies. Jeremy has taken another position. We don’t have any full-time faculty.’ You just can’t say no to the academic dean.”

Carter’s role will be to guide the development of the program and assist faculty until Professor of Justice & Policy Studies Sherry Giles returns from sabbatical in the spring and becomes interim PECS chair.

“Since Max already planned to teach this fall and has extensive knowledge of the field through his role in Quaker Studies, he seemed like the right person for this semester,” said Israel. “Max has an excellent track record as a teacher.” 

The program is also being supported by Mary Hope, part-time lecturer of peace & conflict studies.

“My number one role is to take care of the students,” said Hope. “They’re the most important aspect of the College. I believe in this program. I believe it represents this college’s pedagogy, its goals and its missions — to present all majors with a holistically rounded education that includes a focus on conflict studies.”

This semester, Hope has had time to focus on strongly representing PECS. She has dedicated class time to speakers to show that a PECS discipline can lead to a successful career. Her interaction with students this semester will be vital to how well the program develops.

“The school left no one for (the students),” said Rinker. “The lack of commitment and urgency left them frustrated too.”

Along with President Jane Fernandes, the College will take this time to study what a peace and conflict studies program ought to look like to be dynamic. Community involvement in the PECS program will help build the major and keep everyone aware of its potential.

“My philosophy is that peace and conflict studies at a Quaker college is a no-brainer,” said Carter. “And, this is a place where that can be a distinctive program.”