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WVSU students protest professor's departure

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When the clock signals class is over, most students rush to leave, said West Virginia State University student Cheryl Laws.

But that's not the case in Sundjata ibn-Hyman's sociology classes.

"People don't surf their phones," said Laws, a senior sociology major at WVSU. "We don't look at the clock until 10 minutes after class is over."

Laws and more than 30 other WVSU students held signs and chanted, "replicate, don't terminate" on Wednesday morning in support of their sociology professor.

Hyman's teaching contract isn't being renewed despite being voted 2012-13 professor of the year by students. School administrators won't to give a reason beyond "it's a personnel matter."

Scotty White, a sophomore and student representative on the school's Board of Governors, said Hyman informed students he wouldn't be returning earlier this year while they were scheduling classes for next semester.

White and other students sent about 20 letters to school officials pleading for Hyman to be reinstated. 

"We wanted them to know he goes above and beyond," White said. "While I love my university, this is a bad decision."

In a letter dated April 18, R. Charles Byers, provost and vice president for academic affairs, responded to students and asked them to be patient. 

"I really appreciate your concern, but this is a personnel matter that may involve a multi-step process," the letter states. "I ask that you be patient and allow the process to take its full course so that all parties involved can resolve this matter."

White, a communications major, said he has taken two sociology courses besides the one that's required of all students, because he fell in love with Hyman's teaching style.

"He doesn't have you just memorizing; he gets in depth," White said.

Courtney Smith, a sophomore criminal justice major, said Hyman's passion for teaching makes students want to learn.

"The way he teaches is so different from the rest," she said. "He inspires you to change society for the better."

Students stood outside Ferrell Hall, where the school's president of academic affairs has an office, for more than an hour.

"We want him to come out and face us," Smith said of Byers. "We deserve more of an explanation."

"To be blunt, it's our money," White said. "I'd like a little more information. If something serious is going on, don't we deserve to know? We're adults."

Hyman didn't attend the rally and couldn't be reached for comment. White said the teacher had nothing to do with the demonstration.

"It's rare when students get together for the love of a professor, but it's the least we can do," White said, adding that if their efforts don't work, "at least we're sending him off right."

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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