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Crosses at heart of campus clash

Published: Monday, June 11, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 21:07

A Texas A&M University-San Antonio instructor was not offered a teaching position next fall, after questioning the presence of certain religious relics at the University’s entrance.

About half a mile down the road from the University, the Tower of Hope stands near the University’s entrance. It bears the University seal, and used to have crosses hanging, as well.

Sissy Bradford, a criminology instructor, was one of 20 adjunct faculty members not offered employment for the fall semester. She objected to the association of religious symbols with a public university meant to welcome students from all religious backgrounds.

“She brought it to [her department head’s] attention the day they went up … and he asked her if there was anything she would like him to do to peruse that and she said ‘No.’ And then the next day it was in the newspaper,”

said Marilu Reyna, TAMU-SA vice president of
communication.

The crosses came down a few weeks after the first news story was printed. Reyna said this was not a decision made by the University.

The University was involved in the design of the tower because its seal was included. Reyna said the crosses were put up after the original designs, by the builder’s “artistic liberties.”

The tower was built on private land, off campus and without University funds.

Reyna said a lot of people were taken aback on campus when the controversial issue was brought to light. However, everything settled once the crosses came down.

Adjunct faculty are offered teaching positions on a semester-by-semester basis.

“The decisions on appointments were made in mid-May and all affected adjunct faculty members were notified by their deans as soon as possible,” Reyna said. “Classes that were offered to the adjunct faculty were tentative as the school head typically assigns classes well in advance of the next full semester.”

Even if an instructor is offered courses to teach, some courses may or may not be in the final class schedule.

“We do need someone in [Bradford’s former] position, but we are looking to fill that with a full time tenure-track faculty,” Reyna said.

Bradford isn’t tenure-track because she has not received her doctorate. Bradford notified the interim head of the School of Arts and Science that she would not be available to teach after fall 2012, because she would be pursuing her doctoral degree.

The New Faculty Majority, an organization that seeks to support adjunct faculty across the country, sent a letter of protest to the president of Texas A&M-San Antonio, as well as other members of the A&M System, including Texas A&M University President R. Bowen Loftin. The letter said they are “gravely concerned” the University is engaging in retaliation against Bradford, due to her speaking publicly about religious symbols placed on a new
building entrance.

Alfredo Tellez, senior food science and technology major, said because this country is founded on religious freedoms, part of that right is the ability to display one’s religion.

“I guess it’s seen as bad because we are a primarily Christian-dominated country. So it seems as if we’re giving preference to one religion. But the San Antonio area was essentially a Catholic mission at first, so I’d say if they focus on its more historic roots, it could be a valid
defense,” Tellez said.

Scott Bowen, senior chemical engineering major and speaker of the Texas A&M Student Senate, said every school has to have some kind of architectural identity.

“The architectural identity for the San Antonio area is known for its missions,” Bowen said. “For a school to take that into account and build a structure that reflects the local architecture is almost expected; it’s distinctive and I think crosses are a part of that. You can’t go to the Alamo or any of the other missions in San Antonio without seeing crosses everywhere, because they were originally churches.”

 

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