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Davis, California

Monday, May 27, 2024

Asian American Studies professor denied tenure

A group of UC Davis students has been petitioning for the reinstatement of Asian American Studies professor Caroline Valverde.

After Valverde requested tenure and was denied, many in turn blamed the tenure process.

Valverde is an international scholar and has served as an assistant professor of Asian American Studies at UC Davis since 2003.

The tenure process goes through a multi-system procedure, which includes a department vote, dean vote, CAP’s (Committee on Academic Personnel) vote, vice provost vote, provost vote and the chancellor’s vote. At any level, the request can be struck down, which gives the professor one year to leave the school.

“The tenure process is such a closed process, which leads to the corruption of power,” said Eddie Truong, fourth-year Asian American studies student. “Such hierarchy needs to be looked at and revised.”

Additionally, a general University of California policy discloses that if a professor leaves or is dismissed from a UC, he or she may not apply to another UC for five years.

Nolan Zane, head of the Asian American studies department and psychology professor, said specific tenure cases and the reason that Valverde’s tenure request was denied cannot be discussed to protect the privacy rights of those involved.

“We can … say that tenure reviews are very methodical, thoughtful and comprehensive,” he said. ”The process involves reviews by many faculty at all stages of the review. Faculty members have numerous appeal rights. We also can say that tenure decisions are not influenced by or based on gender, race nor ethnicity.”

The decision to tenure a professor should be unanimous, and goes through various administrators and ultimately the chancellor, according to Eddie Truong. Truong was not able to disclose who rejected the tenure request.

Zane said that although Valverde did not receive tenure, she has not been dismissed and as of now still has a full-time academic position in the department for a one-year period. Zane also said Valverde teaches a full load of four courses for this academic year, advises both undergraduate and graduate students, conducts her research, serves on department committees and fully participates as a faculty member in department meetings.

The protest movement is at the stage of advocacy right now, and activists have recently met with Dean Jessie Ann Owens of the College of Letters and Sciences to plead their case. Additionally, students have been reaching out to administrators to understand the reason for the denial of tenure.

“She met the standard and yet didn’t get tenure which leads us to believe she was judged unfairly,” said Iris Xie, third-year English major.

Many UC Davis professors, as well professors from around the country, are in support of having Valverde reinstated.

“What makes UC Davis an exciting place to be, especially for me as a new faculty member, is that it is poised to be at the cutting edge of Asian American scholarship and teaching,” said Asian American studies professor Robyn Rodriguez. “The University can secure a place for itself in Asian American studies by retaining Professor Valverde, who is playing an important role in contributing to the study and teaching of Vietnamese and Southeast Asian American issues. I would be disappointed if the University missed the opportunity to shape the future of the field by dismissing her.”

More information on the petition can be reached at change.org/petitions/grant-tenure-to-prof-kieu-linh-caroline-valverde.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated on November 5th to reflect accurate information.

NATASHA QABAZARD can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.


  1. She’s probably a nice woman and very smart and very even likely a good lecturer. However, this is not news. Not getting tenure happens to many many people, and it is not news unless the process was done wrong. Yet there is no evidence of that in anything state here. If her professional colleagues and peers from equal institutions were petitioning and complaining, and if she had a high citation count, a number of books authored, many many invited talks, many journal papers, many grants written (for which the University could take overhead),graduated many PhD students who went on to receive prestigious postdoctoral postions or faculty positions and had a great deal of impact in her field, then this would be news. I see no discussion of that in this article. At the UC’s, the tenure process is pretty transparent and seems to be done in a reasonable manner. I looked at her webpage, and she certainly seems like she had won many awards before joining the University and is smart – but saying the Davis tenure process is corrupt (as one student says) with no facts to support it – seems extremely wrong to me. Unfortunately, you have to do more than teach and be on committees to get tenure at highly ranked academic schools – and you know that when you take the job. Close friend of mine have failed to get tenure, so I was very interested to read this article. I was very disappointed in the lack of facts, and Professor’s Valverde’s publications (or google finds) did nothing to convince me that her case wasn’t reasonably decided by her department. Very good, very smart people don’t get tenure sometimes. The bar is high, and part of the metric is research and scholarly impact.


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