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Davis, California

Saturday, February 24, 2024

UC-AFT, students call for reinstatement of music professor Erik Peregrine after new candidate hired for tenured music department role

The professor cited gender discrimination as one of the reasons for the hiring decision, which the department denies


By RACHEL GAUER— campus@theaggie.org


Choir students and members of the UC-AFT union are calling for the reinstatement of Erik Peregrine, who currently serves as the director of choirs and as a lecturer in music at UC Davis. Peregrine, who identifies as transgender and uses they/them pronouns, initially signed a two-year contract in 2022. However, when the department gained permission and funding to create a tenured faculty position for the role, they terminated Peregrine’s contract and conducted a national search for the new position, eventually selecting a different candidate.

Peregrine first began as a lecturer in the Music Department at the beginning of fall quarter 2021. According to a timeline created by Katie Caceres, who is a second-year environmental policy analysis and planning major and a student of Peregrine’s, Peregrine initially worked under a one-year contract that was meant to be reevaluated at the end of the academic year. At this time, according to Caceres, the university then granted them a two-year contract that was set to last from 2022-2024.

This past January, Peregrine was notified that the position was going to be turned into one with a tenured track. As a result, Peregrine would have to re-apply for the position alongside the other candidates, effectively terminating their original two-year contract because of the nature of the new position being offered.

Laurie San Martin, a professor in the Music Department and the Chair of Music at UC Davis, provided a comment on the situation. She noted that when hiring for a tenured faculty position like this, the department is required to conduct a national search and open the role up to other candidates. 

“Erik Peregrine has done a wonderful job with the choirs at UC Davis these past six quarters,” San Martin said via email. “Last fall, the dean’s office granted permission for the music department to conduct a search for a tenure-track faculty member, who would serve as director of the choirs. […] The final four candidates (one of whom was Erik Peregrine) were all very impressive. The search committee ultimately chose Nicolás Dosman for the position, and the department agreed with this choice. ”

Caden O’Flaherty, a third-year sociology major who identifies as transgender, has participated in choir courses with Peregrine for the past four quarters. O’Flaherty said that they sent a recommendation to the department chair to encourage the rehiring of Peregrine on Jan. 28, but said that their email recommendation received no direct response. 

Later in the interview process, Peregrine was asked to present their research at a presentation that was open to students. Caceres said that the student turnout and student support for the professor were significant. 

“A bunch of other students and I all attended,” Caceres said. “It was so full, to the point where we had to bring in extra chairs.” 

At the event, students were asked for their contact information to be involved in the remainder of the hiring process. Caceres and several of her classmates provided the department with the information. 

“A staff member came up to us and asked us to put our names and emails on a notepad if we wished to be involved in the rest of the hiring process,” Caceres said. “I put my information down and later heard nothing.” 

The department said that it was very open to receiving and considering student feedback during the search process, and received a variety of responses, which it says it took under consideration.

In mid-February, shortly after the hiring process began, Peregrine was notified that they were not going to be rehired for the position. The students within the department were not notified until Peregrine informed their students on April 12. 

Throughout both their career at the university as well as throughout the hiring process, Peregrine cited experiencing various instances of misgendering and transphobia within the department. In April of 2022, Peregrine said that their pronoun sign by the door of their office was vandalized. 

“My ‘they/them’ pronouns were scratched through with a thumbtack, ” Peregrine said. 

“I reported a hate crime through Harassment & Discrimination Assistance and Prevention Program (HDAPP) and never received any follow-up from the university.”   

Peregrine also attributed not being rehired for the position primarily to “discomfort” surrounding Peregrine’s gender identity from Mika Pelo, the chair of the search committee. 

[Pelo] misgendered me in multiple settings during the process, including the final interview with the full faculty,” Peregrine said. “No one else in the room — all my current colleagues — interrupted him to correct, so I did. I believe that his discomfort with my gender is a primary reason that I was not offered the position.” 

In response to Peregrine’s accusations, Mika Pelo acknowledged his misgendering of Peregrine but denied the accusation of this being a recurring problem.  

“I did misgender them once during the interview, and immediately emailed them to apologize,” Pelo said. “They accepted the apology. […] That I misgendered them multiple times, is an outright lie. […] I would never mean any mal-intent by mistakenly using the wrong pronoun. I think many like me, with English as a secondary language, would understand why this unfortunately can happen.”

Previously, Peregrine used both he/him and they/them pronouns, and Pelo said that prior to the interview process, he had read an outdated online biography for Peregrine which listed both sets of pronouns. However, Peregrine said that their Music Department biography was, at some point, changed to include these now incorrect pronouns without their knowledge or consent. 

Peregrine commented on their initial reaction to the termination of their contract and how they believe the decision will affect other lecturers in the union at the UC. 

“I was shocked when my contract was terminated early and without any conversation involving me about my future at UC Davis,” Peregrine said. “My union (UC-AFT) fought so hard to finally win multi-year contracts for lecturers beginning this academic year. My layoff is a direct affront to that agreement between UC-AFT and the University of California, and it sets a very dangerous precedent for all lecturers teaching at a UC campus.” 

Within the timeline Caceres compiled, she recounted the treble ensemble’s general reaction to Peregrine’s announcement. 

 “[Their students] were shocked, and some immediately started asking what they could do to help, or even reverse the decision,” Caceres wrote. “This is a testament to how loved Dr. Peregrine is, and what an amazing director they are.”

In response to Peregrine’s dismissal from the university, UC-AFT, the union that represents Unit 17 and Unit 18 throughout the UC system, published a petition that calls for the reinstatement of Peregrine. The petition says that the alleged issues of contract violation and gender discrimination-related incidents have not been “properly address[ed]” by the university. As of May 15, 1,577 signatures were collected on the petition in support of Peregrine’s reinstatement. 

  Mika Pelo provided a concluding statement regarding the backlash he has received from the university’s hiring decision, and gave Peregrine well wishes for the future of their career. 

 “Anyone can slip up, and I did, and then I apologized,” Pelo said. “I think this says more about Erik than me, unfortunately. I wish Erik all the best for the future, and harbor deep respect and gratitude for [their] work.”

O’Flaherty commented on the way they feel the university has handled the rehiring process from a student perspective. 

“There is something inarguably wrong about the way that the university has conducted this whole process,” O’Flaherty said. “We as a community have been asking for answers from the department chair and the chair of the search committee and have gotten nothing. There has been so much ambiguity as to why this is happening and why Erik wasn’t chosen.”

Peregrine commented that they feel speaking about this situation may help other lecturers and specifically transgender people in academia in the future. 

“Regardless of the outcome, I hope that awareness of my situation can contribute to illustrating a larger picture of how both lecturers and transgender people are mistreated within the UC system,” Peregrine said. “If we stay quiet, if we let our voices go unheard, it will remain extremely difficult to identify system-level problems for what they are. Lecturers deserve the job security we’ve been promised, and trans people deserve supportive, or at the bare minimum, non-hostile, work environments. I feel an ethical responsibility to use my experiences here to create greater accountability, equity and positive change.”

Written by: Rachel Gauer  — campus@theaggie.org