This is Part 1 in a two-part series covering an interview with Political Science Professor Dr. Mehmet Caman
Dr. Mehmet Efe Caman, a scholar of international politics and human rights activist, has been a professor in the Political Science department at MUNL since 2015. He has published numerous works exploring authoritarianism, democratization, human rights, and Turkish politics. However, despite his various published works and research, Dr. Caman has been consistently in a precarious position during his time at Memorial.
In his 8 years at MUNL as a contractual professor, Dr. Caman has been offered positions of either 8 months or two consecutive 4-month terms. With this lack of permanence, his job security has always been in question. Most recently, he has been informed that he will not be granted a term appointment for the upcoming Fall 2023 semester.
Dr. Caman originally arrived from the Turkish-German University of Istanbul for a sabbatical year. It was at that time he was informed he was blacklisted and that his and his family’s passports had been cancelled due to him having signed a human rights petition criticizing the Turkish Government. Returning to his home in Turkey meant facing the real threat of imprisonment.
During that period, Memorial provided support to him and his family by actively advocating for his visa and putting forth his nomination for permanent residency, which was subsequently granted. However, despite having taught at the university for eight years and receiving partial funding through Scholar Rescue, his employment situation remained precarious and subject to contractual arrangements.
Additionally, over the last couple of years, he has been informed multiple times of the likelihood of losing his position.
In 2022 when he was informed he would not be granted a position for the upcoming year, many students and faculty rallied around him with a petition from the Political Science Undergraduate Society, garnering support from over 3000 signatures. After this, he received a position in Law and Society, teaching 5 of the 7 courses offered. Earlier this year, he was informed he would only be granted a 4-month term appointment, and after that, everything remained uncertain. Only now has he been informed of the decision not to grant him a position.
Following this news, the MUNL Political Science Society has once again come out in support of Dr. Caman releasing the following statement:
The MUSE recently had the opportunity to interview and gain further insight from Dr. Caman on this matter.
How do you feel about not having been granted a term appointment for the upcoming semester?
The decision not to grant myself a term appointment for the upcoming semester evokes a complex mix of emotions, considering both my long teaching career at Memorial University (MUN) and the personal persecution I endured. These two intertwined aspects have shaped my journey and significantly impacted my dedication to academia.
Since joining MUN in 2015, I have dedicated myself to teaching numerous graduate and undergraduate courses within the Political Science Department. Over the years, I have had the privilege of instructing approximately 50 courses, engaging with thousands of students who have enriched my life as much as I hope to have enriched theirs. The department and my students have consistently expressed satisfaction and happiness with my role as an instructor, reaffirming the passion and dedication I bring to my teaching practice.
However, it is essential to consider the broader context that has influenced my career at MUN. I have faced immense persecution and hardship, stemming from my status as one of the most targeted academic dissidents in Turkey. Fleeing the government purge, I sought refuge in Canada, with Memorial University graciously extending its support by hosting me as a recipient of the Scholar Rescue Fund fellowship.
This fellowship not only allowed me to continue my academic pursuits but also showcased the university’s commitment to academic freedom and its vital role as a sanctuary for scholars facing oppression.
The decision not to grant me a term appointment for the upcoming semester carries significant weight, as it calls into question the recognition and appreciation of both my teaching contributions and the profound impact of my personal journey.
My long-standing career at MUN, characterized by positive student experiences and departmental satisfaction, warrants thoughtful consideration. Simultaneously, it is crucial to acknowledge the resilience and dedication I have demonstrated in the face of persecution, and the role MUN played in providing me with a safe academic haven. I firmly believe that recognizing the value and impact of faculty members with extensive teaching experience, like myself, is paramount to fostering a supportive and inclusive academic environment. It is equally important for institutions like MUN to understand the magnitude of the persecution faced by scholars and their crucial role as host institutions within initiatives like the Scholar Rescue Fund.
Considering the intersection of my teaching career at MUN, the persecution I endured, and the support provided through the Scholar Rescue Fund, I sincerely hope that the administration will reevaluate its decision. Recognizing the value I bring as an educator, acknowledging the challenges I have overcome, and appreciating MUN’s role in my academic journey would not only validate my contributions but also demonstrate the university’s commitment to academic freedom, compassion, and support for scholars in need.
What impact does a lack of tenure and job security have on academics, like yourself, trying to do their job?
The lack of tenure and job security in my academic career at Memorial University presents significant challenges that directly impact my ability to do my job effectively. Not having a tenure or tenure-track position, or any other type of continuing and secured teaching position, introduces uncertainties and drawbacks that hinder my academic pursuits.
One major challenge is the constant feeling of insecurity and instability that comes with the absence of job security. The uncertainty about the future and the ability to sustain myself professionally becomes a constant source of worry, which affects my productivity and creativity. It’s hard to fully invest in research, teaching, and other scholarly endeavors when I’m unsure about my employment.
Moreover, the lack of tenure or job security limits my opportunities for growth and advancement. Without a clear path for career progression, it’s difficult to plan for the future, take on long-term research projects, or establish a stable academic trajectory.
This lack of stability also makes it challenging to make commitments, secure funding, or collaborate with other researchers. The absence of tenure and job security also takes a toll on my well-being and work-life balance. The constant pressure to prove myself, seek reappointment or renewal, and compete for limited positions creates a stressful environment. This stress affects my job satisfaction, mental well-being, and ultimately the quality of my work and the educational experience I can provide for my students.
Additionally, teaching different courses every semester, experiencing unemployment from May to September (four months) every year, and not having continuity and regularity in my employment further compound the challenges.
Adapting to new subjects each semester limits my ability to specialize, and the prolonged period of unemployment creates significant financial strain and disrupts long-term planning. It becomes difficult to make ends meet and properly prepare for the future when there is no steady income during these crucial months.
Moreover, the lack of continuity during this extended period hinders my ability to build on previous work, maintain momentum in my research and teaching, and establish meaningful collaborations with colleagues. The disjointed nature of employment further exacerbates the difficulties and limits the opportunities for professional growth and advancement.Recognizing and addressing these challenges is essential. Providing greater stability and security in academic positions not only benefits individual faculty members but also fosters an environment that promotes innovation, collaboration, and long-term academic excellence. By addressing these concerns, Memorial University can support its educators’ well-being and success while maintaining its reputation as an institution committed to academic distinction.
Stay tuned for Part 2