Students defend adjunct art professor

Professor Rachel Pollack is a self-proclaimed introvert – quiet, shy and not one to makes waves. But, fortunately for Pollack, the same cannot be said of her students.

When students discovered that Pollack, an adjunct professor in the art history department, had not been contracted to teach any classes for the upcoming semester, they created a Facebook group to protest the effective dismissal.

Naomi Hochberg, the creator of the group, did not stop there. She called University President Steven Knapp, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences Dean Peg Barratt and Art History Chair Thomas Brown to save Pollack, her favorite professor at GW.

“Pollack is something special,” said Hochberg, a junior. “Her’s is the first art history class I took and I just knew from that day, that [art history] was what I wanted to do.”

Pollack was told Tuesday afternoon that she would be contracted to teach in both the fall and spring semester of the 2009-2010 academic year. Although the overwhelming student input was not cited as the reason, Pollack said she thinks the student input was helpful.

Brown declined to comment on Pollack’s employment, citing confidentiality issues.

Pollack, a current University of Maryland Ph.D. candidate, said that the students have made a tremendous impact on the department. She added that it was overwhelming to see the number of students involved.

“I love teaching, but I never knew the students loved me teaching them,” she said. “I’m so glad I reached them.”

The Facebook group has grown to more than 120 members and Hochberg said that many of the members called and sent letters to the department asking them to keep Pollack.

“I’ve asked all the students to send, in bulk, sentences, e-mails, messages, anything, to show how important she is to the members,” Hochberg said.

Serving as a faculty residential adviser, Pollack lives in JBKO residence hall and prides herself on having an “open door policy” for any student.

“Students will come in to talk, they bring me tea, and sometimes we study in here or watch TV,” Pollack said. “I love being here for students.”

Her contract to serve as a faculty residential advisor was renewed for the upcoming year before news that she might not be teaching was revealed.

Many of the students in the Facebook group remembered field trips with Pollack, midnight study sessions or having her wave to them in Starbucks semesters later. Many said she seems to remember every student in all of her classes.

“She was my survey of western art teacher and she was honestly one of the best, most caring teachers I’ve had since,” junior Barbie Grant said. “I not only found her class very interesting, but loved how she made herself constantly available to her students.”

Pollack received her master’s degree from GW, specializing in Roman and Grecian art history, and is working towards her doctorate in 17th century Dutch and Finnish art history.

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