The Departure of Professor Simmons

tracyleesimmons
Professor Simmons

Grace Cavanaugh ~ Copy Editor

     In an email sent on Oct. 22, 2019, it was announced to some Westover fellows that Professor Tracy Lee Simmons had left the University.

      The email from Edward DeClair, the dean of the Westover Honors Program said, “Professor Simmons has left the institution and you will have a new instructor for HONR 110 starting on Friday of this week. […] I am confident that the new instructors will provide you with a quality educational experience.”

      Professor Simmons was an instructor with the Westover Honors College. He taught two of the intro Humanities course, HONR 110, as well as some colloquia for Westover.

      Dr. Laura Kicklighter, an associate professor for the Westover Honors College, said, “He had four sections of the Humanities class and I have taken three of those. The one section that I did not take, was at a time I was already teaching, so Dr. [Devon] Brickhouse-Bryson in philosophy is taking that one.”

      Dr. Kicklighter continued, “The first time I met with them was this Friday and we took that time […] to figure out where they were on in the original course schedule and whether they felt like they needed me to go back and review anything that they had already done. We just did an assessment day on that Friday. They were pretty open with me about where they felt they were and where they felt like they needed me to explain a little bit more.”

      Lauren Moseley, a first year student, said, “I am actually quite glad he left halfway through instead of finishing the semester. The way Professor Simmons ran his classroom personally made me uncomfortable when it came to answering questions and he would word his examples and explanations in a fashion that did not work for me. When I first heard that he had left, I was a bit worried for what was in store for me with a new professor when I barely understood what had already been gone over, but now with [Dr.] Brickhouse, I understand Aristotle much better. I feel that had Simmons stayed on for the remainder of the semester, I may not have gotten as much as I should have out of the class.”

      First year Hannah Yarosh seems to echo Moseley’s sentiment, saying, “Most sections have Dr. Kicklighter, but I have professor Brickhouse for mine. He seems to have a better understanding on the subject and how to make class interactive and understandable for everyone.”

      Dr. Kicklighter said, “We basically picked up today where they left off with Professor Simmons. I do think they are eager for some structure and some clear direction moving forward. Dr. Brickhouse-Bryson and I created a new syllabus with some more specified dates for when we are doing readings and when assignments would be due. I think that structure has helped to alleviate their anxieties a little bit. I am sure they had a few questions for me. I do not have any answers about why Professor Simmons is gone or anything like that, so there is not much information I can provide to them other than reassuring them that I am here to help carry them through the rest of the semester as well as I can.”

      Yarosh said, “I am grateful that some of the issues have been resolved by him not being in class, but now all of his classes have to adjust to a new teaching style and curriculum layout.”

      Yarosh explained what she meant by ‘issues’,  she said. “From what I have heard, and this is all second hand, so I don’t know the credibility of every story, but he has had many female students in the past who have had issues with the way he conducts himself both in and outside of the classroom. I have heard that there was a group of students, some from ethics bowl, they were planning on boycotting parents’ weekend and the induction ceremony but did not end up doing so. Dr. Kicklighter came and talked to the 5th floor residents the following Monday about our students rights and how we can report issues and what we need to do if we feel like we have been harassed.”

      Senior, Adele Weaver, said, “I feel amazing. This campus is now a safer place. It really is like a weight off my shoulders. It makes me wonder just how bad it would have to get before he got fired, but I suppose it is a positive and negative that we will not know. I am proud of the first year women for speaking up, and the upperclassmen women for being so supportive. I am also thankful for Dr. Kicklighter and Dr. Savage and their support, effort, and validation.”

      Junior, Colin Coviello, who was going to be in Professor Simmons spring semester colloquia, said, “I feel disappointed because I felt that he brought a genuinely professional presence to the Westover college. I took his Inklings colloquium last year and got to know him and his godfather a lot, which sort of means I feel kind of bittersweet about him leaving. […] The one thing this school will miss with him being gone is that he had the ability to foster a conversational classroom that made all the students exercise their critical thinking and ability to debate, but I think the school did the right thing.”

      Dr. Kicklighter noted that  the search for Professor Simmons replacement is underway. She said, “Dr. DeClair and Dr. Cowden, and Dr. Savage are all meeting about [finding a permanent replacement] as the director and assistant and associate directors. […] they are trying to figure out who to bring in for next year. I do not think Professor Simmons was scheduled to teach any Humanities sections in the spring, and he had a colloquium that is […] transferred to a different faculty member. The hope is that by next fall, we will have a person dedicated to that class.”

      Dr. Kicklighter concluded, “We are just doing our best for the students that we can so hopefully they will have a good experience in the end.”

      The Critograph was unable to contact for comment.

For this week’s issue of the Critograph, we covered a story on Professor Simmons and his departure from the University of Lynchburg. The newspaper feels obligated to cover stories that adversely affect students, faculty, and staff on campus. While there have been persistent rumors and other information about incidents involving Westover scholars, the Critograph has chosen not to cover these stories because there has been no official police report filed or court date issued. As part of our due diligence, the Critograph exhaustively tried to contact Professor Simmons without success. For further questions or concerns about the story, please contact the Critograph at critograph@lynchburg.edu