“We know it’s time to raise our own voices’

Dreary weather was not enough to keep supporters for Dr. Karen Walker away


Photo by Derek Pufahl

Professors and Students alike attended the rally for dimissed professor Dr. Karen Walker last Wednesday in the Kanter student center plaza to show their support and disagreement with the administration’s actions.

Derek Pufahl, Staff Writer

Bitter cold and 30 mph winds were not enough to keep students and faculty members from attending a rally last Wednesday in support of the recently dismissed WSC professor, Dr. Karen Walker.

The rally took place in the student center plaza at 4 p.m., and between 50 and 60 people attended.

Those who felt moved to do so approached the microphone in the plaza’s gazebo to tell stories about how Walker had influenced them in their academic and personal lives.

On Oct. 5, Walker was escorted off of Wayne State College’s campus by campus security. According to a number of sources, vice president of academic affairs Michael Anderson made the recommendation for Walker’s dismissal.

Junior political science major Nate Neary organized the rally with dean of students Jeff Carstens and was the first up to the microphone as the emcee.

“We’re here to talk about experiences,” Neary said. “I want to make this rally a positive experience about the positive effects Karen Walker has had.”

Seventeen students and two faculty members spoke, including Walker’s husband and WSC political science professor, Dr. Mark Leeper, and Walker’s stepdaughter and psychology major Emily Leeper.

“I have a unique place in all this,” Emily Leeper said. “Dr. Walker is my stepmom and Dr. Leeper is my dad. But I’m also her student. All of you up here who are saying how much value she has brought to you, to your life and your education, know that you bring so much value to her and to her life. And this is what’s keeping her going through all of this, it’s you guys. So, we appreciate it more than you know.”

The stories and testimonials shared were unique and personal, but consistent threads tied them all together—Walker was a challenging professor, but also an encouraging and passionate one who really cared about her student’s success.

“It’s not Dr. Walker, it’s Karen Walker that’s changed my life,” junior Mariah Leasure said. “I took her cognitive psych class. I had these readings and I had no idea what I was doing. I knocked on her door and she let me in. She cleared off her desk, literally everything off of her desk. ‘Let’s talk,’ she said ‘I’m here for you.’ She didn’t even know who I was. She is just amazing. You go into a lecture and the entire room is lit up because of her love and passion for psychology. I want to be the closest replication of her.”

Students were handing out mini Reese’s candy bars—Walker’s favorite candy—as well as passing around an ongoing petition which shows solidarity and support for Walker. The petition is being signed by students and faculty and is currently composed of 117 signatures.

The rally’s last two speakers were WSC professors.

“I’m here to stand in solidarity with my colleague Karen Walker,” English associate professor J.V. Brummels said. “We [students and faculty] engage daily in a long hard fight against ignorance, so it’s frustrating to remain ignorant in an issue in which we deeply care. Still that’s the case; we’re ignorant of a whole truth here.

“We knew at one time that tenure existed to protect us from administrative overreach and administrative reprisals. We know it’s time to be alarmed about the direction the campus may be taking. We know it’s time to raise our own voices.”

Walker’s husband, Mark Leeper, spoke last: “This has been devastating on a lot of levels. The outpouring of support—and I mean it’s been an outpouring—has been nothing short of incredible.

“I know for a fact that the poor president has been besieged with communication from you, from alums, from parents, all concerned about what’s happened with Dr. Walker. I would wager the president has received well over 150 e-mails and letters, even faxes.”

Leeper went on to describe his wife’s passion and give a little more background about Walker and also told about the struggles she and her family have gone through in the past.

“Trust me, she knows what you are trying to do for her, and she is deeply moved. What’s unsettling about all this is, that it’s just not necessary, it just didn’t have to happen and it in no way justifiably happened. Wayne State College has taken from her that foundation that gives her life meaning when she tries to give your life meaning.

“One last comment,” Leeper said. “This is not over. This is an ongoing process. I want you to keep applying pressure as best you can.”

According to the SCEA Union Agreement’s dismissal procedures, in the case of a faculty member requesting a hearing regarding a proposed dismissal, an advisory committee consisting of two SCEA union-selected tenured faculty members and two president-selected tenured faculty members will attend a hearing with the college president and the dismissed faculty member.

The date of this hearing has not yet been clarified, but should be sometime in early November. The committee’s recommendation will be given to both Walker and WSC president Marysz Rames, who will make the final decision on how to proceed.

The NSCS Board of Trustees will be on campus Nov. 12 and 13 for their regular meeting. Leeper told supporters that this would be a good time to make their presence known.


To watch the rally in full see the link below:

Karen Walker Rally