Dr. David Maynard’s office in Room 3017 of the Melville Library is sparsely decorated and nearly empty, save for a desk, a calendar, two small bookcases and a large desk with a plethora of forms and rosters scattered on its surface. Large windows overlooking John S. Toll Drive and the Student Union line the room’s left side. The office is easy to miss—unless one is specifically looking for it.
It is in this room that Maynard often meets with his students to advise them on choosing classes and to write recommendation letters for their graduate programs, but come August, it may be empty.
Because of budget cuts, Maynard’s job contract as the director of the University Scholars program will not be renewed. As a lecturer, he has held a non-tenure track position under a three-year contract since he began teaching at Stony Brook. In August 2010—or more specifically, Friday the 13th, as he recalls—Maynard received notification that his contract was not to be renewed.
“My boss, Donna DiDonato [Assistant Provost of Undergraduate Academic Affairs], told me ‘because of the budget cuts, we’re not going to renew your contract,’” Maynard said, recounting the event. “I never got any explanation other than what my supervisor told me.”
Maynard’s students have launched a petition and campaign known as “Operation Save Dave” in an attempt to urge school administrators to renew the contract.
Jessica Chao, a senior health sciences major and member of the University Scholar’s Council is spearheading the effort with the help of her fellow scholars, senior history major Jonathan Gottfried and sophomore anthropology major Anna Caselli. The petition aims to gather at least 500 signatures, has branched onto the Internet and is even gathering written statements from students and alumni.
“The overall reception has been shock and outrage,” Chao said. “He’s one of the most caring faculty members at the university, and knowing him is the best part of the University Scholar experience.”
Chao recounted a memory from the last Admitted Student’s Day, in which a Scholars question-and-answer panel was asked what the best part of being a Scholar was, only to reply that knowing “Dave” was.
“I was really touched when some of the freshmen said that moment was what made them choose to attend Stony Brook,” Chao said.
Gottfried said that receiving personal attention and support from a high-ranking professor was rare, especially at a school of Stony Brook’s size.
“Dave is one of the most down-to-earth people at this university, and he legitimately cares about all his students,” Gottfried said. “He’s a friend and mentor to hundreds of Stony Brook students, and losing him is a huge blow.”
Maynard, who holds a PhD in anthropology, has held a full-time lecturing position at Stony Brook University since 2001. He has advised hundreds of students over the course of his 10 year career through programs such as Learning Communities, University Scholars and the Honors College, and asserts that there are few students whose names or faces he does not know.
“I could tell you something about 80 to 90 percent [of these students,]” Maynard said as he produced the current University Scholars and Honors College rosters from his desk. “I can tell you something about their goals, what their situation is and where they’re headed.”
Since Maynard took the helm in 2007, both the University Scholars and Honors College programs have grown—almost doubling in size. However, he said that he was unsure of where the program would be headed in the future, or even who his potential replacement would be.
Operation “Save Dave” has even extended to the Undergraduate Student Government, where a Senate resolution was passed 19-0-0 on Dec. 9, 2010. Senator Deborah Machalow, the writer of the resolution and a member of the Honors College, said that the reason she wrote it was “because Professor Maynard is one of the gems here at Stony Brook.”
“The campus community will be losing a huge asset if he leaves,” Machalow said. “I have a hunch that part of the reason his contract was not renewed was because he always put the students’ interests before the universities, and the administration did not like that.”
Since passing, however, the resolution has not seemed to change the administration’s mind—something that Machalow lamented.
“I wish I could say that USG had jurisdiction over this sort of thing, but unfortunately, we don’t,” she said. “The last thing we were able to do was pass the resolution.”
This is not the first time that Maynard has crossed paths with the university’s administration. In September of 2010, he and other lecturer rank professors, including English professor Bente Videbaek, were prohibited from being thesis advisers for Honors College students. While students created a petition and the USG passed a resolution, both efforts went largely ignored by university administrators.
“I never got any sort of official notification from the Honors College,” Maynard said. “I have to say that not only did I teach a bunch of the courses without asking for any pay, but I helped with their admission process. I read hundreds and hundreds of applications for students looking to join the Honors College.”
He added that he was unsure of whether or not his boss [DiDonato] even knew about the USG resolution [to save him] or the students’ efforts.
“I am really flattered by it, and it’s very meaningful to me,” Maynard said. “I would hope that it resonates with the administration if the students send it to the provost or the president or the vice provost, but I don’t know what effect it will have.”