Students Petition for Professor Pillich’s Position

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Author: Daniel Badal, Trevor Fay and Alexander Josephs,

For nine years, Music Professor Simeon Pillich has been an adjunct at Occidental College, and now is one of Oxy’s most popular professors. No matter what subject he teaches – which literally span the entire globe as well as jazz and American popular music – he gets some of the highest student reviews at Oxy and his classes often are among the first to fill to capacity each registration period.

Pillich was a professional bass player for over 40 years. He has played in Broadway musicals and consulted in musical soundtracks for film and television for works like the first Austin Powers movie, Amistad, Mortal Kombat and Malcolm in the Middle. He has played with Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and The Stylistics, Al Jarreau, Ry Cooder and Alice Cooper. He has also been on several world tours, where he experienced much of the music he teaches in real settings.

As a professor, Pillich distinguishes himself through his extensive knowledge of world music that facilitates his survey classes. He’s utilized his connections to musicians during his entertainment years, and they frequently come to play in his classes. These connections have also secured remarkable internships for many Oxy students. However, Pillich’s most important trait as a professor is his passion and care for his students.

This year the Music department was authorized to hire a full-time ethnomusicologist at Oxy. When the search was completed, Pillich was not offered the full-time job because he does not publish enough. The selection committee made note of his peerless rapport with students, but the “responsible” professors of the committee decided that more weight should be given to the “prestige of the College,” which translates into writing scholarly articles that will be read by less than ten people before the sun implodes. At our small Liberal Arts College, instead of focusing on “prestige” accumulated by inconsequential publishing, shouldn’t the prestige be the product that professors produce in the graduating students rather than their personal work?

Using these criteria, the committee elected to hire Shanna Lorenz as Oxy’s full-time ethnomusicologist. Lorenz’s specializes in music of Mexico, lesbianism in music, Japanese music in Brazil, and migration music. Without detracting from her, we are extremely concerned that she will be unable to fill the racial, psychological, academic, and experiential void left by Pillich’s absence.

So as of now, Simeon Pillich does not have a job at Oxy this Fall (’09). The initial outcry of many Oxy students fell on deaf ears at the Music Department meetings directly after the announcement. However, a group of independently-acting students refused to lose heart and have been working to keep Pillich here. We collected 385 student signatures hoping to keep professor Pillich at Oxy. Since then, we have met with the Core Director, Professor Delores Trevizo, Deans Eric Frank and Irene Girton, and other professors in order to find a way to keep Pillich at Oxy.

Our meeting with Professor Trevizo proved positive, with the final result being two Core classes set aside for Professor Pillich in Spring ’10. At our meeting with Deans Frank and Girton, though they said they’d like to keep Pillich here, they were not willing to act (or help at all) to fast-track the processes necessary to keep him at Oxy this Fall. There might have been a positive outcome at the meeting with the Deans in Girton’s revelation that her Music Department has offered Pillich a “guaranteed” class next spring, but that claim was proven false shortly after the meeting. Yet we still hope that she makes good on her word.

However, we found that we can do something about this situation…but we need you, Oxy students, to join in this support! If we can prove that 25 students will be willing to guarantee that they would take a specific class with professor Pillich next Fall, we can submit it to department heads and ask that they add the class. The beauty of this is that Pillich could possibly teach the SAME classes he’s already taught among a wide variety of majors and still fulfill the SAME GE requirements. In order to preempt any blocking attempts by administration and/or the Academic Planning Committee, we see that the best class options that no other Oxy professor is qualified to teach are: In Search of Africanisms In The Music of The Americas, Topics in Popular Music, Topics in Jazz Music or Latin American Music.So if you’ve wanted to take a Pillich class, it’s not too late! If you’re interested and willing to sign a petition that will guarantee your enrollment – or would like further information about class specifics – for these classes, please let us know at SaveProfessorPillich@gmail.com. And if you would like to voice your feelings to a wide audience, join our Save Professor Pillich group on Facebook. We would LOVE to have your help!

This is your perfect opportunity to show the administration that you are unhappy with their priorities spending YOUR tuition money, have a great professor teach a fun class, and fulfill GE’s. We truly hope that you join with us in saying that Occidental students will not roll over and let Pillich go without a fight!

Alex Josephs is a sophomore psychology major. He can be reached at ajosephs@oxy.edu. Daniel Badal is a sophomore psychology major. He can be reached at dbadal@oxy.edu. Trevor Fay is a senior American Studies major. He can be reached at tfay@oxy.edu

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