- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 1, 2016

Juan Rojo, a Spanish professor at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, began a hunger strike this week after his latest and final bid for tenure was rejected by the school.

Mr. Rojo, a 41-year-old father of two, announced the strike Tuesday afternoon in a joint statement with colleagues on the college’s official Facebook page. He’s since been surviving on a diet of water and Gatorade, and said he was “still feeling good” in a Thursday morning update on his personal Facebook account.

Currently employed as the assistant professor of Spanish at the school’s Easton campus, Mr. Rojo has taught at Lafayette since 2008 and has recently been approved for tenure twice — once as the result of a 6-1 vote held by the college’s Spanish department, and again following a 6-0 vote held by Lafayette’s Promotion, Tenure and Review Committee, he said in the statement.

Despite being recommended for tenure 12-1, Mr. Rojo said he learned last month that his final bid had been rejected after being overruled by Lafayette’s president, Alison Byerly. Unless her decision is reversed, the Spanish professor will lose his job at the end of the school year, Lehigh Valley Live reported Wednesday.

“I have long ago come to terms with the notion that life is not fair. This process, however, is not about fairness. It is about right and wrong. It’s about what is just and what role we as faculty play in our own governance,” Mr. Rojo wrote in the statement. “I am fully aware that this course of action may well limit other academic employment opportunities for me. But I cannot stand here and accept this decision that is contrary to the principles of self-governance on which this college and this faculty are founded. Lafayette should not be a place where the voice of the faculty in the form of a 12-1 vote in support of tenure can ultimately be overturned by the top administrator, especially without just cause.”

Lafayette officials told the college newspaper that they would not comment on the specifics surrounding the Spanish professor’s request, but said in a statement it was “very concerned” with his decision to starve and said that “in this tenure case, as in all others, we followed our procedures as laid out in the College’s Faculty Handbook.”

Mr. Rojo said he decided a hunger strike was necessary because he lacked the legal resources to challenge the decision in court, Lehigh Valley Live reported.

“It’s a terrible position to be in,” Mr. Rojo told The Lafayette. “It’s especially painful when you have done everything you were asked to do, and the faculty are calling and recommending you be tenured, and one person has decided that not be the case – for reasons that the faculty committees have evaluated and found to have no basis.”

Mr. Rojo said in a Facebook post Thursday that he had his “first contact with the powers to be” on the second night of his hunger strike, and described the interaction as “brief and cautious.”

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