Lead into Q&A:
In an exclusive interview with The Paisano, Dr. Anita Moss reflected on her 30 years at UTSA. Moss discussed her experience teaching at UTSA, the incident in the Fall 2018 semester in which the UTSA police department escorted Paige Burgess out of her classroom and the investigations into her classroom management that resulted from the incident.
Q: Why did you leave UTSA?
A: I was not reappointed for the fall semester, and I am non-tenure track and have been, more or less, on a yearly contract. I think I actually sign letters of appointment every semester, so I was simply told by my chairman and given an email from the dean of the College of Sciences, Dean Silva, saying that I was not reappointed, so I was not given any explanation.
Q: How many years have you been at UTSA?
A: I started in January of 1989, so 30 years, and it’s been quite an experience.
Q: The investigation that the university conducted after the incident with Paige, how did that affect your interactions with students and professors?
A: I was immediately relieved of my duties. I was not in my classroom again for the rest of that semester. I certainly heard from many of my students, many emails, I hadn’t even known until January that a petition had started in November asking that I be reinstated, or I’m not even sure what the nature was, but many former students, and I’m not even sure who was signing it, but they were doing things that I only heard about indirectly. I did have a visit with President Eighmy within a day or two after the incident. I think he invited me to talk to him, and I do remember he said he was amazed that a group of about 25 of my students, current students from those classes, had come to his office to talk to him, and he sat down with them and I think they were very favorable about wanting me to be back there. So I didn’t have the direct contact, but I did hear kind of what was going on.
Q: Have you talked to President Eighmy since then?
A: No, I haven’t.
Q: How were things different after the investigation that began in January?
A: After the investigation, there were some specific things that were said. Dr. Shipley is the one who gave the report and that was made available to the UTSA organization. It was suggested that if I were to learn about online teaching, that might be something to explore. There were other things, projects that my chairman asked me to do, things he was interested in looking into to help the freshman biology students. He wanted them to be more prepared before they start their first biology class. So I did things during that semester but without contact with students. I did start exploring the online teaching.
Q: Did you have any contact with the student Paige Burgess after the incident?
A: Yes, I did. Within a few days, there was a conference call with Interim Dean Howard Grimes, the interim dean for the College of Sciences, and Paige and her mother, I told Paige and her mom how sorry I was that the incident had happened. The faculty member that I was in contact with, Robert Rico, explained to me, if I wanted to and if Paige wanted to, we could sit together across the table in an organized situation, be able to tell our story to each other. Just the other day, I was clearing out my office. I was out in the hallway outside our department talking to Dr. Sunder, my chairman, and Paige had been in the office talking to somebody. She came out and we said hello, spoke a few more words, and I asked her about her plans; she was planning on going onto dental school. We gave each other a hug, and it was really good for me to just have that last contact because I probably won’t see her again. That was nice and I don’t hold any ill will towards her, and I don’t think she does towards me. It was just really unfortunate.
Q: Would you have done anything differently?
A: Yes, yes I would. I wish I had talked to her privately after class or in my office, invited her to come talk to me. I had attempted to talk to her, to communicate with her. It was an email that went astray and I wish I had just handled the situation one-on-one because that is really the appropriate way to do that. I should have just talked to her and done things outside of class.
Q: What do you think of the task group?
A: Well, I’m still not quite sure what they’re doing. If they are going to look into classroom management, I feel like that would be directed at the faculty and think there is a big need for faculty to have very clear guidelines on management. Everybody’s got different rules and different things that maybe they consider distracting or disruptive or disrespectful, but there needs to be some uniformity to that, and the students’ behavior needs to be made clear, what is expected of them, as well.
Q: What are your plans for going forward from this?
A: I am still interested in teaching. I am interested in exploring online teaching. I don’t anticipate doing this at UTSA, but I can see that could be something that, in some ways, I just think that would be something different and certainly I would like to find smaller classes to teach. The academic year 2000, I taught a total of 330 students. In 2018 and 2019, I was teaching about 1,100 students combined in those two semesters. Over three times as many students and that’s teaching four sections, so 330 students divided into four sections versus 1,100 and something in four sections. And that’s just me lecturing, so I think I would look forward to teaching a smaller class and maybe online.