When students and faculty learned last semester that famed lawyer Sarah Weddington had been laid off from the University’s faculty, they rushed to support her, incredulous at the possibility of losing the woman who fought and won the 1973 case Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion in the U.S.
On May 16, Liberal Arts Dean Randy Diehl met with her to offer reinstatement of her position. Weddington said she jumped at the chance to continue working with students. She said she credits her previous students for making her return possible by writing letters to The Daily Texan and the dean to raise awareness about her situation and to set plans in motion for her return.
“There’s really magic in the sense of UT allowing me to work with some of the smartest students in the University,” Weddington said. “I have been so fortunate, because I’ve had the opportunity to have smaller classes. The positive side of that is you really get to know your students. It is such a delight to stay in touch with them.“
Weddington has taught at the University since 1986 and told the Texan in April she would never leave voluntarily. A 25.9-percent cut to the budget for the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies meant the center lost funding to pay many adjunct professors, including Weddington.
Michelle Bryant, an assistant director of public affairs, said there was much support at the University from students, colleagues and friends of Weddington for her return, and the dean was glad to reinstate her to the position.
“The dean made funding this position a priority, and he personally called to invite Ms. Weddington to return,” Bryant said. “The position will be funded through the College of Liberal Arts’ central administration, and the class will be administered by the government department.”
Bryant said Weddington has been offered a year-long contract, the same as that of all UT professors, and that she will be paid the standard part-time rate of $40,450.
Weddington said she will teach her Gender-Based Discrimination course in the fall, but her plans for the 2012 spring semester are still up in the air.
“Randy Diehl said he would like for me to teach a much larger class in the spring with a teaching assistant,” Weddington said.
Robert Hutchings, dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, approached Weddington about teaching classes in the spring, Weddington said. She will meet with Hutchings next week.
Weddington said she never focused on retirement or found it particularly interesting, and teaching at the LBJ school would be a reason to stay at the University for an even longer period of time.
Susan Heinzelman, director of the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies was the first to notify Weddington that there would no longer be funding for her to continue teaching. Heinzelman said she is a tremendous supporter of
Weddington’s work and she is glad Weddington was asked back to the University.
“Weddington is a great professor and a supporter of women’s rights,” Heinzelman said. “She is very active in anything to do with reproductive and health care rights for women.”
Physical culture and sports junior Pedro Villalobos is one of two assistants working with Weddington this summer. He said working with Weddington taught him more than any of his classes in his three years at UT.
“I am dealing with everything I have been taught about in class,” Villalobos said. “The magnitude of Dr. Weddington’s work makes it so that this is a real learning experience.”