A group of Georgetown students have drafted a petition in support of visiting government professor Ashraf Ismail asking that his contract be renewed after it expires at the end of the semester.

The petition, signed by 65 students, urges Government Department Chair Eusebio Mujal-Leon to extend Ismail’s appointment based on his “outstanding credentials,” his “reputation as an emerging authority in his field” and Ismail’s “extraordinary ability to interact with students on a personal level.”

The authors of the petition, Shadi Hamid (SFS ’05), Aliakbar Esfahani (SFS ’03), John Halliwell (SFS ’04) and Jumana Salem (SFS ’03) sent three copies to the government department this morning: one to the chair, one to the director of undergraduate studies and one to the department administrator.    “We want to show the university that students really do care about the faculty that are hired,” Esfahani said. “We think [Ismail’s departure] will be a huge loss to Georgetown.”

Another Georgetown student, Collette Mahmood (COL ’03), plans to pass around a separate petition today supporting Ismail in her Globalization and Global Government class, which Ismail teaches. She said she intends to deliver it to the government department after her class today. Late government professor Joseph Lepgold brought Ismail, who is an advanced graduate student from Cornell University, to Georgetown last fall. He has taught five classes at Georgetown over the past year: International Relations, International Political Economy, International Organization and a seminar on Globalization and “His [teaching] style is that of intellectual shock,” Halliwell said. “He likes to take people out of the comfort of their ideologies and doctrines and make them question their beliefs. He wants them to think for themselves and reach their own conclusions . which is why he’s such an asset to Georgetown.”

“Anyone who’s ever taken his class realizes his outstanding character and depth of knowledge,” Esfahani said. “He really engages his class and encourages them to speak up and voice their opinions and defend them – no matter how controversial or un-politically correct their views are.”

Students said Ismail’s time at Georgetown is also distinguished by his close interactions with students outside of class.

“Not only does he have a charismatic approach, but he’s very accessible to students,” Hamid said. “He doesn’t mind hanging out with his undergraduate students. He knows a lot of us on a personal basis.” Hamid said Ismail often interacted with students outside of class, participating in some Young Arab Leadership Alliance events and that he was a “real part of the Arab and Muslim community here.”

“The majority of my interaction with him has been outside of class,” Halliwell said, noting that the two would sometimes meet for dinner and discuss politics.

“If you want to talk to him over dinner, he’s available, if you want to talk to him at your apartment, he’s available . He’ll talk to you about anything,” Esfahani said.

“I spend most of my time with undergraduates,” Ismail said. “I find them really interesting. My experience at Georgetown has been extremely positive because of the very high quality of the students.”

Ismail said he had been “surprised and flattered” when the students told him about their petition idea. “Of course I would like to stay at Georgetown another year or longer,” Ismail said. “But frankly, I don’t really expect to . The administration doesn’t make its decisions based on whether you’re popular or not, but on vacancies. I just assumed it would be a one-year contract.” He said he had not heard from the government department one way or another about the possibility of extending his contract.

The group circulated the letter and collected signatures from students who had interacted with Ismail in his classes or in extracurricular activities.

“We believe that students should be given the opportunity to be exposed to a wide variety of ideas while at Georgetown University,” part of the letter reads. “Dr. Ismail exposes students to ideas that may not normally be heard within the confines of the current political discourse. In the end, Dr. Ismail helps make Georgetown a more intellectually invigorating center of learning.”

The government department’s decision to extend the contracts of visiting professors depends on a number of factors, according to government Department Administrator Maria Snyder. “It’s based on funding, need, student evaluations and whether or not [the professors] are available to return,” she said. She noted that Ismail had taken over this past year for faculty members on leave, who will be returning in the fall. Georgetown also takes into consideration whether the professor has finished his or her doctoral dissertation, which Ismail has not. There are currently five visiting professors on Georgetown’s staff.

Whatever the final decision of the government department, the students said their goal is to demonstrate their support for Ismail and his impact on their education.

“We want to show them that we really want to keep professors like this, who have had such a big influence on our lives and the way we think,” Esfahani said.

“My hope is that the chair will invite a couple of us in to talk about this, pursue it and see what other students have to say,” Hamid said. “Students’ opinions should really matter.” Hamid was a Hoya columnist.

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