A street-facing office in the Dorothy Day Political Science House is filled with books, political posters and maps of the world. A man’s desk is filled with papers; his laptop on a separate table facing a window overlooking Montgomery Street.
But soon Alain Sanders, the office’s long-time occupant, will be moving out. Sanders will retire at the end of the spring 2020 semester after 19 years of teaching at Saint Peter’s University.
“The time has come,” he said as he shrugged his shoulders. “It’s time for me and my wife to turn the page.”
Sanders was first hired in fall of 2001 to replace Eugene Cornacchia, who had just been promoted to an administrative level at the university. Previously, he was the senior legal reporter at TIME Magazine, and before that, a trained lawyer.
“Not everyone gets the chance to be a teacher, it’s one of those great jobs because you really help people and you put a part of yourself in them and then you can see them be propelled,” he said. “So I’m really happy Saint Peter’s gave me that chance.”
Teaching at Saint Peter’s was rewarding in its own rite, but challenging at times. Sanders noted that students often arrived at college with an “incomplete education,” and it was difficult to “fill in the gaps.”
“Therefore they suffer because they don’t have the preparation necessary to engage in a college-level education,” he explained. “So it’s a challenge to bring those folks along and bring them up and happily, many of them do come along and do rise to the occasion, but many of them don’t.”
Being at Saint Peter’s for 19 years has also made Sanders a witness to all of the changes made, including the switch from a college to a university, and shift away from the liberal arts -- changes of which Sanders has been a frequent dissenter.
“I think we were much more hefty as a small college, where we were able to teach the liberal arts,” he said. “They do say that they are committed to it, but it's very clear by where the money is going, where the publicity is going, where the action is, what the president and the provost and the various leaders of this university boast about to the outside world.”
Despite his comments and criticisms, Sanders makes it clear that he’s not leaving as a “disappointed, angry old man.”
“I’m really, really happy and I’m really honored that the university chose to hire me and chose to give me tenure and allowed me to speak as freely as I have done,” he said, chuckling. “I’ve had my disagreements, but the university has allowed me to disagree.”
After he officially retires, Sanders plans to spend time with his wife (who is also retiring.) The couple has two children on opposite sides of the country and Sanders wants to make a point to visit them more often.
He also plans to write, potentially audit classes (he mentioned an interest in astronomy) and to continue his work as a political commentator and analyst. And above all, rest.
“For everything I’ve said to Saint Peter’s, and for all of the criticism I’ve said to Saint Peter’s, I would also say to Saint Peter’s: ‘thank you very much for letting me be here,’” he said, with a smile.