Kansas universities have more leeway to fire tenured faculty. Will they use it?

by Jeremy

Dive Brief:

  • A temporary policy approved by the Kansas board of regents last week is catching flak over concerns it makes it easier for its six state universities to fire tenured faculty.
  • The decision gives the universities an optional alternative process for suspending, dismissing, or terminating employees that don’t require them to declare financial exigency. In making the decision, the board cited the need for flexibility to address steep pandemic-related budget cuts.
  • Many colleges nationwide are cutting programs and positions in response to massive revenue losses from the pandemic, but some fear shared-governance processes are getting overlooked.

Dive Insight:

Any university that chooses to use the new policy has 45 days from its adoption by the board to give regents a framework for how officials would make decisions under its terms. The policy expires in December 2022.

Kansas universities have more leeway to fire tenured faculty. Will they use it?

Those decisions could be based on factors including performance evaluations, teaching and research productivity, revenue reductions, or low enrollment, according to a draft version of the policy posted online by the University of Kansas.

Kansas’s six state universities are bracing for the possibility of more than $33 million in budget cuts. They’re not alone. Public and private colleges across the country are responding to pandemic-related revenue losses with steep budget reductions, in some cases gutting programs and departments. Some observers, however, worry schools are using the losses as justification for more extensive changes than those needed to address the pandemic. Kansas’s new policy highlights a particular concern: that institutions will end protections for tenured faculty.

According to the American Association of University Professors, financial difficulty is one of three conditions under which administrators can lay off tenured faculty. The others are for cause or because a program is being discontinued for educational reasons as determined by faculty.  We set the threshold at the necessity to protect the institution of tenure,” said Mark Criley, program officer in the department of academic freedom, term, and governance at AAUP. Schools that reach this point indicate their financial woes are so severe that their academic integrity has been compromised and cannot be righted by less-drastic means, he continued.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment