When the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute began surveying professors within the University of Wisconsin System last year about their views on tenure, many said they worried the institute might later use the findings to promote further changes to tenure policies in the state. That’s because tenure protections in Wisconsin were already weakened by a new state law, and because the institute had previously supported some conservative positions on state work and education issues.
It seems some of those fears have come true. In a new report called “The Trouble With Tenure,” the institute cites data from two separate faculty surveys and makes a number of policy recommendations, including giving campus chancellors the ability to lay off faculty for reasons such as significant program reduction or modification, and not just discontinuance.
Other recommendations include directing campuses and departments to develop precise and tailored definitions of professional and public service that include measurable contributions to the community and economy; mandating annual reports from each campus on numbers of tenured and tenure-track faculty, staff, and annual and posttenure reviews; directing individual campuses to departments to adopt stronger posttenure review processes with clear and denied expectations; and directing departments to publicly post tenure criteria.
David Vanness, an associate professor of population health sciences at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and president of the campus chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said via email that the report appeared to “break little ground,” with few exceptions. He said he thought it was clearly timed to influence the University System’s Board of Regents before their meeting next week, in that the institute seems concerned that the board “may not use its full authority granted by [the new tenure law] to fire tenured faculty essentially at will.” The document still “fails to recognize the economic value of tenure, and the need to protect academic freedom against meddling by powerful political and business interests,” he added, as well as the role tenure has played in the rise of the American university over time.
The American Association of University Professors on Friday urged the University of Missouri to immediately rescind its notice of termination to Melissa Click, the assistant professor of communication who asked for “muscle” to remove a student journalist during protests on the flagship Columbia camps this fall. In its letter to Hank Foley, interim chancellor at Columbia, AAUP cited Click’s lack of due process and the irregular means by which the university system’s Board of Curators voted to fire her last week
“Beyond its evident lack of conformity with the regulations of the University of Missouri, an action to dismiss a faculty member with indefinite tenure or a probationary faculty member within the term of appointment absent demonstration of cause in an adjudicative hearing before an elected faculty body is an action fundamentally at odds with basic standards of academic due process,” Hans-Joerg Tiede, associate secretary of the AAUP’s department of tenure, academic freedom and governance, wrote on Click's behalf.
Citing longstanding concerns about academic freedom and shared governance under its current administration, the faculty at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, N.Y., on Tuesday voted no confidence in Albert Gruner, chairman of the Board of Trustees. The faculty called for his immediate resignation from the board, saying his “unwavering support” of a former trustee accused of posting an anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim video on Twitter, along with “hostile confrontations” of faculty members, in particular, made him unfit to lead. The vote was 55 in favor and 10 opposed, with six faculty members abstaining.
The college said in a statement that it "values all opinions and concerns. The trustees, like the president, are firmly committed to shared governance and recognize the important role played by the faculty, administration, and the board in advancing the college." Charles P. Frank, vice chair of the board, said in a separate statement that Gruner "used a reasoned and measured approach in his inquiry into concerns regarding a newly-appointed trustee. This is the manner in which a person with his fiduciary responsibilities should act. ...Throughout his tenure as board chair [Gruner] has always upheld the foundations of shared governance and the mission" of the college.