Post-Tenure Reviews Without Due Process

Investigators from the American Association of University Professors find fault with the way Virginia State U. dismissed two faculty members.
May 16, 2005

Virginia State University has experienced plenty of strife between the faculty and administration in recent years. And according to a new report from the American Association of University Professors, one consequence is a lack of due process and fairness in post-tenure reviews, which has led to improper dismissals.

The report outlines the events that led Virginia State to dismiss Sikiru Ade Olusoga and Jean R. Cobbs from their positions. The AAUP offers institutions that it is criticizing the right to present a reply. But according to the AAUP, Virginia State officials told the association that the report contained errors, but said that they could not elaborate because of "legal considerations." The university did not respond to a request for comment from Inside Higher Ed.

According to the AAUP report, Olusoga was given a poor rating in his post-tenure review, and placed on a list where he would have to improve or face dismissal despite having received an outstanding rating from both his department (management and marketing) and dean. The reason his rating was downgraded, the AAUP found, was that the university was seeking accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, and so applied that group's standards (as interpreted by a consultant) to faculty members.

The AAUP said that Virginia State violated Olusoga's rights by switching standards without faculty involvement, by having outside consultants evaluate whether professors met those standards -- again without faculty involvement -- and by not giving Olusoga the opportunity to reply to the conclusions of the consultant.

Cobbs, who teaches social work, has raised a series of complaints against Virginia State administrators over the years, arguing that she is discriminated against because she is an outspoken black Republican at a historically black college where her politics place her in a distinct minority. (University officials have repeatedly denied her charges.)

In her post-tenure review, she said she was not given the opportunity to challenge unfair statements and conclusions and that the administration did not follow its own procedures on numerous steps in the process. The AAUP agreed.

In the case of both professors, the association found, the administration changed rules to the "disadvantage" of the faculty members "and potentially to the disadvantage of other tenured faculty members." The changes, the AAUP found, "represented gross departures from academic due process."


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