Donna Rhorer, a University of Louisiana at Monroe English professor and
chairwoman of the FAC, said that during a meeting last week in Baton Rouge between UL System officials and FAC leaders, UL System President Randy Moffett indicated he did not plan to bring up the issue for a vote at the next UL System Board of Supervisors meeting Oct. 22.
UL System spokeswoman Jackie Tisdell said Wednesday “it is possible” that the proposed tenure policy changes will not be addressed at the board’s Oct. 22 meeting because board and system officials will be devoting the bulk of their attention to the ULM presidential search.
The meeting between FAC leaders and system officials last week allowed the FAC to propose alternatives and changes to the system’s proposals, which come as all higher education systems in the state ready for deep state budget cuts in the next fiscal year on top of continuing cuts during the past two years.
The system’s policy proposals, first presented to the faculty senates at the system’s eight member schools in June, would allow member schools to fire a tenured faculty member with one semester (or quarter at Louisiana Tech University) notice instead of one year — the current requirement. The proposals also would allow member schools to fire non-tenured faculty and tenure-track faculty with one month and three months notice, respectively.
Faculty Advisory Council members raised concerns at the board’s August meeting that the proposed policy changes could threaten reaccreditation, would encourage tenured faculty members to leave the state, make hiring new faculty members difficult and give university administrators carte blanche to fire free-speaking or out-of-favor faculty members. The board deferred action on the proposals at the August meeting, and the proposals were expected to be back on the agenda in October.
Rhorer said the FAC has come back to the system with proposals that essentially walk back the proposed changes and return the system’s tenure rules to their current form. “We understand that this is a difficult situation, and we understand the difficulty that the system has in looking at the budget cuts,” Rhorer said. But “the one (current tenure policy) that is in place was effective.”
The Council of Faculty Advisors of the LSU System last week gave its support to the FAC, taking the unusual step of weighing in on an issue outside the LSU System. The council, comprised of members of faculty senates from LSU System campuses, passed a resolution urging Moffett and UL System officials to heed the advice of the FAC and not adopt the proposed policy changes.
Moffett and the UL System should “show diligence, respect and fervor in the sustaining of tenure and other wisely implemented guarantees of academic freedom and institutional stability, guarantees that are foundational to the sustaining of the academic missions of all campuses,” the resolution states.
The resolution warns that policies adopted by one system or institution “easily become precedents for others.” Kevin Cope, the chairman of the council and the LSU Faculty Senate president, said the council wanted to weigh in on the proposals because they were not drawing enough attention outside of the UL System.
“We want to indicate that this policy is absolutely unacceptable,” Cope said. “If Louisiana institutions want to compete at a national level, they should expect to operate at national standards.”
I have heard that the vote is being delayed until 2011, when the Governor will be able to appoint more of his people to the Board of Regents.