Monday, September 26, 2011

The Chancellor's false reassurance about tenure

I've just learned how something the Chancellor said in her email from last week is confusing some faculty.  The Chancellor made the following misleading comment in her email.
In fact, it is important to note that both bargaining teams tentatively agreed to the contract articles governing tenure and academic freedom last February. These articles remain virtually unchanged from the prior collective bargaining agreement. Based on these agreements, it is a little puzzling that these issues are still being raised in statements to the public.
Watch out whenever someone begins a sentence with "in fact".  I commented last week on the academic freedom issue: the Chancellor herself goes on to admit that there is disagreement about distance learning, but she failed to connect that issue with academic freedom, either through ignorance or in an attempt at misdirection.

Her comment about tenure is more seriously misleading--it is so divorced from reality that it didn't even register with me. The article agreed to spells out procedures for awarding tenure. Both sides have indeed agreed that those provisions need no substantial revision.  The disagreement, which is very real indeed, is about how to fire tenured faculty. I'd call this another golden fleece if I didn't feel that this statement, which is clearly intentionally disingenuous, and clearly meant to provide faculty with false assurance of the Chancellor's position and to falsely imply that the FA was lying about the very fact of disagreement, was too serious for that sort of cute moniker.

Unless the Chancellor truly finds it "a little puzzling" that faculty are concerned that her terms allow her to fire tenured faculty with 30 days notice, her statement here is the most irresponsible falsehood I've heard her utter so far.  It ought to at least be possible for the sides to accurately portray where the areas of disagreement lie. We expect both sides to make their own case and attack that of their opponents. Well and good. As I've noted elsewhere, SIUC tenure policy is a muddled mess, allowing rival interpretations. But denying that there is any disagreement about tenure is utterly irresponsible behavior that is unworthy of the leader of a university.

You should, in short, be reassured by the Chancellor's email only if you don't think being fired after you are tenured is something to worry about.

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