Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tenure 2.0: Financial exigency and tenure

In an effort to finally wrap up my quixotic attempt to understand what's going on with tenure around here, I attempt below to explain SIUC's current policy on financial exigency and tenure. (For my earlier efforts in pursuit of this Great White Whale, click here and here). Bona fide financial exigency is but one of the reasons that tenured faculty can be terminated; the others include just cause and program termination. I suspect that financial exigency is the most worrisome in the present climate, and so concentrate on it here.

Also missing here is analysis of the FA's proposed policy for handling financial exigency. Suffice it to say that that policy calls for still more rigorous adherence to the AAUP principles than any SIUC policy past or present. I would be very happy indeed were that proposal adopted. 

Let me also say that there is considerable daylight between my analysis here and that given by the FA in its own "Fact Sheet" on tenure. For some of the reasons why, see the "Simplifying and Charitable Assumptions" I list at the end of this post. My own analysis is considerably more charitable to the administration position, but still reaches rather troubling conclusions . . .
  1. SIUC's current policy on financial exigency and tenure is a mess. Messy policies allow for varied interpretations and promote mutual suspicion. 
  2. Current SIUC policy fails to meet three of the four procedural guidelines outlined by the AAUP.
  3. In the event of a financial exigency, these failures would seriously undermine the status of tenure and the status of faculty at SIUC. 
  4. Absent contractual protection, SIUC's policy on financial exigency could be further changed in order to provide the administration still more flexibility to fire tenured faculty. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tenure 1.5

[Some of what follows will require correction following Jonathan Bean's calling my attention to an SIUC policy page I hadn't checked--details in the comment stream.]

This won't quite amount to my no doubt widely anticipated second posting on tenure (to follow up on the post I did on AAUP tenure policies), but I will emphasize some good points from yesterday's op-ed in the DE on tenure, while also clarifying something I think that op-ed left unclear.   Plus I'll make a newish point of my own: that the administration's actions on furloughs presage possible action on tenure.

Yesterday's op-ed, by Richard Fedder, a Carbondale attorney, squarely nails what I take to be the central point: that the imposed terms are an effort to undermine tenure. So the scenario he outlines, in which the administration decides to go after a given program (or professor), and claims financial justification for doing so, is all too possible.

Fedder also makes a very important point indeed about intentions and legality. The Chancellor has said that she has no intention of undermining tenure. But her bargaining team has, to the best of my knowledge, not budged one inch from the imposed terms that have led many on campus, myself included, to conclude that her terms, if not her intent, undermine tenure. And if you end up being that laid-off tenured professor, her attempts at reassurance won't help you pay the bills any more than tenure without a job will.

If the Chancellor meant what she said when emailing the faculty about tenure (there's a link to her email after the break), it ought to be relatively easy to design contractual language outlining the proper process to be followed in the event of a bona fide financial exigency. To the best of my knowledge, though, the administration bargaining team has shown no interest in doing so.

On the other hand some of what Fedder says about financial exigency doesn't quite ring true to me--and it is devilish details like this that have tied me up in knots and kept me from posting my own take on this issue sooner. More on that after the break. More also on how the "administrative closures" policy sets a precedent of sorts for lowering the bar on firing tenured faculty. I'll also provide links to the main documents on tenure in case you want to engage with the details yourself. It's great fun!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

SIUC Enrollment Falls 1.1%

Most of you will have received an email from the Chancellor (pasted in full after the break), saying that she is "pleased to share with you a news release highlighting some positive news about our enrollment here at the our University". The email itself does not outline the positive news. Why not? Because the news is not, in fact, very good, and the Chancellor would prefer to have the spin in a news release, rather than in her own voice. Clever of her.

In order the answer the rather obvious question (is enrollment up or down?) one must read 10 paragraphs into the news release (okay, they are short paragraphs, but still), to find the following concessive clause:
While today’s numbers marked a decline of 1.1 percent in overall enrollment, officials noted it was approximately one-third of last year’s drop and signals the University’s progress in slowing this six-year decline.
So we are losing students at a slower rate. I cannot for the life of me figure out how we are losing students at only one-third of the rate of last year, however. Last year we were down 1.5%, this year we are down 1.1%. That's less bad, but not one-third as bad, as the Saluki News says. Getting this all straight is currently tricky, as the numbers in the news release are clearly cherry-picked to emphasize "positive trends". But the overall figures are clear enough from the chart below. Some details after the break.