Instead let's turn our attention to what is taking place in Louisiana, where the University of Louisiana's Board of Supervisors is moving ahead with plans that would lead to potential quick termination of tenured and tenure-track faculty. As the Chronicle of Higher Education reports, the fallout could be felt quickly and deeply.
The University of Louisiana system's Board of Supervisors on Friday voted to approve new rules that will allow its institutions to more quickly dismiss faculty members, even those with tenure, whose programs have been closed.
At a time when the state's financial climate makes it difficult for campuses to determine their budgets from year to year, that kind of flexibility is key, system officials said. But professors at the board meeting, including representatives of each of the system's eight campuses, told the supervisors that such a move would erode the protection tenure provides and could ultimately make the system's institutions unattractive to job seekers and lead current faculty members to leave.
Donna Rhorer, an associate professor of English at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and chair of the system's faculty-council committee, said she could understand the board's frustration with the state's financial situation. But the new rules do not provide tenured faculty members with "adequate protection," she said. "We do not approve of these policies as they are stated."
Kevin L. Cope, a professor of English at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, which is not part of the University of Louisiana system, said he had come to the meeting to support his colleagues in the state."If I were a young faculty member, I would immediately turn around and walk out the door," he said. "This damages all the other higher-education systems in Louisiana."Inside Higher Ed adds:
The system released a series of statements by board members in which they said that they regretted having to change tenure protections, but believed they had no choice. Edward Crawford, a board member, was quoted as saying, "We do not have the money to do everything we want to do. We have to have the tools that we hope we don't have to use. These are the fiscal realities." E. Gerald Hebert said, "We feel for the faculty, but we have to do what we have to do."
And Jimmy Faircloth Jr., another board member, said that it was unfair for faculty members to say they were ignored (even if the board didn't accept their suggestions). "Regarding comments that your voice hasn’t been heard, I strongly disagree. I spent yesterday reading a huge binder that included comments and proposed changes and revisions and came here today prepared to listen."Let's look at this logically. Yes, there are some men and women -- from elementary education all the way up to and including higher education -- who have been in a classroom for too long and who will not adjust to the changes in technology, new information or in any way alter what and how they teach. They are an embarrassment to the profession.
However, tenure is akin to a marriage -- it is a representation that a college or university has judged you worthy of a long-term stay at that institution. Of course, the faculty member should never stop expanding his or her professional and academic opportunities, and we know that the good ones do that.
So, why are state legislatures and governors going after teachers? Why are we seeing the attempt to bust a union in Wisconsin and destroy tenure in Louisiana? The concern mentioned above by the LSU instructor is legitimate -- why would I want to move to a state in which my emotional investment will be "rewarded" by an easier method of dumping me?
Look at it another way: Imagine if the marriage rules in this country were re-written and allowed for a man or woman to leave his or her spouse and owe that person nothing. Thanks for your love. Thanks for your time. Now go off and enjoy your life.
I can hear the opponents already. "Anthony," you are saying. "Working for some university isn't the same as being married. Look at you, you've worked for two schools but you've still got the same wife."
True, if you see being a member of the faculty as some kind of independent contractor status in which "I'll be here for as long as I'm needed or wanted and then I'll move on." On the other hand, if you see working for a university has something you pour effort, time and passion into, then dumping me because it's convenient takes on a new meaning.
I accept that state budgets are a mess. I accept that reasonable cuts need to be made in order to bring some sense of financial stability to those situations. I fail to see how dumping teachers; compelling them to pay even more, knowing that the service they provide is monumentally more important than the money they make; or making it easy to erase a personal and professional commitment is good government.
You're welcomed to disagree with me.