By Shelby Brown —
U of L’s American Association of University Professors chapter is mobilizing in response to the board of trustees’ resolution to review the university’s tenure policy. According to an email blast from Professor Susan Jarosi, university faculty were not consulted on the reasoning for a tenure policy review.
“We (faculty) are thus left in the position of speculating about, though it’s not difficult to surmise, the ways in which the board might alter our current policy so as to weaken or threaten the protections of tenure,” the email said.
Jarosi says the board’s disregard of faculty input runs counter to their promise of transparency. Jarosi is an outspoken advocate for shared academic governance in universities.
A website is available for individuals to share their stories of how tenure, or lack of tenure, has affected them. The hashtag #tenurematters is also circulating on Twitter. The goal being to collect testimonies, support the continuation and the expansion of tenure.
“It’s a way to try to sort of humanize stories about tenure and through those stories to educate the way in which tenure is so instrumental at shaping what happens at universities,” Jarosi said.
Jarosi said the number of tenured faculty members at U of L has been shrinking for the last 30 years, concerning those devoted to higher education.
As of November 2016, U of L reports 763 full time faculty are tenured, 302 on tenure-track and 784 are neither. Of the part time faculty, 590 are neither.
Recently, Governor Matt Bevin has encouraged universities to cut programs that aren’t STEM centered. Bevin suggested cutting entire programs on campuses. For most of his time as governor, Bevin has been STEM education centered, hoping to close the pension gap in Kentucky and drive up engineering and manufacturing career paths.
If campus programs are cut, it means job loss for university professors. When the budgetary ax falls, arts programs are the first to go. Professors without tenure, part-time or adjunct have less protections than others.
Jarosi calls tenure the cornerstone of a university.
“Tenure is a short hand way of encapsulating the commitment that faculty make who are able to earn it – it represents their commitment to a life of learning and service. But the reverse is also true, and just as essential – tenure represents, or should represent, the university’s commitment to those who work tirelessly on its behalf. Tenure, in effect, is a two-way street,” Jarosi said.