Kansas universities implement new tenure policies. Professors are not happy.

In a live streamed meeting, the Kansas Board of Regents approved a policy giving state universities the freedom to fire tenured staff without declaring financial exigency.

The new policy allows universities to create their own grievance procedure and submit it to the board for approval.

A new temporary policy approved by the Kansas Board of Regents in January will give state universities more leeway when it comes to terminating the employment of tenured faculty.

This decision was passed unanimously and gives universities an alternative option for suspending, dismissing, or terminating employees that will not require the school to declare financial exigency. The new policy arose due to the effects of COVID-19 causing budget shortfalls and lower numbers of enrollment in higher education.

Each school that chooses to adopt the policy will have 45 days to create a grievance procedure describing how officials would make decisions under those guidelines. 

The procedure must then be approved by the board. 

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The procedure must outline how the university will provide notice of the action, the reason for the action, and provide an opportunity for the tenured faculty to be heard. The decision of the chief officer or the designee is final and is not subject to administrative review of the university or Board of Regents.

The policy draft also mentions that the burden of proof in any appeal will be placed on the employee, with no right of discovery.

University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas A. Girod wrote in a message to colleagues, “I have asked Provost Bichelmeyer and Executive Vice Chancellor Simari to reach out to university governance, academic administrators, faculty and staff across the university to determine if and how this policy may enable us to address budget challenges while prioritizing our mission.”

The chancellor also mentioned that KU is expected to have a $74.6 million shortfall in Fiscal Year 2022, which, according to the university, will “require us to eliminate programs and departments, reduce services, and implement furloughs and layoffs.”

The new proposal prompted a backlash from Aleksander Sternfeld-Dunn, a professor at Wichita State University and member of the Faculty Senate Presidents council. 

“I do want to express a lot of grave concern about this policy,” he said during the Board of Regents meeting on January 20.

He also said that there are other solutions to the financial issues caused by COVID-19, further warning of the possibility of lawsuits for discrimination or harassment as a result of this policy.  

Faculty and staff at the University of Kansas are now demanding that Girod decline to adopt this new policy in a petition that has gathered 1,000 signatures. They have also created a solidarity statement, which 7,300 professional organizations and individuals have signed. 

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The petition states that “KBOR’s policy blatantly violates two of the three core Academic Principles of the AAU– those pertaining to Shared Governance and Academic Freedom. Such actions place KU at grave risk of expulsion from this prestigious professional organization, which would inevitably impede the recruitment and retention of faculty and the securing of research funds, ultimately eroding the value of all degrees from the University of Kansas.”

Campus Reform reached out to the Kansas Board of Regents as well as the Chancellor of the University of Kansas but did not receive a response in time for publication. 

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