TCCTA Blog: Tenure in Kansas …and Elsewhere

Sharing this complete blog post on tenure. Speaking of, now that we have new faculty evaluation instrument, will our Board of Trustees finally restore tenure for new hires?


Tenure in Kansas …and Elsewhere

Posted: 10 Feb 2016 11:14 AM PST

The Kansas Legislature is considering a bill that would eliminate its administrative due process regimen for dismissing two-year college faculty, even if instructors have been employed for many years and possess so-called “continuing” contracts. Some media reports claim the lawmakers simply intend to abolish tenure.

In a controversial move two years ago, the same legislature repealed the due process system for K-12 teachers, but it was retained for community and technical colleges, according to an article by Edward M. Eveld, in the Kansas City Star.

There is no mention in the article of tenure at universities, which presumably would be unaffected by the proposed law.

Basically the legislation would allow institutional discretion in the dismissal of faculty members. If so it might resemble policies already in place at Texas community colleges, where there is presently a great deal of variety.

Some instructors here are awarded annual contracts, with no assurance (absent pertinent precedents regarding a “reasonable” expectation of being rehired, race, gender, etc.) of job security. Some colleges grant actual tenure for faculty, earned during a stipulated period, like practices at universities. A more common approach is the “rolling” contract, which gives teachers an extended time window to make corrections or pursue any appeals under due process.

So it’s complicated, dependent upon statutory and case law at the state and national level, in addition to local policies and procedures. You can get an earful from TCCTA attorneys at one of the association’s events.

But this much is clear. As job security, pensions, and other perquisites in the private sector have become casualties in the global economy, tenure (or something like it) has become a political target—pegged as a relic that has outlived its usefulness.

Please read the KCS article for choice quotes representing both sides of this issue.

Also not mentioned in the piece—right under our noses—is the elephant in the room: adjunct faculty. With the majority of classes at many schools taught by part-timers with virtually no job security, it becomes increasingly difficult to defend anything resembling tenure for full-timers. In fact, some colleges have devised a new hybrid category of instructor, with additional teaching responsibilities, but no pesky due process concerns.

Barking Dogs: Contracts, Covey and CAEL

Barking Dog

Chancellor Bruce Leslie met with the SAC Faculty Senate this past Wednesday to discuss a wide variety of issues. To our knowledge, this is the first time Dr. Leslie has accepted an invitation to appear before the Senate since he was first hired. Senators provided a list of questions. The three major items addressed were: contracts, Covey and CAEL.


It’s been almost a month now since the mysterious “written by no one and addressed to no one” 12-month contract memo was circulated. We now have answers to some of our questions from SAC’s new President, Dr. Robert Vela, during an August SAC Faculty Senate meeting, but the main question remains: is it legal to fire tenured faculty who refuse to sign this contract?

Chancellor Bruce Leslie could not answer this question directly, instead choosing to skirt the issue with promises of conference calls with lawyers:

” We’ve ceased calling it a 12 month contract because it’s really just a 9 month plus 3 month contract. And this is not for all faculty, but those who want to work 12 months. I’m still looking at the legal issues and have a conference call next week with the attorneys. But can we make you work? If the program needs you, then yes, we can require you to work.”

This prompted one SAC Faculty Senator to exclaim, “I’ve been here for a long time, but I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I was yours for 12 months.”

The AAUP has very specific guidelines on the termination of tenured faculty members:

Tenured appointments are ongoing, extending beyond the period indicated in the annual salary letter. Tenure is a presumption of competence and continuing service that can be overcome only if specified conditions are met.

What are these specified conditions? Tenured faculty appointments may be terminated only because of financial exigency, a condition affecting an institution as a whole; for program discontinuance based on educational considerations, as determined primarily by the faculty; or for demonstrated cause. The Alamo Colleges will be hard pressed to prove financial exigency. There are no current programs being discontinued. And what would be the demonstrated cause as outlined in the District’s own Progressive Discipline Policy? Insubordination? Firing a 9 month contract tenured faculty member who refuses to work an extra 3 month summer contract clearly bumps up against due process. Tenure is also a property right. If District is going to fire a tenured faculty member, they better have a pretty good legal reason to do so or they risk getting sued.

And speaking of the legal concerns, Leslie had one when another SAC Faculty Senator inquired, “If 12 months is needed, then why not pay people for 12 months?”

Leslie replied: “If we pay some faculty pro rata to work the full 12 months, wouldn’t we then have to do it for everyone? From a legal perspective we open ourselves up to lawsuits if we make these kinds of exceptions.”

Yes. But you’re also creating an exception by forcing some faculty to work that extra 3 month contract with the threat of termination hanging over their heads. Faculty are hired as 9 month employees working 9 month contracts. Summer work for these 9 month employees is extra, requires a separate contract, and the contract is purely voluntary. Summer pay prior to Summer 2012 was always pro rata, meaning if you agreed to work during the summer, you would receive a commensurate percentage of your regular 9 month salary. In fact, when the Board of Trustees met back in March 2012 to discuss and vote on changes to the faculty pay schedule, several Trustees expressed concern that summer work be kept as optional. The justification being that as long as faculty had the option of working in the summer then the Board felt a little better about voting to cut full-time faculty pro rata summer pay to 130% of adjunct pay. A SAC Faculty senator reminded Leslie of the Board’s intent for summer work to remain optional by referencing the Board video from the March 2012 meeting. He responded:

“I’m impressed! I didn’t know anyone ever watched those videos!”

Yes, many stakeholders watch these videos, Dr. Leslie. Why? Because reviewing the context around which important decisions are made is vital in holding administrators accountable for later actions. The 12 month memo clearly goes against the Board’s intent for summer work and compensation. Summer pay for full-time faculty was reduced from pro rata to 130% of the adjunct rate. This decision hinged on many factors, one of which was that summer work was to remain optional. Leslie added that he was not sure he would interpret it that way. His final comment on this issue? “We’ve always treated summer as voluntary, but that’s changing.” Faculty are not frightened of change, Dr. Leslie. We are concerned about getting paid what we are worth during the summer months. If you need faculty here for 12 months in order to ensure student success, then pay those faculty at pro rata. Dr. Zeigler tried to do just that for SAC counseling faculty last summer, but the plan was shot down. Was it because of the legal issue you now raise of making an exception to pay some faculty more in the summer? Or was the issue simply because you didn’t want to spend the money?


Two issues regarding Covey were discussed: the implementation of EDUC 1300 and documented successes of the Covey process at District.

When asked about plans for putting EDUC 1300 back in the core, Leslie responded:

“As you know, we weren’t moving fast enough so I made a decision to put it in the core. Then I changed my decision because of what happened.”

You mean that thing that happened where our accreditation was put at risk because of your quick decision to do an end run around established college procedures for changing the core curriculum? At any rate, Leslie went on to say that he hasn’t given much thought about the core curriculum issues and is instead focusing on advising and his 4DX initiatives. But he clearly is thinking about it because he couldn’t help but chastise us thusly:

“Are two humanities courses necessarily what’s best for students? I don’t know. SDEV courses have been proven beneficial but we’re leaving it up to the colleges on EDUC 1300. I’m not focused on EDUC anymore right now. But we are the only community college district which requires two humanities courses in the core. Brazosport College just got an award for the work they’ve done with EDUC 1300.”

Yes, please leave this decision up to the individually accredited colleges, Dr. Leslie. We will send EDUC 1300 back through the appropriate curriculum change channels and the decision will be made by faculty on whether or not this course belongs in the core instead of the other humanities courses we offer. We’re very sorry if this takes you out of the running for an award but we’re more concerned on giving students a variety of options rather than force them to take this course. We can sympathize on some level with your reasoning that business leaders (and even ex-Mayor Castro?) were in favor of the Alamo Colleges teaching Covey to students because Covey was something business leaders were familiar with. That’s all well and good, but since when do business leaders get to trump the curricular decisions made by college faculty? Employers are concerned with filling positions. They are not concerned with creating an educated, well-rounded person. Education is not a business. If employers want to Coveytize their workers, then let them pay for it and leave student wallets out of the transaction.

As to any documented successes at District from employing Covey principles, Leslie shared that “million and millions” of dollars have been saved by using these strategies. And to that we say “show us the money.”


SAC AAUP first reported on CAEL in the midst of the EDUC 1300 fiasco, so some of that information never really received any traction. Now it’s back. CAEL is an organization which does a lot of things, but our primary concern is the District’s sole-source contract with their advising services and competency-based education model. Chancellor Leslie opened up his remarks on CAEL rather defensively:

“I’m on the board of CAEL, but stay out of the day to day operations. The Board of Trustees knows that I serve on the CAEL board and this information was in the Board’s resolution to approve the CAEL contract. CAEL is the only organization that does this training and me being on the board helped me know about them. We contract with a whole variety of organizations for training. Why is CAEL getting all this attention except for the fact that I serve on the board?”

Hmmm. Well, based on your prior history it is only natural for us to wonder at the influence you might have in securing District contracts with specific organizations. Especially when those organizations are making money off of our students. Leslie stated that students can develop and submit a portfolio to CAEL to the tune of $500 to see if that student could receive college credit for life experience. This raises many concerns about our colleges eventually awarding degrees to students who have received CBE (competency-based education) credits. How does this work within a college’s accreditation model?

Leslie said that so far AT&T has been awarding scholarship money for students to submit these portfolios to CAEL so no students have had to pay out of pocket yet. When asked if students could use federal student loan money to pay CAEL for this service, Leslie said he did not know. If fact, it looks like the Department of Education has cleared the way for students to use federal aid for CBE. If students can use their student loan money for CBE credit, then that would supply CAEL with quite a large stream of revenue. Revenue which would then not be coming into the local colleges. Call us paranoid if you want, but “competency-based education” seems like another way to de-fund higher education. It also seems like an effort to filter the “not college ready” students into non-academic programs thus improving our graduation rates. But we’re not the only ones who have expressed concern over the CBE creep into higher ed.

Other CBE news items:

  • Tugged in Two Directions – What is the college accreditor’s role in CBE?
  • Taking the Direct Path – What is direct assessment?
  • Experimenting with Aid – The U.S. Department of Education will give its blessing — and grant federal aid eligibility — to colleges’ experimentation with competency-based education and prior learning assessment.
  • College, On Your Own – Competency-based education can help motivated students. But critics say it’s no panacea.

Bottom line? There is still plenty to bark at this semester and for good reason. If you have more information about any of these topics or others, please send them along to us and we’ll investigate – sacaaup@gmail.org

Sidenotes: Many thanks to the new education reporter for the Express-News Alia Malik for attending and reporting on the SAC Faculty Senate meeting with the Chancellor. The SAC AAUP wishes you all the best in your new job and looks forward to working with you. We’d also like to thank TCCTA for picking up this story.

12-month faculty contract without full pay? Say it ain’t so.

The following document is making the rounds at SAC: 12-month faculty contract transition

What starts out as a recommendation for “equitable salary alignment” quickly becomes a scenario of extreme concern to all faculty. The last paragraph suggests a mandate which forces counseling, nursing faculty and yet-to-be-identified other full-time faculty to choose between (a) working both summer sessions for 130% of adjunct pay or (b) losing their jobs.

3. By the end of the 2014 Fall term, the faculty member will also indicate commitment to the 12-month employment need.  If the faculty member chooses not to commit to 12-month employment beginning in Fall 2015, the faculty member may choose to teach a partial load at 130% of the effective Adjunct Faculty rate in Summer 2015 and will be acknowledging he/she will no longer be in a faculty position beginning in Fall 2015.

The Board’s compensation decision for summer pay rate at 130% of adjunct (instead of pro rata) was because summer work was NOT mandatory. Summer teaching contracts are voluntary extra work and pay. Salary increases to the 9-month contract helped make up some of the summer shortfall, but not all of it. With the 130% of adjunct pay policy instituted for the summer months, District expected the same amount of work from faculty in the summer with less pay. Naturally, more full-time faculty have been declining this summer contract option. So this is their solution to filling the need for full-time faculty in those summer contracts: offer them a deal they can’t refuse. Take the 12 month contract or else you don’t teach here anymore.

Also of interest: Last year our now ex-President Dr. Zeigler attempted to turn counselors into 12-month faculty with pro-rata pay. That deal fell through. And now this pops up to take it’s place. Just to be clear, this memo specifically mentions counseling and nursing faculty but what will stop each college from identifying a 12-month “need” in other departments?

SAC Faculty Senate, SAC AAUP and ACCD Faculty Legal Action Association are all seeking more clarification on the issues raised in this memo.

If you have information about this or any other District initiative, please contact us at sacaaup@gmail.com. As we start another school year, let us remain vigilant in keeping “community” in our community colleges.

Eviscerating Tenure

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Faculty-Review Proposal at Saint Louis U. Would ‘Eviscerate Tenure,’ AAUP Says

By Audrey Williams June

Faculty members at Saint Louis University are worried about a proposed post-tenure review policy that the American Association of University Professors says is written in a way that has the potential to endanger the tenure status of professors at the Jesuit institution.

“Post-tenure review should be for the purposes of assisting faculty members in improving their performance,” says B. Robert Kreiser, associate secretary of the AAUP. “But the policy that has been proposed would effectively eviscerate tenure as it’s understood at most institutions of higher learning.”

At issue in the proposed policy, which is slated to take effect in January, are two of the potential outcomes it outlines for a post-tenure review. The proposal says that, following a review, professors could remain tenured or could be placed on a “performance improvement plan” with a re-evaluation in two years; both of those potential outcomes are typical in post-tenure reviews.

But the other options under the Saint Louis plan—moving faculty to non-tenure-track positions or giving them a terminal contract, in which they would be fired with a year’s notice—are “of grave concern,” said Mr. Kreiser, who has reviewed the policy. “This policy is certainly among the worst I’ve seen, and it’s hard to imagine a policy that could be much worse than this one.”

The policy also says that post-tenure review will be similar to the regular tenure-and-promotion process. Mr. Kreiser said that sends a message that “even though you have tenure now, we’re going to review you as though you do not.”

The policy would apply to full-time professors, although some would be exempt. Those to whom the policy would not apply include university medical group professors, department chairs, directors of degree-granting centers, deans, and faculty members on the university’s campus in Madrid.

A university spokeswoman at Saint Louis University did not respond to requests for comment.

The proposed post-tenure-review policy became public at a time when the university had just responded to the highly publicized resignation this month of the dean of its law school. In resigning, Annette Clark, who had been hired just over a year ago, sent a letter to the institution’s president, the Rev. Lawrence Biondi, and its vice president of academic affairs, in which she said that she lacked confidence in their ability to lead the university and that they weren’t committed to the law school’s success. She accused Father Biondi of a series of actions that “evinced hostility” toward her position, such as deciding, without consulting her, that the law school would move to a donated building downtown.

Father Biondi responded in a letter of his own that Ms. Clark was about to be fired on the same day that she resigned, August 8.

A Marked Departure

The controversy over the proposed post-tenure-review policy at Saint Louis has been more muted, with many faculty members saying they were reluctant to discuss it. Some said they feared that administrators could use post-tenure review to get rid of tenured faculty members they don’t like.

Mr. Kreiser, of the AAUP, said the proposal is a marked departure from past policies at Saint Louis, which typically have been favorably viewed by his association. In fact, he said, the association has cited the university’s faculty handbook as a model for other institutions.

In general, the AAUP views post-tenure reviews as unnecessary since faculty members are already reviewed regularly at most institutions. But as a growing number of colleges began to adopt formal post-tenure reviews, the AAUP crafted minimum standards that it recommends for such evaluations. Among them is that post-tenure reviews shouldn’t be used to make individual professors prove why they shouldn’t be dismissed. Post-tenure reviews also should be developmental, the association says.

Faculty leaders at Saint Louis are encouraging professors to register their concerns about the policy. In an e-mail message sent Monday to all faculty, Mark M. Knuepfer, who is president of the Faculty Senate and a professor of pharmacological and physiological science in the medical school, urged his colleagues to weigh in by September 10 with comments that will be incorporated into an official response from the senate’s executive committee. Mr. Knuepfer asked professors to submit comments that are “as constructive as possible.”

The details of the post-tenure-review proposal are outlined in a document called “Faculty Evaluation,” which is part of a larger faculty policy review at Saint Louis. Two other documents, “Faculty Workload” and “Faculty Recognition,” propose guidelines on how to measure faculty workload and how to reward faculty members financially and otherwise for their work. The policy proposals, according to those documents, are intended to provide a “common university-level framework” so that Saint Louis can “achieve its full potential in accomplishing its strategic goals through teaching, research, clinical care, and service activities.”

Newsletter: Two Louisiana universities get rid of tenured faculty

Administrators at two Louisiana universities used program discontinuances as an excuse to get rid of selected tenured faculty members, a new AAUP investigating report finds (pdf). The investigation focused on Northwestern State University and Southeastern Louisiana University, both part of the University of Louisiana System, and was conducted by a committee of AAUP members with no previous involvement in the situation.

At both institutions, administrators discontinued or consolidated academic programs and arbitrarily selected certain tenured professors in the programs for termination of appointment. Especially egregious was that some faculty were dismissed from tenured positions and then offered short-term contracts teaching many of the same courses at drastically reduced salaries.

At Northwestern State, programs were discontinued in such fields as economics, journalism, political science, sociology, German, chemistry, and physics. At least sixteen tenured faculty appointments were terminated in disregard of AAUP-supported standards. The investigation revealed that the NSU administration created a special appeals procedure for terminations that denied faculty members the right to a faculty hearing, terminated tenured positions before untenured ones, and did not attempt to find suitable alternative positions for those affected. The committee found that the administration “failed to consult the faculty in decisions that a financial crisis existed or was imminent” and “fell severely short of the expectations . . . of the UL System’s policy for academic program discontinuance.”

At Southeastern, the only tenured faculty appointments terminated were those of the university’s three professors of French. This happened in a state and in a local parish where French ranks with English as one of two official languages. The professors have outstanding academic records, and the investigating committee found no legitimate basis for terminating their services. The president refused to give them any reason for his action, and he has resisted all pressure to reconsider his position.

Under AAUP-recommended standards, tenured faculty appointments may be terminated only because of financial exigency, a condition affecting an institution as a whole; for program discontinuance based on educational considerations, as determined primarily by the faculty; or for demonstrated cause.

The AAUP report concluded that, lacking chief administrative officers who respect tenure and due process, academic freedom at both Southeastern Louisiana and Northwestern State is and “will in all likelihood remain insecure.”

The University of Louisiana System, consisting of the state’s public four-year institutions that are part neither of the flagship Louisiana State University nor of the historically black Southern University System, is the state’s largest, with eight component institutions during the events investigated and a total student enrollment in excess of eighty thousand.

This is the third major report in five years published by the AAUP as a result of investigations in Louisiana. The first of these, Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans Universities, was a 2007 report on the investigation of apparent violations of principles of academic freedom and tenure at five of the city’s universities. The second major report, published in 2011, dealt with two distinctly different academic freedom cases at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge.

Read the full report on the University of Louisiana System (.pdf).

-from AAUP newsletter