Georgia board set to vote on controversial tenure changes

The Georgia University System Board of Regents is set to adopt changes to the post tenure review policy today – changes that state professors say will weaken tenure, and no will strengthen it.

More importantly, the proposal effectively separates the post-tenure review process from the system’s existing faculty termination policy and its due process protections.

Poor performance could potentially result in the termination of a full professor under the current faculty-led post-tenure review policy. But the board’s proposal makes that end easier to achieve, putting more power in the hands of administrators and less in the hands of the professor’s faculty peers.

A board of regents unanimously approved the changes on Tuesday, ahead of a board vote. In doing so, the committee and Tristan Denley, the academic director of the system, noted that the final policy proposal reflects faculty comments.

“There has certainly been a substantial amount of comments and contributions, which have been extremely helpful,” Denley said at the Regents’ Academic Affairs Committee meeting.

“We have made significant language adjustments to clarify and address these kinds of concerns. “

Yet professors across the state disagree that their voices have been heard and say most of the changes to the final document are superficial. Dozens of these professors gathered outside of the first day of the two-day council meeting to make their point once again.

“The point of the tenure is to make it clear that professors don’t work for regents,” said Janet Murray, Dean Professor of Ivan Allen College at Georgia Tech’s School of Literature, Media and Communication, addressing her colleagues at the demonstration. “They work for the public good and their responsibility is to create knowledge and teach the next generation.”

Other professors held signs with slogans such as “Job security fosters student success,” “Protect the truth, defend tenure” and “BOR: Who’s Peer Evaluating You?” “

Referring to a sign saying, “No tenure, no talent,” Murray said during his speech, “The name-only tenure will make it impossible to hire the best, the brightest, and the riskiest innovators.”

The in-person protest followed a storm of faculty resolutions and other missives faculty have sent to regents and system administrators since early last month. It was at this point that the council released a series of proposed tenure changes, applicable to the 26 institutions in the system.

Faculty expected changes to the system’s post-tenure review process, as a committee of administrators and faculty members had been working for a year to draft recommendations to improve this process. But the recommendations of the post-tenure review committee were released over the summer, when many faculty members were off campus, and the board’s proposed recommendations for changing tenure went beyond what the post-tenure review committee had recommended.

Regarding the draft policy that the council released in September, faculty members were most opposed to a clause stating that faculty can be separated from the university for “non-grounds” reasons. The professors understood that to mean they could be fired for any reason or for no reason, tenured or not.

Teresa MacCartney, the system’s acting chancellor, ultimately said such language had been removed from the policy proposal, to better reflect her true intention: to improve the post-tenure review process.

The final version of the policy proposal includes a few more updates, including that when a professor fails to complete a performance improvement plan as a result of a post-tenure review, the principal and dean of the concerned department will consult with the “committee of faculty colleagues” before making disciplinary recommendations. to campus administration.

The first version of the policy stated that the dean and president would consult with the “appropriate faculty” before making disciplinary recommendations, until termination. The new committee referral is arguably less vague, except that the policy says nothing else about such a committee.

Matthew Boedy, professor of English at the University of North Georgia and president of the Georgia Conference of the American Association of University Teachers, said that “tenure and due process die on Wednesday” if the full vote takes place. That’s because a reference to the committee “in no way reflects the detailed due process” of the current faculty-led post-tenure exam, he said.

Faculty have other lingering objections, including a new “student achievement” category on which faculty will be assessed, beyond the traditional areas of teaching, research and service.

In limited public comments on the policy, the system said its post-tenure review process has not really been updated since 1996. The changes are intended to help faculty develop throughout their tenure. career, he said.

A common criticism of the tenure system, generally voiced outside academia, is that it makes it too difficult to get rid of the “deadwood” employees that, say, businesses can easily remove. Yet even a hundred professors at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business say they are opposed to the regents’ plan. In a letter to the board of trustees and to MacCartney, the chancellor, these professors urged the regents to press pause and collect more faculty contributions, lest the issue “seriously reduce our ability to attract and retain world-class academics ”.

Heather Pincock, associate professor of conflict management at Kennesaw State University and a member of the United Campus Workers of Georgia, which organized Tuesday’s rally, said the system’s alleged concessions to faculty concerns simply show that ‘he’ seeks to pave the way for the termination of professors’ employment via post-tenure. review that does not fall under the existing due process mechanisms of the termination grounds policy. “

The national AAUP on Tuesday warned the board of directors that a vote to adopt the changes would trigger an investigation, “given the seriousness and scope of this potential attack on tenure and academic freedom.” One possible consequence of such an investigation is the censorship of the AAUP.

Pincock said it was “the most powerful hammer the AAUP can bring, and the national office is bringing it in our defense.” The long-term implications of tenure changes and censorship will be significant. “

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