Tenure at University of Minnesota

News Story -- November 10, 1996

Date: Mon, 11 Nov 1996 10:51:08 -0800 (PST)
From: Robert Scott North 
Forwarded message

Minnesota Faculty, Regents Put Tenure to the Test

By Rene Sanchez
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 9, 1996; Page A01

MINNEAPOLIS The last stand of the professors here at the University of Minnesota has begun. They are fearful, angry, and convinced they are fighting to save the soul of American higher education.

Listen to Thomas Walsh, who teaches physics. "What we're facing has the potential to decimate this place," he says. "Our backs are up against the wall."

Or to Edward Fogelman, chairman of the political science department. "This is a terrible assault on academic freedom," he says. "The very idea of a university is at stake."

So, by the way, are their jobs for the first time.

This campus is now at the center of a growing national battle over one of the most sacred doctrines of academia: the right of professors to earn tenure, a lifetime guarantee to teach and research without fear of being fired. Squeezed by rising costs, and under pressure to stop raising tuition, college officials here and nationwide are taking a hard new look at tenure a teaching reward that dates to the Middle Ages and taking their first serious steps to limit or eliminate it.

Many universities are hiring more part-time faculty, or depending more on graduate students to teach classes, as ways of reducing the number of professors eligible for tenure. Others are requiring more scrutiny of tenured faculty. But no step is as drastic as the one being considered here. Virtually the entire faculty is in open revolt.

Minnesota's tenure debate is the surest sign yet, college officials say, that the work-force downsizing affecting businesses across the nation is charging now into the rarefied world of academia. In much of the American workplace, job insecurity has long been a rough fact of life. For most college professors, it is heresy.

"This is a very critical place if changes like this can occur at a major university like Minnesota, they can happen on any campus," said Mary Burgan, the general secretary of the American Association of University Professors, which has about 45,000 members. "Faculty see this as the beginning of the end."

The uproar here began this fall. Faced with financial troubles, the state's Board of Regents proposed making it easier to lay off tenured faculty, to cut their salaries, or to discipline them even for not maintaining a "proper attitude of industry and cooperation." The 12-member board, which governs public universities, drafted the policy with the help of a Washington law firm, Hogan and Hartson, and said the changes would be a powerful way to bring more efficiency to the sprawling university. It has more than 200 departments, 60,000 students, and 3,000 faculty members, the majority of whom have tenure.

The regents, who are appointed by the state legislature, quickly scrapped the "proper attitude" phrase after faculty denounced it as "the Chairman Mao provision." They are still advocating other changes to tenure amid protests the likes of which rarely occur on this normally serene campus overlooking the Mississippi River.

Hundreds of professors are on the verge, reluctantly, of forming a union to bargain collectively with the university for the first time over wages and working conditions. Between classes and research, they are organizing a campus labor movement. That would be unprecedented; none of the nation's largest public research universities has a unionized faculty.

"This is the only way now to insure we have a voice," said Paula Rabinowitz, a tenured English professor. "If they're talking about laying us off, they are talking about destroying the basic principles we operate with at a university."

Around the country, professors are joining the fight. For months, the tenure debate has been the subject of furious conversation among academics on computer e-mail nationwide. Some are urging their junior faculty or graduate students not to apply for teaching jobs here. Other universities are already courting some of Minnesota's prestigious professors. Meanwhile, the foundation that funnels millions of dollars in research money to the Minnesota campus is irate. Alumni groups have petitioned the board to change its mind, saying the university is being "ripped apart" by the tenure debate. There is open talk among some faculty of simply giving up and teaching elsewhere. Last week, a regent who had been an architect of the tenure revisions abruptly resigned.

"If this proposal isn't stopped," said Virginia Gray, a professor in the political science department who is helping lead the faculty rebellion, "the university is going to suffer tremendous damage in the eyes of higher education."

The regents say faculty members are overreacting to their proposal, refusing to negotiate sensibly about it, and spreading misinformation to colleagues around the country. The regents have been swamped with protest calls.

"The goal of this is only to enhance the quality of the university," said Patricia Spence, a regent. "Resources are getting tighter. We need more flexibility. In no way will this diminish academic freedom. But the faculty are really reacting with paranoia. I'm afraid it has done great damage to the university."

All the pressure, however, seems to be working. This week, the regents signaled a new willingness to compromise by supporting a scaled-back version of their tenure plan for University of Minnesota law school professors, who represent only a tiny fraction of the campus faculty. Under that proposal, it would take longer, and become harder, to earn tenure, and cutting salaries would be negotiable. But layoffs would still be rare. Regents are hinting that model may become the one they use for the full faculty.

At most universities, faculty are eligible for tenure after six years or so of teaching. Professors with tenure have a lifetime appointment. They cannot be dismissed, transferred or demoted. Only extreme misconduct on their part, or a financial emergency at a university, can cost them their jobs. For centuries, universities have held tenure sacred because it protects scholarly work from the shifting priorities of colleges, from outside political pressures, or from personal biases of campus administrators.

Today, about 58 percent of the nation's college faculty are tenured. That figure is declining; a decade ago, nearly 65 percent of faculty had tenure. College officials say the reasons for the drop are plain: State aid is declining, expenses are rising and colleges are facing greater pressure to restructure and keep salaries down.

Nationally, faculty pay is rising each year at about the rate of inflation, 3 percent. Some universities are saving money either by not replacing tenured professors who retire or by hiring younger faculty without putting them in tenure-track jobs. In recent years, the University of Minnesota has not replaced scores of professors who retired.

"Some university leaders believe tenure is a straitjacket," said Richard Chait, a Harvard professor and tenure specialist hired by the regents to advise them on the issue. "Tenure gives faculty enormous sway in how a university conducts its business. What's at the heart of this is not academic freedom every regent believes in that. This is fundamentally about how power is distributed at a university."

At Minnesota, tenured professors can be dismissed now only if an entire academic department or college is closed. That is not common. What the regents have been calling for is the power to make layoffs when "programs" are eliminated. They also have wanted the freedom to cut faculty salaries for "adequate cause."

Faculty say both terms are too vague. Many academic programs here consist of only a few professors. Stitching that language into the tenure code, they contend, would give the university administrators power to target professors they do not like, or who are viewed as too costly to keep.

"Let's be honest," Gray said. "It means they can go after people."

Professors here realize that having absolute job security is a rare privilege, and they concede that their adamant campaign to protect it runs the risk of seeming elitist. Yet they insist that tenure is vital. Without it, they say, an array of scholarly work could be compromised by outside pressures.

No one here expects the university to use the new tenure policy, if enacted, to crack down on professors who advocate radical political or social views. They are far more worried about potential threats to faculty in other sensitive areas such as medicine or agriculture where academic research often has a powerful influence on commerce.

Michael Martin, the dean of the agriculture college here, said that the research of his faculty often upsets business or political interests. He cited several examples: A few years ago, he said he was under pressure to quash a report and dismiss a professor whose research showed that a growth hormone could speed milk production in cows. Some groups in the state feared that the news could crush already-struggling small dairy farms by giving an additional mass-production advantage large dairy factories.

In another instance, faculty discovered that sugar beets could be grown with much less use of a certain chemical. The industry that produced it was livid, he said.

"We work in areas with big financial and environmental consequences," Martin said. "It's very important to have strict protection of faculty to know that I couldn't fire anyone even if I ever wanted to. It's in the public interest to give faculty complete freedom to speak out on subjects like this."

This past summer, after months of contentious debate, faculty leaders here formally proposed their own set of changes to the tenure code. It would allow more extensive tenure review and a new process for faculty reassignments on campus. The professors insist their approach would help the university address some of the problems it has with tenure without dismantling the system altogether.

But regents say the proposals do not go far enough; others worry it could make dismissing tenured faculty even harder.

"The process that they are suggesting is still very cumbersome," Spence said. "I think they've even added more layers. We do not think it's going to work."

Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson (R) is pleading with each side to end the acrimony. But under state law, the faculty's move to unionize has shelved all formal negotiation until professors vote on whether to accept collective bargaining for the first time.

Yet no matter how the crisis is resolved, professors say they know a new era is upon college campuses. "This is the next big thing," Fogelman said. "They want to corporatize academia. Universities always have insisted that isn't an appropriate model for them, and have quite self-consciously tried to avoid it. Not anymore."

Special correspondent William Souder in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

FYI from the University of Minnesota:End of Tenure

From: Paul Smith

I believe that the attached document on actions at the University of Minnesota to effectively end the protections of tenure will be of general interest. This is the only source of information I have on the actions.

The following email was sent to all University of Minnesota faculty by the chairs of the Senate committess responsible for the Minnesota tenure code. It was sent Friday, September 6, 1996. The mail header has been removed and a couple of line breaks and tabs have been fixed. Otherwise, it is unchanged.

We are sending this to you for your information. The actual new tenure code can be found in text form at http://mnnt1.hep.umn.edu/ufa/, which will enable you to compare this document with the code.

The new code was developed by the regents together with their consultant Richard Chait and also Martin Michaelson of the Washington, DC firm of Hogan & Hartson. As best we can tell, the code was worked out between June and the release date of September 5. We are not aware of anyone outside this group who knew of the provisions before release.

We regard this code as the prototype of tenure revisions which other university governing boards will attempt to impose in coming years. It is therefore of national interest.

Paula Rabinowitz, Department of English
Thomas Walsh, Department of Physics
University Faculty Alliance
University of Minnesota
Dear Colleagues,

Our attempt to reach a compromise on revision of the Tenure Regulations has failed. The Regents have proposed new amendments at their meeting on Thursday. In effect, they have accepted the parts of the Faculty Senate draft in which the faculty made compromises and rejected the parts in which the administration recognized faculty concerns. Far from being a compromise, the new proposal goes well beyond any prior administration proposal.

The Regents have asked that the faculty complete review of their new draft within a month, so that they can take final action on October 10. The draft contains the most substantial changes in tenure policy that have been put forward here in over 50 years. To meet this hectic schedule, the faculty committees will meet in the week of September 16, and the Faculty Senate will meet on the first day of classes, September 26.

The Regents put forward their proposal over President Hasselmo's strenuous opposition. Given the manner in which the proposal was prepared, the extremely limited opportunity for faculty consultation on the draft, and their unwillingness to discuss with us the merits of various proposals, we must conclude that they intend to move forward on this proposal.

At this point, we can only summarize the major parts of the proposal. Other details will be provided later. Major points are:

1. FIRING FACULTY IN CASE OF PROGRAM CHANGE. The proposal eliminates the tenure protection currently available in cases of program change. It provides:

--60 days' notice of programmatic change. (There is no other provision for faculty participation in these decisions.)

--reassignment or retraining of tenured faculty, unless "in the University's judgment" this would be "not practicable." (Note that it does not require that reassignment or retrainging be "impracticable," but only that the "University's judgment" be such. Give the distinction of the Regents' Washington lawyers who prepared this language, it is apparent that the intent was to exclude any subsequent review of the decision.)

--one year's notice of termination be given.

--there is no definition of "program," so a single faculty member could be targeted by defining that individual's specialization for elimination.

2. REDUCTIONS IN BASE PAY. The proposal eliminates the guarantee of base pay contained in the current regulations. Instead, it would provide that "Absent reasons found to be compelling by the Board of Regents or its delegate," "it is expected that" base pay would be protected. Again, carefully note the drafting. The first of these clauses does NOT require "compelling reasons" before reducing base pay; it only requires that the administrator STATE that his reasons are compelling. The second clause does not guarantee base salary, but only articulates a general and vague expectation in that regard. The language eliminates any legal claim to base pay.

The language, as drafted, would permit reductions of salary targeted at single individuals. (The statement in the Star-Tribune this morning that such pay cuts could only be imposed on groups of faculty, not on individuals, was apparently based on the oral statements of the Regents' lawyer in describing the plan. An examination of the actual text reveals no such limitation.) Indeed, the new languageprovides no effective protection of salary. The provision also cuts off any review of such issues by the Judicial Committee, even in cases of alleged violation of academic freedom.

3. POST TENURE REVIEW. The post tenure review process has been substantially rewritten. Rather than the remedial process we proposed, seeking to improve the performance of faculty experiencing difficulties, the provision in now primarily punitive in orientation, emphasizing dismissal and salary reduction. It now permits annual 10% salary reductions ad infinitum. Many of the procedural protections have been removed.

4. FACULTY DISCIPLINE. The faculty discipline section represents a radical departure from existing rules. It introduces surprising new language. For example, faculty members may be punished if they do not "maintain . . . a proper attitude of industry and cooperation with others within and without the University community." Discipline, including dismissal may be imposed when "commonly held standards of conduct" (not further specified) are violated. A new ground for firing a faculty member, "other grave misconduct" is added.

A whole new category of "lesser sanctions" is created, including PAY CUTS (which may be permanent and are not limited in amount) and suspensions from duty. These may be imposed by the administrator after notice and an opportunity to respond, but the discipline "need not involve formal proceedings of any kind." For example, this would authorize a dean to impose a permanent 50% pay cut without a hearing before an impartial body. The Judicial Committee is also excluded from review of these actions, although the faculty member might file a grievance with an outside arbitrator.

5. JUDICIAL COMMITTEE PROCEDURES. Although access to the Judicial Committee has been cut off in many cases--including many possible cases involving academic freedom issues--new major restrictions are imposed upon the operation of the Judicial Committee. These include:

--Judicial committee proceedings will be presided over by a law officer, who must not be a faculty member.

--The President will no longer be required to respect the Judicial Committee's report and recommendation. The current regulations contain a legal limitation (he can overrule the committee only for "compelling reasons") and a procedural check (he can do so only after meeting with the Judicial Committee). The Regents' draft deletes both provisions, giving the President total freedom to ignore the hearing panel's report.

--The new draft permits a dean to suspend a faculty member without pay, in certain circumstances, while a proceeding to dismiss is underway.

Two other points should be made:

Some of the proposed changes track language in other universities' tenure regulations. But those universities may have long-established practices or other policies that effectively limit the exercise of the power granted by the tenure codes there. If we adopt the bare language of those universities, but not the other limitations that exist there, we will be deviating sharply from the norm. There seems to be no effort to simultaneously adopt the practices of other institutions.

Given the radical nature of these changes, this is not merely an attempt to respond to the Faculty Senate proposals. It seeks to impose a radical changes in the relations of faculty, administration, and Regents. Given the controversy that has been generated, we must assume that the Board intends to exercise fully the powers that they are creating by these changes.

Take these proposals seriously and act accordingly. The Regents intend to act on them on October 10.

		  Sincerely yours

		  FRED L. MORRISON, Professor of Law
		  MARY DEMPSEY,     Professor of Biochemistry
		  VIRGINIA GRAY,    Professor of Political Science
		  ED FOGELMAN,      Professor of Political Science
		  DAN FEENEY,       Professor of Small Animal
				    Clinical Science

		  Chairs of the respective Faculty Senate Committees

The Minnesota Daily


By Harold Schwartz

In an emergency meeting held Thursday called by Board of Regent Chairman Thomas Reagan and lasting all of 30 minutes without substantive discussion of the issues, the regents passed a new tenure code for the Law School. Thus, in their haste to get around the cease-and-desist order in force for the rest of the University, Reagan and the board took advantage of the fact that whereas the Law Faculty required 10.2 signatures to gain a similar order, they could muster only 10.0.

Clearly, the regents are willing to drop the layoff provisions in this code because there is no danger that they will close the Law School. But this version of the code covers just 35 faculty members. What about the thousands of other faculty members in other schools? Reagan, in response to a question about dropping layoff provisions for the rest of the faculty, said in a Nov. 8 Daily article that "there's no guarantee in life; there's no guarantee for anything." Is there a faculty member or citizen of Minnesota who does not see that this is merely the first step by the regents to gain what they have desired all along -- total and uncontrolled authority to micro-manage this University as if it were merely another corporate entity?

These are people without understanding or sympathy for the centuries-old heritage and traditions of the University, or of its mission. They rejected every effort by the University Faculty Association and American Association of University Professors to establish a representative negotiating process to develop a code that would satisfy the needs of the University and faculty. The regents' actions last week are proof they will not cooperate with faculty to solve this problem.

The small victory for academic freedom that is represented by the regents' adoption of the Sullivan Code was forced upon them by the organized actions of the faculty. There is every likelihood that this issue will arise again, sooner rather than later, without any legal protection for the faculty in the process. No body of the faculty governance system had any input into the decision of the board. Nothing in the code requires that the regents accept faculty input. The regents' actions this week demonstrate most clearly they will brook no interference from faculty.

Without a union, the University faculty is doomed to rule by an arrogant Board of Regents unaccountable to anyone, not even the people of Minnesota.

Organization is our only defense!

*Harold Schwartz is an associate professor of medicine.*

U Minnesota Tenure Crisis in Nov OAH Newsletter

From: "Seth Wigderson, U Maine Augusta" Comments to: H-POST@UICVM.UIC.EDU"

The November 1996 Organization of American Historians Newsletter contains an important article by Kinley Brauer on the Tenure controversy at the University of Minnesota. The bad news is that the Regents had been about to adopt a tenure code which would have allowed dismissal of tenured faculty on the slimmest of grounds. The good news is that in the face of an AAUP organizing drive and considerable community opposition, the Regents have held back from implementing the proposal, for the moment. Those interested in further information should see the article or view these web pages http://www.daily.umn.edu/library/focus/tenure.html http://www.umn.edu/urelate/newsservice/tenure1.html http://www.umn.edu/urlate/newsservice/PolFacultyTenure.htm

Board of Regents thwarting shared governance

From the editorial pages of Minnesota Daily 11/2/1996

Authors: V. Rama Murthy, president; Carolyn L. Williams, vice president; Stephen Gudeman, secretary/treasurer; Twin Cities Chapter AAUP

We, the elected leadership of the Twin Cities Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, are concerned about the breakdown in the University's system of shared governance represented by the regents' adoption of a tenure code for the Law School on Thursday in an "emergency" session. The primary purpose of the AAUP is to ensure academic freedom through the use of effective tenure codes, due process and the tradition of shared governance at our nation's colleges and universities. Although E. Thomas Sullivan, dean of the Law School, drafted a tenure code that omitted the egregious violations of academic freedom in the earlier proposals promoted by Regents Jean Keffeler, Tom Reagan, Patricia Spence and Hyon Kim, the regents' actions on Thursday do not reflect effective governance for a vital state institution.

The credible threat of collective bargaining by faculty members perhaps made the regents want to appear as if they were willing to compromise. Unfortunately, the regents retained the right to exercise arbitrary power in the future. Thus, the legacy of mistrust continues.

We find ourselves in the ironic position of agreeing with Keffeler's concerns about the use of an emergency meeting to pass a piecemeal tenure code. As Keffeler indicated, the regents meeting was possible only after their lawyers persuaded the Bureau of Mediation Services to lift the Maintenance of Status Quo order for the Law School at 5 p.m. the evening before the hastily called 9 a.m. meeting. The lawyers' argument was based on a challenge to one signature (in a faculty of several thousand). Shared governance requires the goodwill of the faculty, administrators and Board of Regents, which is difficult to achieve when governing on the basis of what Keffeler called "legal loopholes" or "technicalities."

The Sullivan II proposal, the latest entree in the tenure codes du jour, was not available to faculty members until 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 6, when an electronic version was accessible from the Internet. The Faculty Senate's discussion, evaluation and careful consideration of changes to the University's tenure code, a required part of our system of shared governance, did not take place. Indeed, even Reagan could not respond to a reporter's repeated request for a plain-English description of the advantages of this version of the tenure code.

Instead of using emergency powers to adopt a tenure code for the Law School, the regents had available a proposal from the AAUP-UFA as of noon the day before their meeting on Thursday. The proposal was to suspend the Maintenance of Status Quo Order to enter into direct negotiations with representatives of the faculty for a University-wide tenure code, provided the regents agreed to a faculty vote of approval for any negotiated settlement. Rather than discussing or even mentioning the possibility of this solution, the regents staged their emergency meeting for the Law School. As with every other proposal/resolution sent to the regents by the faculty and students during the past 12 months, the regents have chosen to ignore us.

The AAUP endorses open discussion and the freedom to debate and challenge, which are fundamental not only to successful research universities, but to the democratic principles of our nation. Thus, when Keffeler asked during the emergency meeting that Faculty Consultative Committee Chairwoman Virginia Gray be allowed to indicate whether the elected faculty members had changed their positions given the new Sullivan II proposal, we were deeply saddened that this request was refused. Following the refusal, the regents quickly called for an end of discussion. No faculty voice was heard. Even University President Nils Hasselmo's request for a two-year moratorium on tenure was not considered. At the press conference after the meeting, Reagan indicated that he could not make any promises about a moratorium on the tenure issue for the University because of the status quo order. But if the regents felt it was legal to change the tenure code for the Law School, shouldn't they also feel free to state an intention not to change the Law School's tenure code for the next several years?

We renew our request that the regents consider and respond favorably to the AAUP-UFA proposal, for we believe that this crisis can be resolved quickly for the entire University, particularly if the regents truly endorse the Sullivan II proposal as a compromise. We hope the regents are not stuck on a path of reshaping the University into a corporate management scheme better able to be re-engineered and downsized at their pleasure, and contrary to faculty core values of academic freedom and shared governance. At the very least, the regents owe the students, faculty and staff members of the University careful consideration and response of a good faith offer to negotiate an end to the tenure crisis. It would be refreshing for them to hold their discussion in an open meeting. Given the precedent of the use of emergency powers to discuss a tenure code for 33 faculty, wouldn't it be a reasonable use of the power for the rest of us?

AAUP Council Reaffirms Support for Minnesota Faculty Organizing Effort

Washington, D.C.--The national Council of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the governing body of the Association, reaffirmed its support for the University of Minnesota faculty effort to unionize.

Faculty members oppose the board of regents' attempts to unilaterally impose revisions of the tenure code and have mounted a collective bargaining campaign to initiate negotiations with faculty.

The text of the statement approved by AAUP's Council follows:

The Council of the American Association of University Professors reaffirms its full support of the University of Minnesota faculty in its organizing defense of academic freedom and tenure, and of faculty governance and due process. These principles have been under sustained and unilateral attack by the university's board of regents. The AAUP Council, therefore, specifically supports the faculty's defense of these principles, and its efforts to subject future action by the board of regents to true faculty involvement, through organizing for purposes of collective bargaining. Collective bargaining has been widely adopted by college and university faculty throughout the United States and it fully comports with national AAUP policies regarding the proper role of the faculty in institutional governance. AAUP chapters at such institutions as the University of Connecticut, Rutgers University, and the University of Rhode Island have, through collective bargaining, safeguarded basic principles of academic freedom, tenure, and due process. The AAUP Council therefore stands firmly behind the ongoing organizing efforts of the University of Minnesota.

The American Association of University Professors is the national organization serving the academic profession and college and university faculty members. AAUP is dedicated to the defense of academic freedom and tenure and is a committed advocate of sound academic standards and due process. The Association has more than 44,000 faculty members at colleges and universities throughout the country. For more information, contact