Friday, September 16, 2022

Emporia, firing

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Emporia State University got permission on Wednesday to fire employees, including tenured professors, for any of a host of reasons, including “current or future market considerations.” Many faculty members there object that the plan essentially suspends tenure. The cuts have already begun.

The move was made possible by the Kansas Board of Regents. In January of last year, regents approved a policy that allowed the six state universities to suspend or terminate employees, including tenured professors, even if the institution had not declared financial exigency or initiated that process. The board wanted to give its institutions the flexibility they needed to deal with financial strain brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, regents said at the time.
The school’s student newspaper, The Bulletin, counts twenty firings thus far, including five in English, Modern Languages, and Journalism, and another five in Social Sciences, Sociology, and Criminology.

It’s true that other forms of work don’t offer tenure. But something people outside academia often don’t understand: a professor who loses a tenured position will find it exceedingly difficult to find another such position. There’s very little chance of lateral movement. As William Pannapacker explains in a recent Chronicle piece,
When you leave a tenured position in the humanities, the chance of finding another one — unless you are a freshly minted Ph.D. or a star in a hot field — is close to zero. You must rebrand yourself for a new career path in ways that will cut your identity to the core.
Emporia's marketing mantra, “Changing lives since 1863,” is taking on new meaning.


2:30 p.m.: Now it’s twenty-five firings.


10:50 p.m.: Now it’s thirty-three.

[Looking at Emporia’s English, Modern Languages, and Journalism webpage, I count seven professors, four associate professors, six instructors, three lecturers, four graduate assistants, one assistant online coordinator, and one administrative specialist.]


July 15, 2023: Some former faculty members have filed a lawsuit. From Kansas Reflector:
Eleven former Emporia State University professors in federal court documents accuse school administrators, Kansas Board of Regents members and unknown other individuals of conspiring to fire tenured and “problematic” professors.

The federal lawsuit is a response to the university’s decision last year to fire 30 tenured or tenure-track professors as part of a KBOR-approved “framework” to stabilize finances and restructure the university. The lawsuit argues that defendants willfully violated constitutional rights to due process, equal protection, liberty, property and free speech.

The 11 former professors were targeted, the lawsuit alleges, because they were tenured, not Republicans, involved in efforts to form a union or outspoken critics of ESU president Ken Hush. The university relied on KBOR’s pandemic-era Workforce Management Policy, which stripped professors of the right to determine why they were fired, or examine reports or other evidence that was used to determine who would be fired.

comments: 4

Anonymous said...

as someone living in the great state of kansas this is really appalling. yes, there have been financial issues with colleges across the state as enrollment has gone down the last few years (gee, i wonder why). but i would argue the bigger problem is that universities have expanded their administrative levels so much that that they have to get rid of professors.

my undergraduate school has added a graduate school of graduate schools -- basically a graduate school to coordinate all of the graduate schools who all have their own admin people.

my father was head of a department at a state school in ks so remember hearing lots of stories about the board of regents which i realized at an earlier age that had no clue about education.


ps walking on campus these days i realize how it is basically becoming a corporation with alumni vying to have buildings named after them (big donations!)

Michael Leddy said...

The previous president was paid $288,000. I don’t know about the new guy.

And yes, administrative bloat and naming opportunities are everywhere. My school recently had to back down on the $$ angle when renaming a building. It would have been just too shameful to get the money in light of the other names under consideration.

Anonymous said...

saw this article today:

from the article: "“Absent countervailing information,” DeCesare said, “the AAUP is compelled to regard the administration’s actions that resulted in the termination of tenured appointments as having been taken without a legitimate basis.”"

and "“It is difficult not to construe what has happened at Emporia State as a direct assault on tenure and academic freedom with grave implications for tenure and academic freedom not only at Emporia State but throughout the Kansas system of public higher education,” DeCesare said."


Michael Leddy said...

Thanks, Kirsten.