In a direct challenge to the sacred tradition of tenure, Georgia’s public university system will now have the colleges’ administration remove a tenured professor with little to no input from the faculty.
The Board of Regents on Wednesday approved the new policy, which the American Association of University Professors says is the only one of its kind in the country. The move has been criticized by many professors, politicians, and academic freedom advocates as a threat to tenure, which is intended to protect faculty from being fired for no good reason, allowing them to develop thoughts or ideas that may be unpopular.
“Georgia is a huge outlier now, because that’s the whole point of tenure: it includes decent process protection,” said Irene Mulvey, president of the professors’ association, which is threaten with disapproval the university system. “There should be a new word for it now in Georgia, because tenure does not mean tenure there.”
The Board of Regents has maintained that the policy change will streamline the process of removing faculty members who do not contribute enough to a university, and the 19-member board unanimously approved the new measure on Wednesday. In the fall of 2020, there were more than 5,800 permanent faculties in the entire university system of Georgia.
“Our intent with these policy changes is to advance faculty development and accountability and align it with our mission of student success,” Erin Hames, a board member, said Tuesday.
Previously, the process of removing tenured professors involved a peer review process with other faculties. Now, professors at 25 of the 26 public universities may be removed after successive failure of two annual reviews. If a professor does not complete an improvement plan after the reviews, that alone is a reason for dismissal. The new policy also included an additional measure — student success — when evaluating a tenured professor’s performance.
The new policy is the culmination of months of back and forth between professors and the Board of Regents, the governing body of the state university system, since it announced last year it would create a working group to review the post-tenure review. Process.
In a report published by the working group in June, the group cited several shortcomings in the existing process, including time constraints, cumbersome documentation and that “very few underperforming faculty members are identified and remedied.”
The report also stated that there was a “need for accountability” with the tenure process and that the Board of Regents, in its then form, struggled to “supervise”.
Last month, the board released a draft policy that included a clause stating that a tenured professor could be removed for reasons “other than for an urgent reason,” raising concerns ahead of the adoption of the final policy. .
While that language is no longer in approved policy, critics remain concerned that the changes could undermine the academic freedom of professors who publish research or speak out in ways that go against the beliefs of the board, or Republican governor of the state, Brian Kemp.
“The voice of the faculty is becoming less and less heard now,” said Matthew Boedy, a tenured professor of rhetoric and composition at the University of North Georgia, a public university, and the president of the Association of University Professors’ Georgia Conference.
He views the decision, he said, as a “deep ideological attack on higher education,” adding: “Anyone involved in higher education will recognize the headline that Georgia’s tenure has died today.”
Others are concerned that the new changes will affect the state’s ability to recruit and retain both faculty and students at its public universities, including Georgia Tech, one of the top public research institutions in the country.
“People are not going to want to go to a place where something like this has happened,” Ms Mulvey said. “So students and teachers will suffer from this decision.”
On Tuesday, more than 1,500 professors in the state had signed a petition against the new policy. Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic nominee for governor, also publicly disapproved of the measure in the hours before the meeting was adjourned.
“Academic freedom guaranteed by tenure is more than a recruiting gimmick,” Ms. Abrams tweeted on Wednesday. “Georgia cannot compete for talent or produce innovation if we undermine our public universities.”
The decision comes at the same time as state leadership is being pushed back by some faculty members over a ban on mask mandates at academic institutions. The board supported the ban.
“We remain in line with the governor’s expectations and requirements for government agencies during this pandemic,” said Teresa MacCartney, the acting chancellor of the university system.