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.
An 11th was found ineligible. Thus, for .2 of a signature, the order already in force for the Law School was lifted and Reagan, in desperation and fear that another signature might be found, called the meeting. Even Regent Jean Keffeler, who is credited (or blamed) for starting this entire affair, understood the enormity of this action and attempted to get the regents to delay. She indicated, and rightly so, that this action will increase the distrust of the faculty toward the regents. It is outrageous that not one other regent spoke to the issues during the meeting. Is there anyone who still does not see the vile arrogance in the actions of the Board of Regents after last week?
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 anassociate professor of medicine.