Faculty and regents might talk tenure

by Jennifer Niemela

A letter sent today might be the beginning of the end of the tenure controversy.
The Faculty Consultative Committee, together with the American Association of University Professors, will send the Board of Regents a letter today asking them to waive the cease-and-desist order that has kept the two groups from negotiating tenure reform since October.
Virginia Gray, chairwoman of the Faculty Consultative Committee, acknowledged that the regents will receive the letter, designed to reopen tenure negotiations.
“We’re trying to talk about talking about (tenure reform),” Gray said.
The cease-and-desist order, a virtual gag order, was placed on the negotiations in October to prevent the board from interfering in the impending faculty union election.
Ed Fogel-man, Faculty Senate delegate, said he thinks the tenure issue could be resolved by early February.
“Consultation needs to be a part of these negotiations,” Fogelman said. “We’re ready to consult.”
V. Rama Murthy, president of the Twin Cities campus chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said he thinks the board will accept the invitation to combine forces in resolving the issue.
“We hope the regents join hands with us in getting this business settled,” Murthy said. “The faculty has been demoralized because of this tenure issue. If the regents would talk openly with us, we could put this matter to bed.”
The tenure issue began last year when the regents proposed reforms calling for the authority to lay off tenured faculty members in time of financial crisis or upon the termination of a department. To combat the perceived threat to their academic freedom, one-third of faculty members signed union cards.
The movement allows faculty members to hold an election deciding whether or not to unionize. The cease-and-desist order was issued to prevent the regents from interfering in the union election.
The regents have been more conciliatory toward the faculty since November, when they authored the Sullivan II tenure proposal.
Because the Law School and the Morris campus faculty didn’t sign enough union cards to hold a union election, the regents were free to pass Sullivan II for their faculties. Sullivan II is a combination of the Faculty Senate’s, Regent Tom Reagan’s, and Law School Dean E. Thomas Sullivan’s proposals. The regents would like to implement Sullivan II for the entire University.
Sullivan II calls for extensive post-tenure review for faculty members and reassignment of faculty in terminated departments. It also calls for across-the-board faculty pay cuts in time of financial crisis instead of layoffs.
The Faculty Affairs Committee meets today to review proposed changes in Sullivan II. Later this month, it will go to the Faculty Senate for final approval before it goes to the regents.
While the Faculty Senate reviews the tenure code, University lawyers and the Faculty Senate deliberate on who will be eligible to vote in the upcoming union election. Josh Tilsen from the Bureau of Mediation Services said the date for the election hasn’t been set.
“It is being held up because the two parties disagree on who will be able to vote,” Tilsen said.
The University lawyers want to ban department heads, chairpersons and directors from voting in the union election, while the faculty representatives want them included.
Tilsen said there is a way to hold the election before the decision on who can vote is made. The faculty in question would be allowed to vote, but their votes would be sequestered until after the election. The non-sequestered votes would then be counted.
If the vote is close enough that the number of winning votes is more than the number of sequestered votes, or if the sequestered votes would really make a difference in the outcome of the election, the sequestered votes would be investigated individually and determined whether to be counted.