Morris gets new tenure code; some profs dissatisfied

Michelle Kibiger

A vote on tenure revisions for the Morris campus has left many Morris faculty members unhappy with their new code and the way it was passed by the Board of Regents.
In a Dec. 12 vote, the University’s Faculty Senate asked the Board of Regents not to vote on a new tenure code for the Morris Campus until February. However, the Regents passed the new code at its regular meeting the same day, saying it will still consider amending the document.
Members of the senate began discussing the potential impact of the document, also known as Sullivan II, on the Morris campus shortly after the regents passed it for the Law School. Senate members claim they needed more time to review the material when the regents passed the new code.
Regent Chairman Tom Reagan said the board would consult further with faculty and consider their suggestions for amendments to the code when the Faculty Senate finishes its review.
But C. Wade Savage, a philosophy professor from the Twin Cities campus, said the fact that the regents went ahead and passed the document without giving the senate committees time for deliberation shows a lack of respect for the faculty.
“It’s just another instance of the regents’ authoritarian, non-consultative way of conducting business,” Savage said.
Morris Professor Jim Gremmels said he was disappointed at the swift passage of the code.
“What I think might upset us out here (in Morris) is that there wasn’t time enough for our faculty to give an appropriate response,” Gremmels said.
Even though the regents appear willing to listen to the Morris faculty’s suggestions, Gremmels said, he wishes the board had waited until the Twin Cities campus could vote on whether to unionize.
“It was so hurried,” Gremmels said. “That was a mistake as far as I’m concerned.” He said the faculty could have argued a stronger case against the Sullivan II code if they had more time to review it.
The Regents passed the Sullivan II code for the Law School Nov. 7.
Gremmels said the document passed for the Morris campus is similar to last May’s University Senate designed, but it is still unacceptable.
Regent Jessica Phillips, a student representative to the board from the Morris campus, said she thinks the new code is a good compromise. “I think (Law School) Dean (E. Thomas) Sullivan helped tremendously to find common ground between the Board’s proposal and the Faculty Senate proposal.”
She also said that the document does a good job of addressing the interests of all concerned parties.
“It addressed most of the faculty concerns with the regents’ proposal and certainly addressed the major concerns in regards to promoting programmatic change, maintaining financial stability, and providing appropriate discipline,” Phillips said.
But over the past several weeks, some faculty members have criticized the Sullivan document.
Savage said two provisions in the code need to be more specifically addressed — those on financial stringency and special peer review.
The Sullivan document says that if the University or one of its colleges is faced with a “financial stringency that does not amount to a fiscal emergency,” faculty salaries can either be reduced or eliminated entirely.
Savage said that although many faculty members understand the University may experience some financial crisis which would require salary reduction, the current tenure code provides adequately for that. Section 11.4 of the current Twin Cities campus and former Morris campus code says the University must pursue options that increase revenue or reduce expenses and do not affect faculty members’ status. Only after exhausting those alternatives can the University adjust salaries or terminate faculty positions.
Also, Savage said, under the old code, which is still binding for all of the Twin Cities campus except the Law School, faculty members must have access to the administration’s discussions of any emergency situation and the alternatives that are being considered.
Sullivan II offers no explicit options other than salary reduction for financial emergencies. Savage and others suggest the $100 million lawsuit involving the ALG program would constitute such an emergency.
Jack Nightingale, Midwest representative for the American Association of University Professors, said the financial stringency provision of the Sullivan document needs to address the difference between institutional and unit crisis. “Don’t talk about the issue from an institutional standpoint, but from (the standpoint of) each college,” Nightingale said.
He also said that the University’s involvement in the $100 million lawsuit over the now-defunct ALG program raises several questions about the vagueness of the financial stringency portions of the code.
“This is a very good case in point,” Savage said. “It could kick in here and faculty salaries would get reduced or postponed.” Postponement would constitute either deferring payment or eliminating it all together.
Should the University lose its suit against the federal government, the school could be liable for $100 million in penalties, which would surely place financial stress on the school.
But law professor Fred Morrison said the proposal addresses cuts in terms of units and not in terms of individuals. He also said faculty should feel more secure because the Faculty Senate must approve all salary adjustments.
Another point faculty want addressed is the post-tenure review elements of the Sullivan code.
Savage said he views the provisions for review as merely punitive, with no explicit provisions to honor good performance by faculty. He said the code provides only for the removal of an individual for substandard work.
“It is a review which leads, at best, to saying that a person is OK,” Savage said. “The worst you can get out of it is that this person is going to be fired or this person is going to lose his or her salary.”
He said the current code allows for termination of an employee based on non-performance or inadequate performance of duty.
The regents meet on Jan. 9 and 10, but discussion of possible amendments to the Morris code is not currently on the agenda.