Tenure reformon deck for Law School?

by Brian Bakst

Although the Board of Regents is constrained from changing tenure for the majority of University faculty members, regents are likely to present tenure changes specific to the Law School at the board’s monthly meeting Friday.
Much of the controversial language included in the regents’ tenure proposal unveiled in Morris, Minn., such as the “proper attitude” clause, is absent from the Law School-targeted document.
Friday’s meeting on the Minneapolis campus will mark the first time the board has publicly discussed tenure since its September meeting in Morris, Minn.
The regents’ Thursday and Friday slate also includes: a vote on the University’s biennial budget request, further discussion directed at formulating a tuition and financial aid policy and the final report of a task force evaluating University human resources policies.
Regents are permitted to revise the law school tenure code because its faculty have not completed enough signature cards to include the school in a union election, making it the only body in the University system which has not done so.
Cease-and-desist orders issued in September and earlier this month by the state Bureau of Mediation Services prohibit regents actions on tenure and other terms of employment for faculty members excluding those in the law school.
Regents conducted their third closed-door meeting in the past week on Wednesday. Steven Bosacker, regents’ executive director, said tenure issues were not discussed at the meeting.
Last week regents met privately to discuss the legality of the various options the board may take regarding tenure. By Minnesota law, regents are permitted to meet privately on attorney-client privilege matters, hospital marketing issues and labor negotiations.
Kim Isenberg, the regents’ policy project assistant, said the proposed Law School changes were not a product of the private meetings. She said the changes were derived from faculty comments in the media and in individual discussions prior to the issuance of the cease-and-desist order.
Also omitted from the Law School proposal was a section which allowed regents to reduce base salary because of “compelling” reasons. Language which would have allowed regents to lay off tenured faculty if programs were discontinued or restructured was amended to allow layoffs only in instances of program discontinuation.
Regents’ tenure consultant Richard Chait said the revised proposal was “a good faith effort to try to remain responsive.”
By formulating this proposal the regents were attempting to deal with language and provisions which were deemed “objectionable,” Chait said.
“The regents were less concerned with what was judged to be standard practice and more concerned with an effort to develop a document that took into account the faculty’s reservations,” he added.
If the board decides to consider the new proposal, it will be forwarded to Faculty Senate for its input before the board votes to adopt the changes.
In other regents business:
ù The University’s $230 million budget request could move a step closer to Gov. Arne Carlson’s desk if approved by regents Friday. The proposal, which some administrators have called “ambitious,” is focused on increasing the University’s emphasis on computers.
One provision stipulates that every full-time student will have a personal computer by 1999. Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Marvin Marshak said the University has held discussions with various computer companies to discuss costs and specifications of the computers.
Marshak said the computers would be included in the cost of attendance so students could apply financial aid to the purchase cost. He added the University would also institute a competency standard, requiring all incoming freshmen to have basic computer knowledge.
Carlson staff members, business and community leaders and University administrators have been meeting to discuss the proposal, which was prepared with input from Governor Carlson.
ù Minnesota Student Association members will present a low tuition-low financial aid proposal to the board’s Faculty, Staff and Student Affairs Committee. The presentation is part of an ongoing discussion which will eventually lead to the formation of a policy regents will use to determine tuition and financial aid rates.
Marshak said there is a de facto regents policy, but it needs to be more clearly written and defined.
Last month, a high tuition-high financial aid model was presented to the committee by members of Marshak’s staff.
ù A task force which was commissioned to study the University’s human resources policies will present its final report to regents Thursday.
The committee, formed in 1995 and chaired by local businessman Chuck Denny, will present its analysis of the human resources policies and recommend changes. Regents are not required to act on the changes the committee suggests.