Concerns Regarding HB2578 Raised by AAUP Faculty in TN

Note:  These concerns are being raised with Legislators, including Speaker of the House of Representatives Beth Harwell, who is very troubled regarding these proposed changes. Chancellor John Morgan was very outspoken regarding his skepticism over Governor Haslam’s proposal.  Please write and call your legislators regarding these proposed changes and express your opposition to HB2578 mentioning some of these talking points.  Rephrasing in your own words will make your statements more effective.  Also, be sure to give your street address and phone #. 304 War Memorial Building/Nashville TN 37243(615) 741-3978
Senate District 15 114 War Memorial Building/Nashville TN 37243 (615) 741-1875
House District 42

I Lack of Faculty Participation in Formulating Plan; Lack of Shared Governance in New Board Structure as Outlined; Marginalization of Faculty Role in Curricula Matters; Expediting of Termination Procedures for Faculty and Lack of Appeal Process Will Hurt Faculty

  • Absolutely no Input was sought from faculty in Gov. Haslam’s initiative to restructure Higher Ed and replace the Board of Regents. Thus, there are errors of terminology and the Bill betrays a gross misunderstanding of aspects of Curriculum and Academic Freedom.
  • The Bill refers to the power of the governing boards to “confirm the appointment of administrative personnel, teachers, and other employees of each state institution….” (p. 17). Teachers makes no sense here. The word is not used in higher education to designate any members of the faculty, and it captures only one aspect of a faculty member’s duties.
  • Also, many institutions have to hire both full-time and adjunct members literally the week before a semester begins based on increased enrollments, dual-enrollment classes, etc. How would an individual board do this kind of last minute hiring of faculty?  Shouldn’t the hiring of faculty remain a decision made by the institution itself, not its governing board?
  • House Bill 2578 does not include a representative faculty body like the TBR Faculty Sub-Council. The only representation for faculty members at the six four-year institutions will be the faculty representative on the governing board. This is not acceptable. It undermines the faculty’s ability to speak as a unified group at the state level. Given that the bill includes numerous references to the importance of the collaboration between two- and four-year schools, perhaps the TBR Faculty Sub-Council could be retained in its current form. At any rate, the equivalent of a system-wide representative faculty body is needed.
  • Page 13, which deals with the composition of the individual governing boards, indicates that one board member will be “an active faculty member [what is an “active” faculty member?] of the institution selected by the board.” Should members of the board be involved in the day-to-day operations of an institution to the point where they could make an informed choice in this matter? Probably not. That means that board members are likely to defer to the institution’s president in this matter. That, too, is unacceptable. The faculty should elect the faculty representative. Principles of shared governance require that the faculty be represented by a person they accept as their representative.
  • Page 14 tells us that the faculty member on the board “shall serve a term of one (1) year.” Perhaps a longer term would be preferable. One year, as we’ve seen with the TBR Faculty Regent, is not enough. That position has never accomplished anything meaningful for the faculty.
  • Page 17 informs us that the boards have “the power” to “[p]rescribe curricula and requirements for diplomas and degrees.” This could be read as suggesting that the boards will take over the faculty’s role of (largely) determining curricula. Faculty members, not board members, are the subject experts. This passage goes along with the following one on page 31: “Determination of specific courses or course content, however, shall continue to be the exclusive function of the governing boards of the various institutions.” Is that meant to suggest that the boards could determine the content of specific courses? This appears to me to be a SACSCOC violation. SACSCOC (Principles of Accreditation), Comprehensive Standard 3.4.10 reads: “The institution places primary responsibility for the content, quality, and effectiveness of the curriculum with its faculty.”
  • Page 21 has this to say about tenure policies: “The board of regents and each state university board shall promulgate a tenure policy or policies for faculty at their respective institutions, which policy or policies shall ensure academic freedom and provide sufficient professional security to attract the best faculty available for the institutions.” This language is taken from TCA 49-8-301, which governs TBR tenure policies. However, this language merely provides a framework for the work of the board. In other words, governing boards could develop tenure policies from scratch, policies that could undermine tenure. (Another outcome could be that the six “independent” universities could have radically different tenure policies.) Governing boards, made up (mostly) of people with little or no knowledge of faculty work would be responsible for developing tenure policies. Even if there is currently no interest to attack tenure, the language of the bill makes clear that the new boards are under no obligation to either adopt the current tenure policies or develop similar ones.
  • Page 22, which deals with “termination of faculty with tenure for adequate cause,” There is no mention an appeals process. (It refers to the possibility of a “review,” but that’s not specific enough.)

II Administrative Costs:

  • THEC would have significant additional responsibilities for coordination, which would also require more staff even as TBR will need to retain staff to carry its ongoing responsibility for oversight of the CCs and TCs.

If universities are independent, then what happens to operating systems like Banner and D2L, since we have bought into these systems as TBR?

-Will the universities be forced into negotiating their own contracts for systems like                  this?  Individually, this could be very, very expensive.

  • The potential for increased administrative costs are very real, since the universities will probably have to hire more administrators and support staff to deal with the development of new policies, as well as the potentially expensive costs of gaining access to Banner, D2L, etc.
  • All of this will only increase the decades long trend of a greater proportion of funding for higher ed going to administration and less to instruction.

III MIsc. – Chaotic effect of repeal of ALL TBR policies, including CCTA and TTP

  • Essentially all policies, including academic policies like academic freedom and promotion and tenure, will be at ground zero for the universities, if the act passes

-TBR policies will no longer be in effect

-Potential of corporate influence in the creation of new polices, especially faculty                      policies

  • Even though maintaining the Community College of Tennessee Act (CCTA) and Tennessee Transfer Pathways (TTPs) are in the language of the HB 2578, being part of a system like TRB ensured compliance, but without the pressure of being in a system, universities could decide not to follow these mandates

-Community college students have expressed concerns about the future of TTPs

-There is also certainly concern about the future of the TN Promise if FOCUS passes

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