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

AAUP resolution in support of Steven Salaita, now freshly relevant

On October 2, 2014, the TTU chapter of AAUP passed this resolution in support of Steven Salaita, who was fired by the University of Illinois after being offered and accepting a tenured position. The following June, the University of Illinois was censured by AAUP at the national conference. It seems relevant again in light of the recent actions of Mount St. Mary’s University. Here is the text of our chapter’s resolution:


On August 1, 2014, University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise informed Dr. Steven Salaita that the American Indian Studies faculty position he had been offered and had accepted the previous October would not be sent to the board of trustees for approval, stating, “we believe that an affirmative Board vote approving your appointment is unlikely.” No further explanation was initially given to Salaita, to the AIS department chair, or the dean. This action was taken despite the facts that Salaita had returned the signed acceptance letter, quit his tenured job at Virginia Tech, initiated the purchase of a new home in Urbana-Champaign, received his teaching assignments and submitted his book orders, received an invitation to the new faculty welcoming reception on August 19, and had attended a welcoming reception in his honor hosted by American Indian Studies.

On August 22, Chancellor Wise released an open letter explaining her decision, referencing the alleged incivility of his recent tweets about the Israeli bombing of Gaza, speculating that some students might feel unsafe and unvalued in his classroom. The Board of Trustees released a supporting letter affirming the chancellor’s views, stating that the University of Illinois “is a university community that values civility as much as scholarship.” The board met on September 11 and voted 8 – 1 not to reinstate Dr. Salaita. Documents obtained by the Champaign News-Gazette under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act indicate that a large number of donors had contacted Wise and the board beginning in July, demanding that Salaita not be hired; Dr. Wise has stated this was not a factor in her decision.

Many academic professionals view the University of Illinois administration’s unilateral decision, which did not involve faculty at any level, as a violation of the principles of academic freedom and shared governance. Sixteen academic departments at the university have passed resolutions of no confidence in the administration; two conferences scheduled at the campus have been canceled by their organizers; over six thousand professors have signed a petition for an academic boycott of the university; AAUP, MLA, the American Historical Association, and other professional organizations have issued statements condemning the actions of the University of Illinois and demanding the reinstatement of Dr. Salaita with pay.

The letter from Dr. Anita Levy, Associate Secretary of AAUP, which was sent to Chancellor Wise on August 29, makes the following points:

“…Aborting an appointment in this manner without having demonstrated cause has consistently been seen by the AAUP as tantamount to summary dismissal, an action categorically inimical to academic freedom and due process and one aggravated in his case by the apparent failure to provide him with any written or even oral explanation… We see that a very serious issue of academic freedom has been raised by the actions against him, an issue that will not be resolved as long as the actions remain in effect and their soundness has not been demonstrated by the University of Illinois administration under requisite safeguards of academic due process.”

Levy points out that the University of South Florida received AAUP censure under very similar circumstances in 1964, and acknowledges that a University of Illinois Committee on Academic Freedom of Tenure has been charged with determining Salaita’s tenure status.

In a follow-up letter on Sept. 9, Levy added: “The issues raised in this case are so critically important, and seen as such nationally, that an investigation by the Association would have commenced by now were it not for the role being assumed by the university’s committee.

We are informed that the subcommittee expects to produce a report promptly. We will continue to monitor developments closely and respond accordingly.”

The Tennessee Technological University chapter of AAUP has resolved to follow the example of several university chapters and state conferences nationwide in issuing a statement in support of the national AAUP’s position on this issue.

Academic freedom is the bedrock of the university system, which cannot effectively function in its mission without the free exchange of ideas, even –and perhaps especially –on controversial subjects. Tenure, with its emphasis on due process, and shared governance are not ends in themselves, but tools to protect academic freedom and ultimately the integrity of the university. Administrations and governing bodies making unilateral decisions about faculty and education issues without due process and procedural rigor, and without due participation from faculty representatives, sets a dangerous precedent which must not be countenanced. We urge the University of Illinois to reverse this disastrous course, and urge the academic community to continue expressing their disapproval if the university does not do so. We resolve to firmly oppose the efforts of any university to disregard the principles of academic freedom and shared governance, and invite both faculties and administrations of other institutions, and of our own, to stand with us in declaring unqualified support for those principles.

Tennessee Technological University chapter of AAUP

October 2, 2014