Archive for Thursday, February 16, 2012

Professor files lawsuit after KU denies him tenure

February 16, 2012


A Kansas University mechanical engineering professor is asking a Douglas County District Court judge to overturn the university’s decision to deny him tenure.

According to court documents, Albert Romkes alleges that, though two university committees recommended to approve his tenure application, the university denied his application after several appeals that eventually reached the chancellor’s desk.

Because of the court filing, many of the documents relating to the tenure application have become public record, a rarity in tenure review cases.

A website,, has been created in support of Romkes’ tenure application, containing several arguments and documents in support of his position.

The site states that Romkes was the only openly gay professor in the school. Romkes said — as far as he knew — he was one of the first openly gay faculty members in the school. He added that while he had never experienced open acts of discrimination while working at the school, he felt he couldn’t rule out the fact that he was gay was used against him in the tenure process.

“I can’t exclude it,” he said.

A KU spokeswoman responded to the filing in a written statement.

“As is clear from Assistant Professor Romkes’ court filings, the department chair, dean, University Promotion & Tenure Committee and provost all recommended against tenure because his research record did not meet the university’s standard,” said Jill Jess, the spokeswoman. “There are no allegations of discrimination in Romkes’ court filings because the university does not discriminate.”

Two promotion and review committees —one at the department level and another at the school level — did, however, recommend he be approved for tenure.

In a letter denying his tenure application, KU School of Engineering Dean Stuart Bell wrote that Romkes had developed a “very good” instructional record and had met requirements relating to service for an assistant professor, and he was seen as “a valued member of the department and school.”

“However, there is the lack of clear evidence in Dr. Romkes’ record for establishing a sustainable independent research program,” Bell wrote. “Demonstrating sustainability and independence are paramount in the award of tenure as it speaks to long-term viability.”

Bell — and others — cited Romkes had not served as a principal investigator on an externally funded grant as a reason for his tenure denial.

But Romkes said he was never informed he would be evaluated using that criterion, and the rule was never approved by the university’s standards and procedures of promotion and tenure committee.

The tenure review file also includes several letters from external reviewers who supported Romkes’ tenure application.

In the court case, both sides are preparing briefs to be submitted to Chief Judge Robert Fairchild, who will use them to make a ruling. Oral arguments could be scheduled if Fairchild determines they would assist him in making a decision.


Cant_have_it_both_ways 6 years ago

And I thought acedemia was full of leftsts who embraced deivant lifestyles.

Jaime Baggett 6 years ago

Can't have it both ways: Deivant or deviant? Clearly you do not have a Ph.D. like that of the person you are badmouthing...hummmmm. Maybe you suffer from inferiority complex? Just a guess...

Jaime Baggett 6 years ago

Oh, or homophobia. I'm sorry about your disorders.

huskerpower 6 years ago

The article fails to mention a few things:

Romkes was approved UNANIMOUSLY by both tenure committees. Dean Bell overturned these approvals. This is the first time in the history of the SOE that a tenure committee's recommendation was overturned. This is the first time a professor at the university has EVER been denied tenure on the PI rule.

jhawkinsf 6 years ago

Have changes to previously held practices been discussed? Perhaps this is just the first instance of what will become a new policy. If this is a new practice for K.U., is it a practice that other universities use? Is it common? Rare, but used sometimes? Rare, hardly ever used at other universities? Rare, unheard of? Jobs for life are rare in our society. Tenured professors, federal judges. Any else? It seems to me that the process should be difficult and that those giving such a job need to proceed with an abundance of caution. Then again, I'm not very familiar with the process. Hence all I have is questions, no answers.

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 6 years ago

KU has been very welcoming to members of the LGBT community, both for faculty and students. They have had openly gay department chairs and senior faculty, including, I believe, a gay Chancellor. Indeed, at one point KU was referred to as Gay U based on its open and receptive attitudes.

Hence, one has to wonder what the real story is here. Obviously his colleagues thought highly of him, but the administration didn't. There is no history of KU of discrimination, so what other criteria, research aside would have caused such a decision? Anyone have any alternative explanations.

JayhawkFan1985 6 years ago

It is never me. It is always someone else...

People need to grow up and accept responsibility for themselves.

sourpuss 6 years ago

As a research institution, KU's primary mandate is to research, not to teach. If you don't bring in the money and publications, you are not going to succeed at a tenure application.

huskerpower 6 years ago

Over 40 publications and $645k+ in a mathematical based engineering field which requires VERY little funding... keep reaching

Oldsoul 6 years ago

The University does not discriminate, Ms. Jess? Bahawha! KU does not lie either. What a bald-faced lack of truthfulness. Actually, it's almost impossible to survive at KU if you have decent ethics and don't want to sell out. KU in my personal experience sets new records in unconscious (and probably purposeful too) bigotry. Not to mention the vindictive and heavy-handed attitudes of Strong Hall and HR officials!

Lawrence Morgan 6 years ago

I don't think anyone should be offered tenure.

Joseph Jarvis 6 years ago

Why claim sexual orientation discrimination in the media but not in court? KU's nondiscrimination policy covers it. Something doesn't add up.

classclown 6 years ago

A new card has been added to the deck. Unfortunately, this won't be the only time it gets played.

rtwngr 6 years ago

KU? Discriminate against openly gay anything? Really?

CharlieDunn 6 years ago

Prof. Romkes is the only openly gay professor out of over 100 faculty members in the School of Engineering. For the first time in history a Dean of Engineering dissented - against the unanimous positive vote of his own committee. KU may be tolerant and have department heads that are gay, but that doesn't mean the School of Engineering is.

bd 6 years ago

Jeees! had to use the gay card ????


Bud Stagg 6 years ago

I'm not saying this guy doesn't have a case, but how does a judge have the right to overturn the deans decision and grant tenure? If the power resides with the dean and the University, wouldn't you go up the ladder inside the institution first? wouldn't it be the chancellor who would overturn the dean, replace the dean, etc.? If he doesn't get satisfaction there, then he could sue for discrimination. . "I met the written criteria for tenure but for SOME reason they didn't give it. I can only think it is discrimation your honor"

In addition, I would never want to work someplace that I had to sue to get what I deserved.

yourworstnightmare 6 years ago

Department and even school tenure committees are notoriously soft and uncritical of their tenure candidates.

Usually, the dean and provost and chancellor just let them make bad decisions.

I haven't seen the file so I cannot say if this is the case, but it is no surprise that a department or school committee would give unanimous approval to a weak candidate.

The surprise would be if the dean or provost or chancellor called them on it. This might be the case here.

Lack of a major external award is a big weakness in engineering, which is currently receiving lots of state money to grow and to improve its research profile.

Maybe Romkes' open homosexulaity had a role, but there are other plausible explanations.

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