LJWorld.com weblogs Heard on the Hill

One made national news, another sued — how many other KU faculty lose their appointments each year?


You don’t normally hear much about the junior faculty members who don’t get tenure and, basically, subsequently disappear from Kansas University after just a couple years on the Hill.

This semester was different.

Two assistant professors didn't get reappointed and made the news: Andrea Quenette in communication studies, because her non-reappointment came after she’d been all over national media (following the Journal-World’s reports, of course) for saying the N-word during a class discussion, and Catherine Joritz in film and media studies, because she filed a lawsuit against KU over her non-reappointment.

That made me wonder how many faculty members this happens to each year. Were they the only ones? Are there dozens each year, or more? I filed a records request to find out, asking KU for lists from the past three years. (Details about the reviews would not be available because they’re personnel issues, but under KU’s policy on promotion and tenure, the chancellor’s final decision on these matters is public.)

I learned that Quenette and Joritz were not the only faculty to be notified of non-reappointment this year, but they were among just a handful. Four total faculty were notified this spring that they would not be reappointed, according to the list I got back from KU. In spring 2015, there were three. In spring 2014, there were four. (I did check Douglas County court records, incidentally, and Joritz is the only one to have sued KU.)

Faculty typically undergo a progress toward tenure review during their third year at KU, according to KU’s policy on promotion and tenure. On average 49 faculty per year, for the past three years, went through such reviews, according to university spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson.

For those that aren’t let go through non-reappointment, there are two other possible outcomes of progress toward tenure reviews, Barcomb-Peterson said. Faculty either continue their tenure-track appointment or are scheduled for a probationary review in the next year.

Non-reappointed faculty don’t lose their jobs immediately. Depending how long they’ve worked at the university, they’ll continue being employed from three months to more than a year after they’ve been notified of non-reappointment, according to KU's policy. Quenette, for example, will continue to be employed by KU through the 2016-17 school year, although when I talked to her for the last story we did, she was still unsure what duties she’d be assigned for spring 2017.

A few more related bits from KU’s policy:

Ultimately, pursuant to Kansas Board of Regents policy, the probationary period for tenure track faculty may not exceed seven years. The sixth year is their “mandatory review year,” so if a faculty member does not receive tenure the seventh year becomes his or her last. If a faculty member is denied tenure during the mandatory review year, that constitutes a decision of non-reappointment.

Some Kansas University students filed a discrimination complaint with KU against assistant professor Andrea M. Quenette, who they accused of using racist language, in November 2015.

Some Kansas University students filed a discrimination complaint with KU against assistant professor Andrea M. Quenette, who they accused of using racist language, in November 2015. by Mike Yoder

• Non-reappointed prof in NYT: Speaking of Andrea Quenette being in national news, just this week she made another prominent appearance. Quenette is in the lead of a New York Times article posted online Wednesday with the headline “Studies in the First Amendment, Playing Out on Campus.”

The story begins: “Ask Andrea M. Quenette if she thinks that colleges and universities are doing a good job refereeing the debate over free speech, and she’ll respond with an emphatic ‘no.’”

The article goes on to discuss the background of Quenette’s case, results of polls asking students about “trigger warnings” and their support of free speech on campus, and free speech disputes at several other universities.

— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage at KUToday.com. Reach me by email at sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.


Scott Quenette 1 year, 12 months ago

One point of clarification, Andrea was recommended for a probationary review in another year by the PTTR committee and her Dept. That was denied by the dean.

Clara Westphal 1 year, 12 months ago

There are many colleges and universities looking for good professors. Andrea Quenette will not be without a job if she leaves KU.

Jennifer Forth 1 year, 12 months ago

If you look beyond the obvious and faculty to staff and nontenured faculty, the number is significantly higher. Instead of striking, people are looking over their shoulder while keeping their heads down. Just as there was a housing bubble, the higher ed bubble is set to pop as well.

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