Kansas Board of Regents allows extension for controversial policy on tenure; KU now has until July to submit framework
photo by: Screenshot // Kansas Board of Regents
The Kansas Board of Regents voted Wednesday to extend the deadline for its controversial policy that could temporarily eliminate faculty tenure protection at universities.
The University of Kansas requested that the Board of Regents grant KU until July 1 to decide whether it would submit a framework under which it could pursue the policy. Previously, universities had to decide by March 6 whether they would submit such a framework.
The temporary policy, which is set to expire Dec. 31, 2022, would give universities more power to suspend, dismiss or terminate employees — including tenured faculty — in light of the financial crisis many universities face because of the coronavirus pandemic.
KU is the only Regents university that has said it would consider the policy. Kansas State University, Emporia State University, Fort Hays State University, Pittsburg State University and Wichita State University have all issued statements saying they will not consider the policy.
The Regents voted unanimously on Wednesday to amend the policy to extend the deadline to submit a framework to July 1.
“The chancellor has indicated to me that the additional time will enable KU to continue to pursue other avenues for addressing their financial challenges before determining whether use of this policy will be necessary,” Regents President and CEO Blake Flanders said. “And because our policy was amended during our meeting and the timeline is now, the end date is now Dec. 31, 2022, I believe it does make sense to push this initial timeline out another four months. And I would encourage allowing this for any university to use the policy.”
Flanders’ statement about the board amending its policy was a reference to the Regents deciding to extend the end date of the temporary policy from Dec. 31, 2021, to Dec. 31, 2022.
In early February, KU’s provost, Barbara Bichelmeyer, wrote in a campus message that while the policy would allow KU to reduce its workforce, “it also puts at risk the processes of tenure that protect those whose research and teaching are core to our mission.” In her message, Bichelmeyer wrote that KU needs more time to exhaust other options before using the policy.
Aleks Sternfeld-Dunn, who gave a report from the Council of Faculty Senate Presidents, shared that the concern of faculty is that the policy threatens tenure, which in turn threatens academic freedom. He also said the faculty senate presidents are concerned about the lack of shared governance involvement in the creation of the policy.
Bichelmeyer was asked to address Sternfeld-Dunn’s concerns, and she indicated that KU will be sharing more information about those concerns in the coming days. Bichelmeyer did say the university has been working with deans regarding the budget and academic programming, and that one of the issues faculty has been involved in is academic workload policy.