KU says it won’t use policy that would suspend tenure of faculty members

photo by: Associated Press

A bus makes its way along Jayhawk Boulevard in front of Strong Hall on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

University of Kansas leaders are pledging to not use a controversial policy that would have allowed them to suspend tenure protections for faculty members.

KU Chancellor Douglas Girod told the Kansas Board of Regents on Thursday morning that he was confident the university would not have to suspend tenure of any faculty members at the Lawrence campus or the medical center campus in Kansas City, Kan.

The Board of Regents approved a policy in January that opened the door for universities to suspend faculty tenure in an effort to help universities deal with finances plagued by the pandemic. All of the state universities other than KU fairly immediately announced they would not use the policy.

Tenure, which provides job protections to faculty members who have earned tenured status, is considered one of the bedrock protections of academic freedom in the American university system. Large numbers of faculty members quickly came out in opposition to KU’s willingness to consider suspending tenure.

On Thursday, Girod said KU now has a much better understanding of its financial situation and also believes that one-time federal funding will be helpful in alleviating some of the immediate financial strains that had led KU to consider using the policy.

Girod, though, told the Regents that Thursday’s announcement shouldn’t be taken as a sign that KU’s financial challenges are behind it.

“Even without using the policy, we still have a great deal of work to do and bear a significant responsibility to correct our fiscal trajectory,” Girod said in a written message he delivered to the Regents. “We intend to work together with academic, administrative and governance leaders to develop long-term solutions in the spirit of stewardship of the university.”

Girod said KU would work with faculty leaders to develop a stronger faculty system. Those improvements are expected to include more training for supervisors, better use of performance evaluation systems, conversations aimed at addressing concerns about retaliatory behaviors in the workplace, and “giving staff a greater voice in providing suggestions that improve our work and increases our success.”

Girod said he expected to provide some updates on working with faculty leaders on those issues by the end of the fall semester.


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