how safe are you once you get your tenure position?

Started by Vid, September 13, 2022, 11:23:49 AM

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Quote from: Caracal on August 02, 2023, 04:48:38 AM
Quote from: Wahoo Redux on July 30, 2023, 09:46:44 AM
Quote from: ProfessorM on July 30, 2023, 05:53:09 AM
Quote from: lightning on September 13, 2022, 04:39:23 PMIt's really hard to shut down a unit. An admin can't just snap their fingers and shut down an academic unit.

You haven't met the administration at my university. The timeline from "department under review" to "notice of discontinuation" is approximately 1 month. Now there is a self-study to be completed by each department with all of them to be reviewed in 10 days. Note that 47% of programs are under review. There will be a short appeal process then layoff notices for tenured and non-tenured faculty will go out one month after the notices of discontinuation.

My old uni (where I was laid-off but my wife still teaches) blinks its eyes like I Dream of Jeannie and not only do individual classes disappear but whole departments and majors.

Prior comments did not reflect the new encroaching reality, I don't think.

Well, like so many things, it really depends where you are. Even if an elite private university eliminates a department or a program, they almost never actually get rid of tenure track faculty. People instead are moved to some other department. This is also likely to be the case at places a rung below that are financially stable. At public universities politics has potentially made the situation more complicated, although I would still say in general the higher up the ladder the institution is the safer you are, but things really depend on the particular circumstances.

It also depends on the governance structure at your university. If faculty get some or a lot of say in the matter, the peer-review process of eliminating tenured faculty can make it very difficult to eliminate tenured faculty. Also, if there are any contracts with the faculty union, the process for program elimination or firing a tenured faculty member is long and detailed, and only those that truly truly deserve the ax will get the ax, and even then, a tenured faculty member is often offered financial incentive to resign. They can also get "re-assigned" to a different role in the university, usually in some non-admin service role, while retaining their status as a tenured faculty member, but with no teaching or research duties.

The way around this is to create, highlight, allow the creation/acceleration of, and/or directly accelerate circumstances to allow the declaration of some kind of financial dire straits (financial exigency is one example), which can allow admin to blanket fire tenured faculty, or at the very least, at places with some semblance of faculty governance, spook the faculty into allowing the un-challenged firing of tenured faculty members.

For any admincritters reading along, looking for the secrets getting rid of those pesky tenured faculty members, it's easier to simply do it the way it is done in some places in corporate or k-12: make faculty members' lives so miserable that they want to quit anyway. That's how it's done at my place.


My institution has a lot of safeguards governed by faculty, but ultimately, appeals stop and if an administrator wants to do something, they can probably do it. Too far and too quick would likely get them into hot water, but more slowly eliminating adjuncts, then just not filling certain positions that were previously tenured (attrition) or offering buyouts before drastic cuts or firings would be more likely at many places (like mine). However, if faculty do things like recommend keeping everyone and cutting no budgets in the face of declining enrollments and possibly even misbehaving faculty, then when administrators do come down harder, it will feel much worse. So, if you are asked, say, to give a faculty opinion on which positions should be preserved, do your homework, and be honest. if asked to assess someone's work, be honest. If someone misbehaves and you are asked to adjudicate, do so fairly. Of course you should also be very skeptical of administrators, but that doesn't mean they are always wrong either.