Georgia university system becomes tenured

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In a direct challenge to the sacred tradition of tenure, Georgia’s public university system will now allow its college administrations to dismiss a full professor with little or no faculty input.

The Board of Regents on Wednesday approved the new policy, which is the only one of its kind in the country, according to the American Association of University Teachers. The move is criticized by many professors, politicians and academic freedom advocates as a threat to tenure, which aims to protect professors from dismissal without just cause, allowing them to develop thoughts or ideas that may be unpopular. .

“Georgia is a huge outlier now, because that’s the whole point of tenure: it includes due process protections,” said Irene Mulvey, president of the faculty association, who is censorship threat the university system. “There should now be a new word for it in Georgia, because warrant won’t mean warrant there. “

The board maintained that the policy change would streamline the process of removing faculty members who do not adequately contribute to a university, and the 19-member board unanimously approved the new measure Wednesday. As of fall 2020, there were over 5,800 full professors across Georgia’s university system.

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“Our intention with these policy changes is to promote faculty development and accountability as well as align them with our mission of student success,” Board Member Erin Hames said Tuesday.

Previously, the dismissal process for full professors included a process of peer review with other professors. Now, professors from 25 of its 26 public universities can be withdrawn after failing two consecutive annual exams. If a professor also fails to complete an improvement plan after exams, that alone would justify being fired. The new policy also included an additional criterion – student success – in assessing the performance of a full professor.

The new policy is the result of months of back-and-forth between faculty and the Board of Regents, the governing body of the state university system, since it announced last year that it would establish a group working to review the post-graduate exam. to treat.

In a report released by the task force in June, the group cited several shortcomings in the existing process, including time issues, onerous documentation, and that “very few underperforming faculty members are identified and corrected.”

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The report also noted that there was a “need for accountability” with the incumbency process and that, in its form at the time, the Board of Regents was struggling to have “oversight”.

Last month, the board released a draft policy that included a clause stating that a full professor could be dismissed for “other than just cause” reasons, which raised concerns ahead of approval. of its final policy.

Although this language is no longer part of approved policy, critics remain concerned that the changes could crush the academic freedom of professors who publish research or speak in ways that go against beliefs. from the board of directors or the state’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp.

“The voices of faculty are now less and less heard,” said Matthew Boedy, full associate professor of rhetoric and composition at the University of North Georgia, a public university, and chair of the Georgia Conference of the Association of University Teachers.

He sees the decision, he said, as a “deep ideological attack on higher education,” adding: “Everyone involved in higher education will recognize the title that tenure is dead in Georgia today.

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Others fear the new changes will affect the state’s ability to recruit and retain faculty and students at its public universities, including Georgia Tech, one of the nation’s top public research institutions.

“People won’t want to go to a place where something like this has happened,” Ms. Mulvey said. “So students and teachers will suffer from this decision. “

As of Tuesday, more than 1,500 state professors signed a petition against the new policy. Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic gubernatorial candidate, also publicly expressed her disapproval of the measure in the hours leading up to the adjournment of the meeting.

“Tenure-guaranteed academic freedom is more than a hiring gimmick,” Ms. Abrams tweeted Wednesday. “Georgia cannot compete for talent or produce innovation if we undermine our public universities.”

The move comes at the same time that state leaders are receiving reluctance from some faculty members over banning mask mandates at academic institutions. The council upheld the ban.

“We continue to be in sync with the governor’s expectations and demands for state agencies during this pandemic,” said Teresa MacCartney, Acting Chancellor of the University System.

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