Tenure Is under Attack Once Again, Part 2: Actions of State Legislatures, Governing Boards, and Campus Administrations

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External threats to tenure have escalated in recent years, and many people anticipate they will continue to do so, especially in view of the economic impact of the pandemic. In 2016, Wisconsin modified the University of Wisconsin System’s strong tenure policy by removing the agreement from state law and then rewriting it to make financial impact the primary consideration in closing or modifying programs and letting tenured faculty go (Flaherty, 2015). The change was justified by the flexibility the UW System Board of Regents needed to deal with a pending $250 million reduction in state support. In 2017, the Missouri legislature introduced a bill that would have banned tenure (Flaherty, 2017). The rationale for the bill was that the lifetime employment guarantee coupled with the potential for diminished teaching performance would harm students. The bill did not pass. Early in 2021, the Kansas Board of Regents voted unanimously to suspend tenure until December 2022, to give themselves flexibility in dealing with the financial impact of the pandemic (Pettit, 2021a). Four of the six public universities immediately said they would not use this authority, and Kansas University (KU) and the KU Medical Center recently announced that they, too, would not use this authority.

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