The University of Minnesota's Board of Regents took several steps last week toward resolution of the school's tenure dispute situation. After the most outspoken Regent announced last Friday that she plans to resign from the Board, the group adopted a new tenure code that is a compromise between the Regents' initial proposal and the revisions the Faculty Senate proposed. Regent Jean Keffeler, who announced she will resign by December 1, garnered national attention for the drastic tenure changes she advocates, which include more stringent review processes and flexibility in firing tenured faculty. Keffeler, who was reelected last year to her second six-year term on the Board, said in her resignation letter that she has been totally committed to Minnesota. "Unfortunately, the values I hold as an individual and the beliefs I hold about responsible governance are inconsistent with the situation that has developed at the University, a situation of which the current tenure crisis is symptomatic," Keffeler wrote. The code the Regents adopted Thursday allows tenured professors to stay on the payroll when their programs are cut, if they accept reassignment. The Board's previous proposal made no such provision. But if the university is hit by a "financial stringency," and the Faculty Senate agrees, the Regents could decide on an across-the-board pay cut for tenured faculty. Professors will also undergo periodic post-tenure reviews that can result in pay cuts if performance is poor. Thursday's action technically only affects the Law School, but Minnesota officials believe the new code will eventually apply to all of the university's schools. Minnesota spokesperson Michael Nelson predicted the implementation of a two-year moratorium on all tenure revisions. Although the Board provided for a revisitation of the layoff issue, the new code is much closer to the revisions proposed by Minnesota's faculty. Minnesota Political Science Professor Ed Fogelman, chairperson of the school's Faculty Senate Judicial Committee, said the faculty is willing to allow layoffs, but only under specific guidelines. "Tenure is not an irrevocable grant of employment," Fogelman said. But he added that the reform Keffeler advocates is too vague. After examining all four of Minnesota's proposed tenure reform packages, Fogelman said Keffeler's resignation might have been the first step in the Board's willingness to back off the "radical" revisions she advocated. The nation's academic community has focused on Minnesota throughout the school's struggle to resolve the situation. In a letter to the chairperson of Minnesota's Board of Regents, Penn Faculty Senate Chairperson Peter Kuriloff said the Regents' proposals "would effectively destroy tenure," adding that the tenure process maintains the academic freedom unique to the United States. "Without such unfettered freedom, it is impossible to imagine many people taking the kinds of intellectual risks that are required to maintain our competitive advantage in research and scholarship," Kuriloff said.Comments powered by Disqus
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