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University Council Won’t Oppose Tenure Changes

Credit: Shelby Israel

A group of University of Georgia University Council faculty and staff members voted last week against a petition seeking to reverse controversial changes to the university system’s post-tenure review policy in a Wednesday meeting. 

The petition, which was signed by over 50 faculty members across UGA, sought to reverse the council’s Sept. 28 decision to comply with the University System of Georgia’s revisions to the post-tenure review policy, which allows a USG institution to “at any time remove any faculty member or other employee of an institution for cause.” The motion to oppose the changes in effect at UGA was rejected in a 36-125 vote at a University Council meeting Nov. 30. 

The post-tenure review policy was adopted by the Board of Regents in October 2021. After it passed, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) published a statement calling the decision a “flagrant violation of principles on academic freedom and tenure.”

“The new USG policy effectively abolishes tenure in Georgia’s public colleges and universities by allowing a system institution to dismiss a tenured professor for failing to remediate deficiencies identified through post-tenure evaluation without affording a hearing before a faculty body in which the administration demonstrates cause for dismissal,” according to the statement. “Without this academic due process, tenure does not exist.”

The AAUP subsequently censured the USG for the decision. The motion from the University Council meeting stated that the council would commit to reversing the changes to the policy, and as a result would enable the AAUP to revoke the censure.

UGA mathematics professor Joseph Fu presented the motion at the meeting. “Last point I want to make is that it will be argued here that UGA policies instituted in response to the BOR are sufficient to replace what will be lost,” Fu said. “I want to simply point out that what we’ve lost is a fundamental principle which cannot be replaced.”

Other voting members in attendance expressed their disapproval of the motion, saying that the revisions to the policy still leave adequate due process in post-tenure review. 

“The procedures in place for dismissal after post-tenure review are due process and then some,” said David Shipley, a professor in the UGA School of Law. “It is a remarkably detailed procedural protections for the faculty member. The burden is not on the faculty member, but on the institution, to justify the evaluation of that faculty member after going through a remarkably detailed process year in, year out, for post-tenure review, and I think to say this is dismissal without cause is just plain wrong.”