Higher Education

AAUP accuses Emporia State of flouting academic freedom with faculty layoffs

The nation’s main school group has accused Emporia State College of imperiling educational freedom when it laid off at the least 30 professors final yr over monetary considerations.

The Kansas public establishment mentioned it dismissed the tenured or tenure-track school members due to pandemic-induced monetary stress. However an American Association of University Professors investigation, the findings of which have been made public Monday, casts doubt on that assertion. 

AAUP mentioned, as an illustration, that Emporia State’s president, Ken Hush, approved $1,000 bonuses to all staff the identical yr layoffs occurred and that the college’s fiscal 2022 price range included $10 million in one-time federal pandemic support cash. 

A degree not included within the AAUP investigation is that six weeks after the college fired the school members, they gave 68 others a complete $137,741 in efficiency bonuses, the Kansas Reflector reported this month.

An Emporia State spokesperson didn’t reply to a request for remark Friday.

Tenure protections

Tenured school members — like these Emporia State terminated in September — historically get pleasure from lifetime job safety except they violate coverage or legislation, or are laid off due to an excessive monetary emergency. 

AAUP’s standards on educational freedom define circumstances when firing a tenured professor could also be acceptable — like if an establishment declares monetary exigency, through which a university’s survival is imminently threatened. 

However Emporia State didn’t proclaim monetary exigency when it introduced the layoffs. As an alternative, the college drew on a pandemic-era coverage instituted by the Kansas Board of Regents that permitted cash-strapped establishments in its purview to extra simply dismiss school members.

That coverage expired in December of final yr, and Emporia State took benefit of it three months earlier in September — far after the board put the rule in place in January 2021.

Based mostly on the coverage, Emporia State crafted a brand new checklist of causes it might terminate staff, which included “value of operations” and “realignment of assets.” 

The Kansas regents signed off on this framework and shortly thereafter Emporia State started the layoffs. College officers referred to as affected staff into last-minute conferences and browse off a script that outlined their dismissal, as is widespread in layoff conditions throughout industries.

One fired school member instructed AAUP that officers “learn aloud our dismissal letters as if we have been being formally charged with against the law,” in accordance with a abstract of the group’s investigation.

Emporia directors additionally didn’t disclose the exact motive they have been terminating the workers, in accordance with AAUP. 

The school group mentioned Emporia State provided three months in severance pay. 

Focused school?

AAUP mentioned the laid-off professors hypothesized they have been focused as a result of they have been publicly vital of directors, significantly of Hush, who didn’t come up by means of the standard educational pipeline.

Earlier than turning into interim president of Emporia State in 2021, after which full president the subsequent yr, Hush labored within the company world, together with at Koch Industries. 

Presidents from backgrounds exterior academia have typically come beneath hearth from school and different critics who argue they might be unqualified. Company executives-turned-college leaders even have run into hassle infringing on the shared governance mannequin of upper ed. 

After AAUP raised considerations with Hush in September, he wrote in a letter to the group that he might “unequivocally state that no personnel choice was made at any time based mostly on any individual’s private, skilled, or political opinions, expressions, or statements.”

Nonetheless, when AAUP initiated its investigation into the job cuts in October, Emporia State refused to take part. 

The group decided the firings “flagrantly violated relevant AAUP-recommended procedural requirements, thus rendering the terminations illegitimate with respect to these requirements.”

Additional, although Emporia State attributed its actions to deep monetary issues, it by no means articulated specifics of them, in accordance with AAUP’s report. 

“As an alternative, it describes a confluence of economic pressures — associated to enrollment, state funding, and working prices — that public schools and universities have felt for a while,” the group mentioned. “However the administration didn’t clarify what differentiated Emporia State from the a whole lot of different schools and universities which have overcome related challenges within the final three years.”

Emporia State’s enrollment has shrunk barely during the last a number of years, dropping from 7,399 college students within the 2016 educational yr to 7,245 in 2021, according to Kansas regent data.

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