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University of Arkansas board approves new tenure policy

March 30, 2018

MONTICELLO, Ark. (AP) — The University of Arkansas’ board of trustees has approved a draft policy outlining the criteria for dismissal of tenured faculty members, despite concerns by some professors that it could be abused.

The board unanimously approved the proposal at a Thursday meeting in Monticello, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

“Despite some public comments to the contrary, nothing in the proposed changes undermine academic freedom or the value that the University of Arkansas System places on tenure,” said Michael Moore, the UA System’s vice president for academic affairs.

Some professors had asked the board to delay action on the new policy, saying its language is too broad and threatens academic tenure.

Josh Silverstein, a University of Arkansas at Little Rock law professor, told the board that the policy’s 12 examples of grounds for dismissal “can be used to punish people with whom you disagree.”

Silverstein had drafted an alternative policy with law professor Robert Steinbuch that included a narrower list than the approved policy’s causes for dismissal. He said he was disappointed at Thursday’s meeting, especially since the vote was unanimous and because there was no delay in the vote.

But board members said the process to dismiss faculty members took longer under the old policy. Some also noted that tenured faculty members can appeal dismissals for an unsatisfactory performance.

JoAnn Maxey, general counsel for the UA System, said the policy update doesn’t change the basic definition of cause for dismissal.

“What has changed are the examples,” Maxey said. “We have replaced very general terms.”

Tenured faculty members currently have the right of continuous appointment, according to current UA System policy. It’s granted to professors based on their job performance over several years.

The proposed policy was recommended for approval by UA System President Donald Bobbitt, who described the update as part of a larger project to ensure policies “are appropriate for the rapidly-changing landscape” of higher education.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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