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In a recent blog entry I noted that, given the important role that tenure plays in protecting academic freedom, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) asserts that removal of tenure because of an institution’s financial distress should be limited to financial exigency, i.e., an imminent financial crisis that threatens the survival of the institution as a whole and that cannot be alleviated by less drastic means.” (AAUP, “Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom & Tenure“).

What then is PASSHE’s standard?  After all, Article 29 of APSCUF’s faculty collective bargaining agreement (CBA) makes the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education a participant in the retrenchment process.  At last Friday’s monthly Meet and Discuss meeting with the Office of the Chancellor (OOC), APSCUF posed the question directly. 

To paraphrase the exchange:

APSCUF:  “Are the Universities that are planning to retrench following the AAUP requirements of financial exigency?” 

OOC: “The CBA does not require AAUP’s ‘financial exigency’ standard;  it only speaks to ‘financial considerations.'”

APSCUF pressed further: “Because of the importance of tenure  in protecting academic freedom, the AAUP uses the financial exigency standard.  ‘Financial considerations’ is vague.  What is the OOC’s standard?” 

This question prompted a lengthy caucus.  When the OOC’s representatives returned to the table, they simply reiterated its position that the CBA only speaks to financial considerations! 

As the tension mounted, APSCUF pushed further:

APSCUF:  “Then you have no standard?”

OOC:  “We refer to the contract.”

APSCUF: “We will share it with our members that you have no standard.”

OOC: “Those are your words.”

APSCUF: “Then just tell us what the standard is.”

OOC: “The contract refers to ‘financial considerations.'”

Given that “financial considerations” is an amorphous term, it simply boils down to the fact that the OOC believes that Uninversities can retrench when the institutions’ leaders feel like it.  So much for academic freedom.  So much for principles.  Is tenure at the PASSHE Universities worth so little that PASSHE does not even bother to articulate a threshold? 

I repeat, PASSHE’s ad hoc retrenchment threatens us all. 

Consider yourself informed.

In Solidarity,

Ken Mash