Archive for tenure

Tenure; a political, not a legal or IR issue

Posted in Legal issues with tags , on 13 March 2011 by Steve

“With the recent change of government, we are finally in the endgame. The 1997 act required university admin to cater for the ‘tenure’ of officers, without saying what that is; likewise, the supreme court’s Susan Denham, when pressed on the issue by DCU’s barrister Sreenan, refused to define it on the grounds that she would then be ‘legislating’ …” (more)

[University Blog on Academic Tenure in Ireland, 12 March]


Tenure track system

Posted in Governance and administration with tags , , on 5 March 2011 by Steve

“#tcdprovost tenure track system is the only modern way to hire academics & have significant probation time” (tweet)

[Stefano Sanvito, Twitter, 5 March]

How to Save Academic Freedom

Posted in Legal issues with tags , on 28 February 2011 by Steve

“Tenure is disappearing. Corporate and government interests are interfering with academic research. And since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2006 ruling in Garcetti v. Ceballos, the courts are suggesting that faculty members who speak out on governance may be punished, and even fired …” (more)

[Erin O’Connor and Maurice Black, Inside Higher Ed, 28 February]

The destruction of academic tenure in Ireland

Posted in Legal issues with tags , , on 16 February 2011 by Steve

“Academic tenure is currently gone in Ireland; this post specifies what happened. It was SIPTU’s fault, and I’ll end with speculation about SIPTU’s motives – in particular the cabal of SIPTU officials with extreme left-wing political histories. No names will be mentioned …” (more)

[University Blog on Academic Tenure in Ireland, 15 February]

Statement by Campaign for academic Freedom in Reply to Irish Universities Association

Posted in Governance and administration with tags , , , on 12 February 2011 by Steve

The Irish Universities Association (IUA) issued a statement on February 4 in response to a call to defend the principle of tenure on which academic freedom is based. This call, signed by 160 academics, was published in the Irish Times on January 20.

We note that the IUA has no authority to speak on behalf of Irish universities. It is a private company of which the seven university presidents are directors.

In its response, the IUA could have given clear assurances that it was opposed to any changes to the relevant clauses in the Universities Act. As the law of the land trumps industrial relations processes, we would have taken considerable comfort from such a declaration.

As it is, however, the IUA makes no such declaration. Indeed, the IUA statement is replete with ambiguity and dissimulation. Most remarkably, it suggests that the principle of tenure might be seen as protecting academics from dismissal for misconduct, though this is not the case.

The IUA statement is causing increased concern in the academic community.

Steve Hedley, Professor of Law at UCC, and a signatory to the call, has given a detailed reply to the statement on the blog Ninth Level Ireland.

The IUA states: “What we must do as a foundation for that defence (of academic freedom – PH), is to distinguish between freedom and licence. This is what we are seeking to do in the proposed contractual provision which states that it is to be acknowledged that the freedoms which are contained in Section 14 of the Universities Act are to be exercised in the context of the framework of rights and obligations contained in the contract.”

It should be understood that the contract to which the IUA refers is not the existing contract but a new contract to be put in place pursuant to the Public Services Agreement (Croke Park Deal).

Steve Hedley comments: “The other, and more pessimistic, interpretation (of the IUA statement – PH) is that academic contracts are to be read as limiting the guarantee in the Universities Act – in other words, that academic freedom should only exist to the extent that each academic’s contract allows for it. This is extremely worrying. Academic freedom is, in large part, freedom from university management – and so is not worth much if it can be removed by a simple clause in an employment contract, drafted by that same university management. I don’t know what is intended here; and I certainly hope that this reading is wrong. But if the object of the statement was to reassure, then it has failed in its object.”

On the question of tenure the IUA states: “Here, we are seeking to establish that tenure is consistent with the established corpus of employment law and, in that context, refers to the duration of contract. However, the concept of tenure dates from a time when employment law was much less well developed. We now have a national legal framework incorporating, inter alia, the Unfair Dismissals and Fixed Term Workers Acts which provide considerable protections to employees generally. We strongly support employment security for staff.”

Steve Hedley comments:

“With that introduction, the IUA statement gives a number of reasons why tenure is positively undesirable. Tenure is an ‘amorphous concept which somehow subsists in a parallel realm’ to the rest of employment law; this ‘creates ambiguity, and at worst, creates the impression that tenure will be advanced to create an absolute prohibition on dismissal or sanction, even in the worst and thankfully extremely rare cases of misconduct’ … The solution is ‘to establish that tenure is consistent with the established corpus of employment law and, in that context, refers to the duration of contract’. This seems to mean that tenure, properly understood, should only mean that each academic’s contract lasts as long as it lasts – in other words, that ‘tenure’ is to be all but meaningless, adding nothing to ordinary employment rights.”

To be clear: the signatories of the January 20 letter never suggested that tenure could or should preclude disciplinary procedures in cases of misconduct and/or breach of duty. Academics have never been “unsackable” on foot of such allegations as some commentators and propagandists have claimed. Nor have they been absolutely free to exercise their academic freedom (or responsibility?) to defend academic values without fear or favour. As a number of documented Irish cases show, some of them have been subjected to harassment and intimidation for speaking out in defence of academic standards and intellectual integrity, even if they haven’t been subjected to the ultimate silencing, namely redundancy.

It is because tenure confers immunity from this ultimate abuse of power that it is internationally recognised as essential to academic freedom by UNESCO and by other international bodies such as Education International. And it is because academic freedom as currently protected by Irish law is such a fundamental principle of democracy that all repressive regimes have sought to eliminate or to limit that freedom.

Instead of allaying the concerns that we expressed in our original letter, the IUA response has heightened them.

Following persistent work by the IFUT Branch, the Board of Trinity College has already issued a declaration in support of academic freedom and tenure in December 2010.

We therefore call now on the governing authorities of all academic institutions to dissociate themselves from the IUA statement and to issue a similar declaration.

Paddy Healy 086-4183732
Convenor of Gathering for Academic Freedom
On behalf of the Signatories to the Call
88 Griffith Court,
Dublin 3

Questioning Tenure

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues with tags , on 3 February 2011 by Steve

“Ron Stolle demonstrated considerable nerve last week by publishing an opinion piece calling for the end of tenure. (He’s an Assistant Professor at Kent State in Ohio.) The need for eliminating tenure stems, he argues, from the unsustainable increases in tuition increases …” (more)

[Higher Education Management Group, 2 February]

Tenure and academic freedom in the news

Posted in Legal issues with tags on 31 January 2011 by Steve

“The rather arcane principles of academic tenure and academic freedom, which have long featured on this blog, have recently moved close to the centre of industrial relations debate and political discussion …” (more)

[Eoin O’Dell, Cearta, 31 January]

Defending academic freedom

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues with tags , on 27 January 2011 by Steve

“Madam, – Dr Ed Walsh challenges the prevailing framework of academic tenure in Irish higher education (Education Today, January 25th). This is welcome. However his implied recommendation to adopt the approach of many US institutions who award nine- month contracts renewed on multiple occasions is flawed …” (more)

[Westley Forsythe, Irish Times, 27 January]

Finding the muscle to fix our failing education system

Posted in Governance and administration, teaching with tags , , on 25 January 2011 by Steve

“It is time to stop commissioning reports and tiptoeing around the teacher unions. Ireland is being left behind with an inferior school system and it’s up to the new Minister for Education to stop the decline …” (more)

[Ed Walsh, Irish Times, 25 January]

Lecturers protest over Croke Park deal

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues with tags , on 24 January 2011 by Steve

“More than 200 university and institute of technology lecturers met in Dublin on Saturday to protest against the implementation of the Croke Park agreement in third-level institutions. The group, which met in the Gresham Hotel, is seeking to protect the right of academics to permanency and tenure until retirement age …” (more)

[Joanne Hunt, Irish Times, 24 January]

In defence of academic freedom

Posted in Governance and administration with tags , , on 24 January 2011 by Steve

“This is the opening speech by Paddy Healy (former President of the Teachers Union of Ireland) delivered to the meeting of Irish academics on January 22 in the Gresham Hotel in Dublin …” (more)

[Ferdinand von Prondzynski, University Blog, 24 January]

Academic tenure in the Universities Act, 1997

Posted in Legal issues with tags , on 18 January 2011 by Steve

“… In earlier posts on this blog, I have looked at various issues relating to the various legal protections of academic freedom and at the concomitant concept of academic tenure as a matter of principle. In today’s post, I want to look at it as a matter of law …” (more)

[Eoin O’Dell, Cearta, 18 January]

Eliminating tenure would save money

Posted in Governance and administration with tags , on 16 January 2011 by Steve

“… Our state legislators need to question why the costs of higher education are rising faster than the rate of medical costs and triple the inflation rate. The state’s budget crisis provides an opportunity to make meaningful change in both the cultural and cost structures of our colleges and universities …” (more)

[Ron Stolle, The Columbus Dispatch, 15 January]

Academic Freedom and Tenure: Necessary Rights for Irish Academics

Posted in Governance and administration with tags , , , on 11 January 2011 by Steve

Academic freedom is the right of the faculty member to select one’s materials, methods, pedagogy and points of view in teaching one’s discipline. That is to be empowered with a ‘voice’. Academic freedom is an absolute necessity for a democratic society. It pertains to both teaching (freedom of speech) and research (search for truth). These aspects of the academic life are indispensable for the success of the university. Faculty need to be free of the constraints of censorship and interference in the conduct of their duties by the institution or other agents and agencies in the community.

The very essence of the university, for faculty and for students, is freedom to seek the truth. In fact, one might claim that the university is the only institution in our society that has the privilege of devoting itself to truth, beauty, and rationality. This undertaking is not to be taken lightly. The word university literally means ‘the community of scholars’ and institutions of higher education have been created precisely for these reasons.

Let us begin by considering the issue of academic freedom. The very essence of the institution of higher education, whether it is a university or polytechnical unit, for faculty and for students, is freedom to seek the truth. In fact, one might claim that the academy is the only institution in our society that has the privilege of devoting itself to truth, beauty, and rationality. This is quite a privilege and quite a challenge; and it is not to be taken lightly. The university community has been created precisely for these reasons.

Faculty members, after a probationary period have a property right to their position and cannot be removed barring ‘just cause’. Tenure does not guarantee a post for life. When I was first appointed at UCD in 1981 there was one condition in my contract letter for removal-being guilty of ‘gross moral turpitude’. Irish academics had real tenure in those days. I do not know if new conditions for removal of tenured faculty have been introduced. In North Carolina there are I believe five reasons for justly removing a faculty member with tenure: moral turpitude; negligence; inadequate performance, financial exigency; and mental or physical incapacity. I cannot see how the NUIG Plan can work as it would be a definite ‘breach of contract’ if one side unilaterally creates new conditions without the agreement of the faculty member. Tenure really means that one ‘owns their position’ and the right to return to that position year after year after the probationary period. I strongly suggest that the legal position of tenure in Irish law be investigated as prolegomenon to challenging the NUIG Plan.

When an individual cannot enjoy academic freedom because of real threats to continued employment, advancement or career, the educational function of the institution ceases to be realized. While this is simple to say, its import and power cannot be ignored or diminished. Academic freedom is an enormous issue and it must be protected at all cost. But is tenure important to the protection of academic freedom? The answer, clearly, is Yes. Tenure secures a working community of scholars based on accepted academic values and aims, and it guarantees that a person cannot be dismissed from that community without due process and without consideration based on well established objective academic criteria. As it turns out, the truth is not always popular, especially within circles of power and wealth. Remove the system of tenure and we shall witness a ‘Flight of the Dons’. That would be an unanticipated outcome of the same nonsensical market model the current grey philistines are promoting. I ask that faculty resist these plans that would undermine the current academic freedom and tenure system in Ireland.

Dr Jim McKernan
College of Education,
East Carolina University,
Greenville USA 27858

Note: the author was previously the King Distinguished Professor at East Carolina University; Dean and Chair of the Faculty of Education, University of Limerick and College Lecturer in Education, University College Dublin. Email:

Where the Clocks Never Stop

Posted in Life with tags , , on 7 January 2011 by Steve

“In the recent NY Times article on ‘Keeping Women in Science on a Tenure Track’, already noted elsewhere in the blogosphere, part of a report (released last fall) by Berkeley researchers is summarized as follows: ‘It recommends .. “stopping the clock” on tenure for women scientists who give birth, perhaps by giving an extra year before making tenure decisions, in effect giving them extra time to do research and publish’ …” (more)

[FemaleScienceProfessor, 7 January]

Is Tenure Fair at Law Schools?

Posted in Legal issues with tags , on 21 December 2010 by Steve

“A solid majority of tenured law school professors believe that the tenure process is fair, a new national survey has found, but women and minority scholars are far more likely than their counterparts to doubt that that is the case …” (more)

[Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, 20 December]

Presidential Ambivalence on Tenure

Posted in Governance and administration with tags , on 10 November 2010 by Steve

“A poll by The Atlantic of a select group of college presidents has found a roughly even split between those who favor continuing tenure and those who question it. Further, a majority said that ‘little would actually change’ at their institutions if tenure disappeared entirely in higher education …” (more)

[Inside Higher Ed, 10 November]

Academia: The changing face of tenure

Posted in Legal issues with tags , on 5 November 2010 by Steve

“Biologist Rafael Carazo Salas doesn’t have tenure – nor is he expecting to pursue the tenure-track system any time soon. As a faculty member at a UK institution, he doesn’t have that option – academic tenure per se in the United Kingdom was abolished more than 20 years ago …” (more)

[Karen Kaplan, Nature, 3 November]

What’s Happening to Tenure?

Posted in Legal issues with tags , on 16 October 2010 by Steve

“One doesn’t need to go far in the academic press these days to read about the widespread decline in tenure-track faculty lines, which are being replaced at best with renewable-contract positions and at worst with an assortment of often-exploitative strategies to use contingent faculty members …” (more)

[David Evans, Chronicle of Higher Education, 15 October]

Tenure and College Fees

Posted in Governance and administration with tags on 9 October 2010 by Steve

“We are soon to have Colin Hunt’s Weltanschauung, the master plan for third level education in Ireland, visited upon us. Luckily, this government has nothing like sufficient political capital to implement its more outre recommendations, like the restatement of its plan for the extirpation of the NUI …” (more)

[Seán Ó Nualláin, University Blog on Academic Tenure, 9 October]