Wednesday, June 08, 2016

BOT must protect FAMU tenure system

FAMU became an “R2” (higher research activity) university in the Carnegie classifications mainly because of the work done by professors who are tenured or on the tenure-track. The tenure system is essential to FAMU’s ability to compete for professors who are capable of R2-level research and Ph.D. education activities.

That’s why the FAMU Board of Trustees (BOT) needs to give serious attention to a point that School of Business and Industry Professor Annette Singleton Jackson raised in her open letter to the faculty last week.

She told FAMU United Faculty of Florida President Elizabeth Davenport that:

I personally witnessed the fiasco you mentioned with the slick new collective bargaining attorney. His most memorable statements included:

“I’m not familiar with the previous documents…”
“I’ll have to ramp up on that issue…
“I’m unaware…”

The new attorney did, however, know enough to threaten FAMU faculty in an attempt to bust our tenure system and told us a long story meant to terrify us. The story was told in relation to the on-going objection of the provost to signing employment contracts. However, after probing, it ended up being a story about a non-tenure earning employee on soft money who was fired. The court did not find in his favor in his quest to serve out the term of his contract. The whole meeting was counter-productive at best.
The BOT hasn’t voted to approve any changes to the FAMU tenure system. But the lack of a BOT vote hasn’t stopped other major changes from happening at FAMU since Elmira Mangum became president in 2014.

FAMU was in control of the core operating budget for the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering (COE) from 1987 until 2014. But in 2015 the new Joint College of Engineering Governance Council started to claim that it is in charge of the COE budget. Back at a May 20 meeting, the Joint Council unanimously voted to move the $12.9M COE core operating budget from FAMU to FSU.

Mangum supported those changes and didn’t let the FAMU BOT know before those things happened. The FSU representatives and Board of Governors (BOG) Chancellor Marshall Criser, III can now just outvote FAMU on budget decisions.

That type of overhaul could also happen to the FAMU tenure system without BOT approval if the BOT doesn’t take steps to prevent it.

Rattlers faced a big battle against a threat to the FAMU tenure system back in 2014. Former Meharry Medical College President John E. Maupin, Jr. applied for the FAMU presidency that year. An investigating committee of the American Association of University Professors accused Maupin of effectively eliminating tenure at Meharry Medical College during his presidency at that school.

Rattler Nation editorialized that: “If Maupin comes to FAMU and uses his power to crush the tenure system, no one will have to officially push FAMU into a lower tier of the State University System of Florida (SUS). FAMU would voluntarily lump itself in the company of the tenure-less Florida Gulf Coast University and Florida Polytechnic. Those two schools sit on the sidelines concentrating on baccalaureate education as the state universities with tenure haul in most of the SUS’ state and federal research funding.”

Former University of Florida President Bernie Machen said in 2011 that “every one of the top 100 universities in this country has tenure” and that UF “will quickly become a regional university at best” if it loses the ability to offer tenure to its faculty.

If UF couldn’t compete beyond the Southeast without tenure, it doesn’t take much to imagine what would happen to FAMU, which gets nothing close to the type of generous legislative funding that UF receives each year.

The FAMU trustees need to ask tough questions about Mangum’s intentions for the FAMU tenure system and tell her face-to-face that she doesn’t have clearance to make any changes to it without approval from the BOT.

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