Tag: Tenure

Universities (Development and Innovation) (Amendment) Bill 2015 – II – Tenure

Seanad Entrance, via Oireachtas websiteThis is the second in a series of posts on Senator Seán Barrett‘s Private Members’ Bill, the Universities (Development and Innovation) (Amendment) Bill 2015, which was discussed last week in the Seanad (the first post is here). Section 5 of the Bill provides a definition of “academic tenure”. As the Explanatory Memorandum explains

… the protections afforded by academic tenure allow academics to investigate unfashionable, controversial, or distasteful topics or dissent from received wisdom, and to teach and publish their honest conclusions, without fear of external pressures (for example, from university donors, vociferous critics, or government) or internal censure (for example, by means of suspension or dismissal).


Academic freedom and tenure: some further thoughts (Donncha Kavanagh) « University Blog

…The state then, as argued by Kant in 1798, has a duty to protect academic freedom in order to enhance if not ensure the rule of reason in public life, while the university has commensurate duty to counter the excesses of the state and its desires.

… neither should one be in thrall to academic freedom, or use it to simply buttress selfish desires for permanent employment and security. In this regard, I think academic freedom should not always be bundled together with the concept of ‘permanency’ (which varies in meaning depending on context). …

… If academic freedom is a meaningful privilege that comes with real responsibilities, it must have an elitist dimension, which means that there needs to be a robust process to determine who is accorded this freedom (qua responsibility). …

See also Stephen Mennell and Paddy Healy Defending academic freedom (Letter, Irish Times, 1 February 2011):

the debate on academic freedom … concerns the freedom of the academic expert to speak the truth in the public interest. That freedom is underpinned by the right to tenure in the Universities Act (1997).

Ferdinand von Prondzynski Lack of trust is the biggest threat to our academic freedom
(column, Irish Times, 1 February 2011):

If we are serious about exploiting the smart economy, we need to build up understanding between our academics and the public. … the Croke Park agreement on public service pay and reform concluded last year … suggest[s] that working conditions for academics need to be reviewed and new contracts introduced. This has been seen by some … as the start of an erosion of intellectual freedom and individual autonomy and the introduction of corporate-style management and controls. Initial draft negotiation plans by some universities have reinforced those suspicions.

The Irish Universities Association, however, has emphasised that this is not what is being planned. Chief executive Ned Costello told me:

The review of the contract is concerned with ensuring that the normal obligations of a staff member in relation to issues such as attendance, annual leave and performance management and development are observed. It is not about constraining freedom of inquiry, which is a foundation stone of our university system. It is about consolidating the good practice which already exists in the sector.

… A new bond of trust needs to be re-established between our third level and the country, and this needs to work both ways. It means that our politicians and opinion-formers must stop the constant barrage of unsubstantiated criticisms of the sector (bearing in mind that individual anecdotes are not evidence of an overall problem). The sector itself must accept that we now live in an age where we all have to be seen to be accountable, and that reform is unavoidable, including some mechanism for identifying and dealing with under-performance where it occurs.

And all sides have to re-commit themselves to intellectual integrity and academic freedom, in the service of national regeneration.

Sarah Ludington: The Dogs that Did Not Bark: Academic Freedom, Tenure, and the Silence of the Legal Academy During World War II

During World War II, the legal academy was virtually uncritical of the government’s conduct of the war, despite some obvious domestic abuses of civil rights, such as the internment of Japanese-Americans. This silence has largely been ignored in the literature about the history of legal education. This Article argues that there are many strands of causation for this silence. On an obvious level, World War II was a popular war fought against a fascist threat, and left-leaning academics generally supported the war. On a less obvious level, law school enrollment plummeted during the war, and the numbers of full-time law professors dropped by half. Of those professors “laid off” during the war, many took employment in government agencies and thus effectively silenced themselves. Finally, the American Association of Law Schools had only adopted a strong position on academic freedom and tenure in 1940. The commitment to academic freedom and tenure was insecure in many institutions and was only weakened by the severe economic strain of the war. To illustrate the effect of these larger forces, this Article tells the stories of five professors who criticized domestic policy during the war and the institutional consequences of their dissent. Of those professors, only one – a tenured professor at New York University – was fired during the war. While the basic building blocks of legal academies are the same today as they were in World War II, other factors such as strong institutional commitments to academic freedom and tenure, a robust First Amendment, and economic prosperity have significantly changed the roles that law professors are empowered to play in society, most significantly as the watchdogs of government.

Tenure and academic freedom in the news

Tenure: I'll take that as a no!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. The National Strategy for Higher Education in Ireland (the Hunt Report) and the Public Service Agreement 2010-2014 (the Croke Park Agreement) seem to imperil both concepts. The current conception of academic tenure is threatened by proposals to make significant changes to academic employment conditions, and the current conception of academic freedom is undermined by recommendations that fundamental academic choices should be determined not by academics or institutions but at national level. It is unsurprising, therefore, that a recent meeting of Irish academics protested against the implementation of the Croke Park agreement in third-level institutions, and called for the defence of tenure and academic freedom.

Some colleges and universities have been strong in their defence of these concepts. For example, I have already discussed the provisions of Trinity’s 2010 Statutes protecting tenure and academic freedom. Moreover, the Trinity’s Council and Board have recently approved a detailed and progressive Policy on Academic Freedom. I have also discussed similar statutory provisions in other Irish universities. To that, I can now add the provisions of NUI Maynooth‘s statutes relating to tenure. (more…)

Protecting academic freedom seen as key – The Irish Times – Fri, Jan 21, 2011

SEANAD REPORT: ACADEMIC FREEDOM must be protected in view of the fact that some of the important criticisms of what had been happening in this country in recent years had come from people in academia rather than from the Oireachtas, Rónán Mullen (Ind) said.

One hundred and fifty academics had criticised proposals in the Croke Park agreement, which they claimed would pose a serious threat to academic freedom.

Referring to a letter published in The Irish Times, Mr Mullen said its signatories had said there was a threat to the right to permanency and tenure to retirement age, which was the bedrock on which academic freedom rested. He thought it was very important that academic freedom would not be undermined when one considered the sources of criticisms of the way the country had been governed.

The definition of the right of academic tenure should not be achieved at the expense of the rights of those holding temporary positions, he also argued.

It’s not often I agree with Ronán Mullen, but I’m glad that he now agrees with me! See my posts on the various legal protections of academic freedom and tenure.

The letter to which he refers is here.

Academic tenure in the Universities Act, 1997

DVD cover for the movie 'Tenure', via Amazon width=Tenure:

the very word connotes safety, security, and a sense that you have made it in academia. But is the system really all it is cracked up to be, or is it lumbering into the world of 21st century academia like a dinosaur that hasn’t heard it is supposed to be extinct?

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.

The starting point is the Universities Act, 1997. Section 25(6) (also here) of the Act provides (with added emphasis):

A university may suspend or dismiss any employee but only in accordance with procedures, and subject to any conditions, specified in a statute made following consultation through normal industrial relations structures operating in the university with recognised staff associations or trade unions, which procedures or conditions may provide for the delegation of powers relating to suspension or dismissal to the chief officer and shall provide for the tenure of officers.

The Statutes of a university constitute its basic law, and section 3 of the 1997 Act (also here) provides that “officer[s]” include “permanent, full-time member[s] of the academic staff of the university”. Hence, section 25(6) effectively requires that each university’s statutes must only specify disciplinary procedures leading to the suspension or dismissal for their employees, but must also provide for tenure of full-time members of academic staff. This rider to section 25(6) is very important. Dismissal procedures must be set out in universities’ fundamental constitutional documents, and where such procedures affect full-time members of the academic staff, they must specifically provide for tenure. This is a strong legislative commitment to the principle of academic tenure. As with the Act’s comcomitant protection of academic freedom, there are very few similar general legislative provisions elsewhere. In this respect at least, Irish legislation is particularly progressive, and – as Prof Jim McKernan, formerly of UCD and UL, and now of the College of Education in East Carolina University, has recently argued on Ninth Level Ireland – these freedoms must be jealously guarded and zealously protected:

Academic Freedom and Tenure: Necessary Rights for Irish Academics

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. … Academic freedom is an absolute necessity for a democratic society. … 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.

… 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. … Tenure really means that one ‘owns their position’ and the right to return to that position year after year after the probationary period. … 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’. …

The answer to Jim’s question in bold about the current state of tenure in Irish universities is in three parts. (more…)

Academic tenure and university statutes

Front Gate, TCD; via TCD websiteThe Statutes of a university constitute its basic law. For example, when the Charter of Elizabeth, dated 3 March 1592, founded Trinity College Dublin as the mother of a University, it afforded the College the power to adopt and amend Statutes to regulate its internal affairs. In the restatement of TCD’s Statutes which come into force today, the Preamble sets out some values and aspirations to inform and underpin their interpretation and application. Among those values, the College

Affirms its rights and responsibilities to preserve and promote academic freedom, tenure, and freedom of expression, [and]

Recognises the corresponding commitment of its members to pursue with integrity the highest standards in teaching and learning, and in research and scholarship, …

I have already looked at the principle of academic freedom in Irish law in an earlier post on this blog; in this post I want to look at the concomitant principle of academic tenure, using the relevant provisions of TCD’s Statutes as a guide; and in a future post, I will look at the extent to which it is currently protected as a matter of Irish law.

Broadly speaking, academic tenure is the right of a full-time academic not to be arbitrarily dismissed. It is one of the means by which the principle of academic freedom is secured. Intellectual autonomy and academic freedom are central to academic research and scholarship, and the protections afforded by academic tenure allow academics to investigate unfashionable, controversial, or distasteful topics or dissent from received wisdom, and to teach and pubish their honest conculsions, without fear of external pressures (for example, from university donors, vociferous critics, or government) or internal censure. (more…)

Law School lessons

NUI Maynooth logo, via the NUIM website.A few weeks ago, noted US Constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky (wikipedia), currently Alston & Bird Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science at Duke, was hired as the founding Dean of Donald Bren School of Law at the University of California, Irvine; then he was “unhired” (here’s Chemerinsky’s own take on that, from the LA Times); and quite quickly re-hired.

I’ve just recently discovered that Paul Caron on Tax Law Prof used this flap “to generate and publicize the best ideas about reforming legal education from some of the leading thinkers in the law school world”. He and Bill Henderson asked various legal luminaries to give 250-word answers to this question:

What is the single best idea for reforming legal education you would offer to Erwin Chemerinsky as he builds the law school at UC-Irvine?

They got forty responses, gathered together here, and well worth a read they are too (don’t just take my word for it; the Chronicle of Higher Education thinks so too (hat tip: Tax Prof Blog)).

I wonder whether any of those ideas will surface at the forthcoming (second annual) Legal Education Symposium hosted by UCC in December (already discussed here on this blog)? Or whether they will find a home in the new Law School in the University of York in the UK (now hiring)? Or whether they will feed into the University of Maynooth’s new degrees in Business and Law and Law and Arts? The Centre for Business, Management and Innovation Studies has already hired one lawyer and has advertised for another (see here and here and here). Will York or Maynooth follow some of the advice for Chemerinsky and abolish tenure or tie it to teaching, focus the curriculum on practice in one or some or all of the years, promote public understanding of the law, or build strengths in interdisciplinary teaching and scholarship? Just don’t puff the schools too much.

Update (22 October 2007): On a related note, not only did I slip the Chronicle link in up there as a bonus, but Tax Prof Blog also points to Jim Chen’s Simple Wisdom summary of Scott Greenfield’s suggestions about how professors, students, and law schools can make law school better: professors should do more to engage the students; students should stop whining, grow up and learn what they need to know to be lawyers; and law schools should train lawyers to fulfill a function in society, to represent entities in their dealings or litigation to prevent society from tyranny or anarchy. He concludes:

This pressure on law professors to produce scholarly works has two bad outcomes. First, it means that law professors no longer care about teaching, for there is no reward to being a good teacher. This failure is clearly reflected in law students’ complaints about law school. Second, it has reduced law professors to fashion designers, moving hemlines up and down every year, just so they have something to say.

I venture to guess that no law professor will invent cold fusion or a cure for the common cold. Few will contribute anything of lasting substance to society in this year’s law review. But you could make a monumental contribution by preparing young men and women to go out into the world with the skills, knowledge, ethics and willingness to zealously represent people. Each of these students will touch the lives of many people, and if well trained, make their lives a little bit better. Law School can and should be a part of this. …

And now, I have to get back to finishing my views on this year’s fashions for an impatiently waiting editor :-)