Sunday, March 25, 2018

University Suicide Watch (2): Campus Blues in the Bluegrass State

The following article appeared in Powerline on March 23rd

By Steven Hayward

We reported here last week about how the University of Wisconsin—Stevens Point is closing several liberal arts departments and laying off tenured professors (gasp! the horror!). Now this news from Kentucky:

By Linda Blackford

University faculty around the state are raising red flags over proposed legislative language that appears to let administrators ignore tenure protections as they downsize because of financial cutbacks.

The Senate version of Kentucky’s budget bill contains language that says university leaders may reduce tenured faculty when programs are modified or eliminated because of budgetary issues. What really alarms them is the last line: “The provisions of this section supersede any and all policies governing the faculty employment approved by a Board of Regents or Board of Trustees.”

“This goes right to the heart of academic freedom, but it should concern every single person in the commonwealth,” said Patti Minter, a Western Kentucky University history professor and former faculty regent who’s running for the House of Representatives. “Regardless of politics and ideology, it’s a grave threat to the free exchange of ideas that goes to the heart of what American universities are and what they should be.”

The language is timely because most state universities are in the process of cutting programs after nearly a decade of state budget cuts. The Senate’s version of the next budget also endorses Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposal to cut the state’s allocation to universities another 6.25 percent in the next biennium.

Eastern Kentucky University, for example, announced Thursday that it plans to cut $25 million by eliminating 200 positions, closing its Danville campus, suspending academic programs and slashing athletics spending by 20 percent.

So far, the school is following internal policies that respect tenure, said Matthew Winslow, chairman of the EKU faculty senate.

“What a disaster it would be if EKU followed that language and basically destroyed tenure,” he said. “We might as well close our doors if that happened.”

Closing their doors actually sounds like an attractive idea. In any case, state-supervised universities should get used to more of this so long as they make themselves de facto partisan adjuncts of the Democratic Party. What did they think was going to happen when they started coddling the identity politics left?

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