The Chronicle of Higher Education
by Emma Pettit
January 21, 2021
The temporary policy permits public universities to suspend or terminate employees without declaring financial exigency.
Kansas’ Board of Regents voted unanimously on Wednesday to create a process by which the state’s six public universities can more expeditiously suspend and fire employees, including tenured faculty members.
It’s an extreme move, Shane Bangerter, one of nine board members, acknowledged, but one that he felt was “absolutely necessary,” given how Covid-19 has depressed higher education’s finances. The temporary change, which will expire in December 2022, gives greater flexibility to university leaders, other regents argued. It’s meant to be just one arrow in their quiver to deal with budget retrenchment.
Aleksander Sternfeld-Dunn, an associate professor of music at Wichita State University and president of its Faculty Senate, offered a different image. Approving the policy, he told the regents, is like cracking a nut with a sledgehammer.
It’ll harm faculty morale, hamper recruiting, and basically suspend tenure for the time being, he said. He and other faculty observers said they worried that the temporary policy would later become permanent, undercutting faculty stability well into a post-Covid era.