The Board of Trustees for State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota continues to ignore the overwhelming public opposition to a policy shift that will harm the region's flagship institution for workforce training. The elimination of tenure accomplishes nothing beyond extinguishing the desirability of working for a great college. Yet trustees are tone deaf to the outcries from past college presidents, current faculty and a host of other community leaders.
The question trustees should be asking themselves is why would top talent apply to teach at an institution that holds little, if any, value on their credentials and accomplishments? Their jobs could simply disappear with a non-renewal of their one-year contracts, which would be instituted for new faculty hired after July 1, 2016.
Trustees did throw a bone to instructors last week by inserting language to the policy that would allow access to an appeal process should a contract not be renewed. That's little solace to someone caught up in a political battle over academic freedom when an instructor challenges students to think differently and outsiders object to the point of the exercise.
The fact that trustees are also considering a policy that requires job prospects to "bid" on the post -- thereby ensuring another crippling application process guaranteed to scare off the best and brightest instructors -- is wrongheaded, too, even more so. Hiring on the cheap solidifies a philosophy of putting in place a weak instructional staff.
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Trustees fail this community by not justifying the elimination of tenure with any sound reasoning, other than to claim they intend to align college employment practices with private industry norms. An institution of higher learning produces educated adults with skills vital to entering the workforce -- but most importantly, the ability to think and reason beyond building widgets or any other product that our free enterprise system values. Professors are there to nurture the mind, not align with a political agenda.
So it comes as no surprise that the SCF faculty gave trustees an overwhelming vote of "no confidence" last week, with 118 out of 120 instructors approving the motion. One voted confidence and the other was undecided.
Dr. Robyn Bell, faculty Senate president, stated the viewpoint of the community in saying, "We felt it was time that we as a faculty speak as a unit ... so that the community knows where we stand on this issue and how important it is to us as a faculty, to our entire college and to our students."
Well said, Dr. Bell.
Will trustees listen to reason? Not a single one on the board is an educator. They are all political appointees. That says a lot.
In a statement after the Dec. 1 trustee vote to affirm the end to tenure, the faculty, while hopeful the board would reconsider an ill-advised new policy, called the outcome "the final straw in a long list of deeds and action that have proven more harmful than helpful to our College. Such ideologically/politically driven decisions have been made without research or merit and attempt to govern a public institution of education as a private, corporate business."
Furthermore, the faculty position cited the placement of SCF in the untenable position of being the only college in the state system without tenure. The proposal lacks clear statements about any expected benefits, too, and trustees failed to conduct due diligence in reviewing valid research that affirms student success with this policy. Plus, the faculty stated, trustees ignored research that shows graduation rates are lower at institutions that rely on non-tenured-track staff.
Trustees owe this community a thorough explanation and justification for these policy changes. "We still can't get them to tell us why they want to get rid of what we have," Bell said last Wednesday after distributing the faculty survey after Tuesday's trustee meeting.
Why is that? Can't trustees be honest with this community? Or is the truth too tough to reveal?