Board decision shatters tenure

Aiden Keenan

I  love John Carroll University. Since I first stepped foot on campus in 2017, I’ve loved every second I’ve been here. The students, campus and faculty make this place my home. The faculty are powerful instructors, mentors and friends for all 3,200 undergraduate students here; without these professors, we would not have been ranked #2 best colleges in the midwest. Unfortunately, the Board of Directors has left faculty vulnerable and threatened the nature of this University. 

On March 1, the Board of Directors voted to give themselves the authority to fire tenured faculty members if the University’s income drops 6% or more from the previous year and it is projected that the University will enter into financial hardships during the next two years. The problem with that: any good accountant can find a way to make something appear to be urgent. The University basically gave itself the authority to fire any tenured professor under the guise of financial protection. This cannot stand.

I’m sure you remember the Art History catastrophe of fall 2020. I’m sure you can recall the anger, sorrow and fear when the University decided to eliminate two tenured faculty members within the Art History department. With the hurt, disappointment and frustration caused by the unjust termination of two tenured professors, what does the University think will be accomplished by giving themselves the ability to terminate professors whenever they see fit? 

The release from Mike Scanlan read, in part, “The Board believes … one of the most effective ways to preserve tenure and academic freedom and to attract outstanding faculty is to continuously strengthen the University’s academic offerings and overall student experience. … These amendments, along with many other activities underway, will help accomplish that objective and allow John Carroll to continue delivering on its Jesuit mission to the benefit of our students and the broader community.” 

There are a couple of things wrong with that statement. First, the University failed to explain how these amendments achieve the idea of strengthening the overall student experience. Do you know who taught me to ensure that argumentation follows a logical flow? Brent Brossmann, tenured professor. I hope to use this skill in a career, and it was taught by a tenured professor. Without Brent or any other tenured professor here at JCU, my abilities to learn these skills declines. Does wrongfully terminating loved, incredible professors make a university better? Second, the University wants to talk about its Jesuit mission for the students and the community. Explain, again, how firing beloved professors without cause (i.e. their having done something wrong) benefits the student experience or the betterment of the overall community? Finally, the above quotation begins with “The Board believes…” which is interesting because, as we have learned in classes from tenured professors, you need to substantiate your thoughts with evidence. Simply saying you believe something does not make it true. 

John Carroll University Board of Directors, back up for a second. Take a walk in the shoes of yourselves as students in college, and  think back to your favorite professors. Now, take that situation and transplant it one year into a pandemic. Considering everything the students, faculty and staff have lost, we cannot afford to lose our professors, no matter the financial cost. 

It’s evident that this boils down, ultimately, to money. The Board has said so. They should be transparent with the projected savings, and we’ll find a way to come up with the money. An outpouring of support from current students, parents and alumni might help prevent shattering the professor’s tenure credibility, but we need to have the chance to respond. Publish the amount of money you need. Put yourselves in the shoes of a student who fears losing their favorite professor or a professor who fears losing their job. Think about other options; be upfront with everyone and reconsider this decision.