Report on the Evisceration of Tenure in Georgia

By Gregory F. Scholtz

In December the AAUP issued a report on the action taken this past October by the University System of Georgia (USG) board of regents to remove the due-process protections of tenure from the system’s post-tenure review policy.

The report, which was approved for publication by Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, reaches two major findings. First, in taking this action, the regents and the system administration “effectively abolished tenure in Georgia’s public colleges and universities” in “flagrant violation of the joint 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure.” The report underscores the magnitude and singularity of this attack on tenure and academic freedom, which affects more than 5,800 tenured faculty members in twenty-five colleges and universities and makes Georgia the only system of public higher education to remove tenure protections from its post-tenure review policy. As a result, the report states, the USG regents have “sharply differentiated the University System of Georgia from its peer institutions, but not in a manner likely to enhance its academic excellence, its reputation, or its competitive advantage.”

Second, the report finds that the process leading to this action, in which the faculty should have played a primary role, was unilaterally “initiated, pushed through, and imposed” by the USG administration and governing board in violation of the normative standards of shared governance set forth in the Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities.

In the USG administration’s written response to the draft report, which the AAUP’s staff had circulated to the principal parties for comment, Acting Chancellor Teresa MacCartney “wholly and strongly” disagreed with the report’s major finding that the board’s revisions to the post-tenure review policy “had effectively abolished tenure” in the USG, stating that system faculty will continue to hold tenure and that institutions would continue to award tenure. But she conceded that faculty members dismissed through post-tenure review would no longer have the right to a pretermination faculty hearing at which the administration must demonstrate adequacy of cause.

“In other words,” the report’s final footnote states, “the acting chancellor does not deny that the regents’ revisions to the post-tenure review policy removed what is widely understood as academic due process. However, tenure as defined in the AAUP-AAC&U 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure does not exist separately from the process that protects it. Only by disregarding the accepted definition of tenure can the acting chancellor . . . take the position that tenure in the University System of Georgia has survived the regents’ revisions to the post-tenure review policy. Absent academic due process, what has survived is tenure in name only.”

At its next meeting, Committee A will determine, based on the report’s findings, whether to recommend that the Association impose censure on the governing board and administration of the University System of Georgia. That recommendation will go to the AAUP’s governing Council for a final vote in March.