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AAUP Urges Reversal of Summary Dismissals at Emporia State University

On September 29, the AAUP wrote the chair of the Kansas board of regents and the president of Emporia State University regarding the cases of nine Emporia State professors, eight of whom are tenured, who on September 15 received notice of termination effective at the end of the academic year. According to media reports, an additional twenty-four faculty members may have received similar notice. The staff’s letter urges the ESU administration to rescind the notices immediately.

The ESU administration sent the termination notices the day after the university’s president solicited and received board approval for an ESU “Framework for Workforce Management.” Under the Framework, existing university regulations governing termination of appointments because of financial exigency are suspended until the end of the year to address “extreme financial pressures.” The Framework implements a policy the board adopted in January 2021 and offered to all six universities in the system to address financial and enrollment pressures induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Emporia State’s president was the only chief executive officer to accept the board’s offer. 

The AAUP letter points out that the terminations were effected without a declaration of financial exigency, without any meaningful faculty participation, and without affording the affected faculty members academic due process, as AAUP-recommended standards require. As a result, the letter states, the Association regards the process by which the termination decisions were reached to be “illegitimate and the terminations themselves to be summary dismissals” in violation of widely accepted principles of academic freedom and tenure. 

The AAUP letter registers “intensified” concern regarding allegations that the administration, in deciding whose appointments to terminate, may have selected faculty members who had been publicly critical of the board and administration. In an article objecting to the proposed Framework the day before it was adopted, one such faculty member wrote, “I may be fired for writing this.” 

The letter concludes, “It is difficult not to construe what has happened at Emporia State as a direct assault on tenure and academic freedom, with grave implications for tenure and academic freedom, not only at Emporia State but throughout the Kansas system of public higher education.”

Publication Date: 
Friday, September 30, 2022