Academic Freedom and Tenure: State University of New York

Published in the August 1977 issue of Academe.

The retrenchments at the State University of New York in 1975 and 1976 were initiated by the University administration without appropriate consultation with the faculty and without any showing of a financial exigency which actually threatened the continuance of the University. They were overseen by the administration with disregard for the rights of tenure, for due
notice, and for the role of the faculty in institutional government.

The actions of the administration (both the central administration and that of campuses cited) in effecting the successive budget cuts have produced a climate in which academic freedom is gravely endangered. A primary purpose of tenure is to protect the faculty's right of dissent, including the right to oppose the administration on issues important to the faculty. Under the circumstances that now prevail, no faculty member can be certain of his position, for it is possible for the administration—under the recently negotiated Agreement as well as under the old—to so define a "program" that a particular individual can be targeted for retrenchment. In situations where tenure has not been honored, where faculty participation has been thwarted, and where administrative prerogatives have been graphically invoked, few will venture openly to disagree with administrative decisions  In such an atmosphere, learning and the transmission of knowledge cannot be expected to flourish.