Attacked: tenure and academic freedom

Source of the photograph: McAnt – CC BY-SA 3.0

Indiana University President Pamela Whitten responded with confusion when asked on a Bloomington, Ind., state media outlet. radio program if she was brought to the Big 10 school to eliminate tenure.

“Oh my God,” she said laughing. “Where does this come from?”

UI first female president reacted similarly when the questioner refined her query to focus specifically on her three-year term as president of Kennesaw State University in Georgia from 2018-2021.

“I really don’t have a clue,” she said. “I will say that there have been discussions in the Georgia State Legislature about this. … So maybe they are confusing the conversation that took place in the general assembly of the state of Georgia.

Whitten reassured those concerned about the fate of the warrant at IU.

“It was never a problem at the University of Georgia, Kennesaw State or Michigan State, the schools I worked at,” she said. “And certainly, that’s not a problem here. I will say, publicly, ‘I have no, no intention or interest in pursuing this.’


Whitten’s tenure pledge, however, has strained the credulity of some in the IU community.

Ten months before Pamela Whitten arrived in Bloomington, the University System of Georgia (USG), which includes Kennesaw State, launched a contentious process that ultimately made the state system the first in the nation to dump the process of tenure.

Kathy Schwaig, who was vice president of KSU and senior vice president of academic affairs under Whitten, chaired the Post-Employment Review Working Group tasked with recommending updates to the board’s 24-year-old tenure policy “to ensure that all faculty remain productive throughout their careers,” Insider Advantage reported.

The group’s recommendations, that the New York Times called “a direct challenge to the sacred tradition of tenure”, were adopted by the USG Board of Regents in October 2021.

Two months later, the American Association of University Teachers (AAUP) released an update on the matter titled Georgia’s university system eviscerates tenure.

“In an unprecedented action, the University System of Georgia Board of Trustees voted in October to adopt changes to its post-appointment review policy that allow tenured faculty to be terminated without a termination hearing,” the statement said. ‘AAUP.


In October 2021, the AAUP published a report entitled “Academic Freedom and Tenure: University System of Georgiawhich accused the new policy of having effectively “abolished” tenure in the state’s public colleges and universities.

“This would allow any USG institution to terminate tenured faculty for ‘failing to address deficiencies identified by post-tenure evaluation without allowing for a hearing before a faculty,'” the report begins.

AAUP President Irene Mulvey called the board’s action “an attack on tenure and academic freedom.”

The report also alleged “gross violations of AAUP university governance standards,” saying USG faculty should have played a primary role in crafting any changes.

“Instead, the USG administration and board initiated, pushed, and imposed a new faculty evaluation policy without meaningfully involving faculty and despite strong objections from governing bodies. critical governance of the faculties of the system.”

In March, the AAUP board of directors voted to censure the USG.

Thanks to their unilateral actions, Mulvey said in a March 7 article in Inside Higher Educationthe regents told the university community that they did not consider academic freedom important to public higher education.

“The removal of academic freedom protections will have a devastating effect on the quality of education in the USG system, as well as on the recruitment and retention of faculty and students,” she said.

The organization called on USG Regents to reverse the changes “so that essential academic freedom is protected.”


During their freshman year at IU, Whitten and IU Provost Rahul Shrivastav, who followed her from Georgia, encountered unrest and unrest on campus not seen since the 1960s and 70s anti -war, when Bloomington was known as the “Berkeley of the Midwest”.

In December 2021, five months after her arrival, the Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition handed over 1,584 union cards to the administration, requesting recognition as a unit of the United Electrical Workers.

The coalition represents graduate students – associate instructors, research assistants, graduate assistants and faculty assistants – who teach about a third of UI’s undergraduate courses, the vast majority in many departments.

The coalition went on strike in April for the last four weeks of the spring semester after its demands for union recognition and higher pay were ignored.

On May 24, the IU faculty council voted 1,404 to 509 to approve the unionization effort and asked the IU board to intervene in the negotiations.

A week to the day later, in a letter republished by The Bloomingtonianadministrators have rejected the board’s demands and threatened tenured professors who support the strikers.

“Any member of the community – whether a staff member, tenured professor or associate instructor – who fails to meet their responsibilities in this regard will face the consequences,” the authors wrote. administrators.

In a coalition press release also published by The BloomingtonianPhD student Sam Smucker called the decision a complete rejection of the shared governance system.

“The faculty have spoken,” he said. “The board is not listening. …Right now, we have no way of communicating with the IU board or administration except through the strike.


In May, Shrivastav formed a task force to address graduate student concerns. Three months later, he and Whitten approved changes that increased their minimum stipends by 46% and waived university and program-specific fees, The Herald Times reported August 3.

And for doing such a good job in his first year, the directors gave Whitten a Premium of $162,500, on top of his starting salary of $650,000. According to IU Salary Databasehis predecessor Michael McRobbie received $649,444.

IU staunchly refused to recognize the union and installed a security gate at Bryan House, Whitten’s historic 1924 home in the center of campus.

The coalition of graduate workers plans a Vote of September 25 on the resumption of the strikeciting future increases, protections for international students and the elimination of all fees as outstanding issues.

“Recognizing the union and engaging in an appropriate bargaining process would be the least painful way to achieve these goals,” doctoral student Jeff Moscaritolo wrote in an Aug. 25 op-ed in The Herald Times. “In the meantime, these overpaid IU administrators have made one thing clear: Until they recognize our union, strike action remains the only way to get results.”

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