10.30 tenure flap at Minnesota continues

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Thu, 16 May 1996 18:42:09 -0400 (EDT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 10, No. 30.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: Tzvee Zahavyy <zahavy@andromeda.rutgers.edu>
From: Tom Walsh <ufa@mnhepo.hep.umn.edu> (92)
Subject: Star Tribune Guest Editorial

Star Tribune, May 12, 1996, p. A27

Killing tenure would be foolish

Regent's plan sure to further damage U

By Fennell Evans and Ellen Berscheid

The University of Minnesota's Board of Regents is trying to change its
employment contracts with the faculty. If it succeeds, it will do
irreparable damage to the university, the state's economy, and the

Regent Jean Keffeler claims that a change in faculty contracts to allow
the dismissal of tenured faculty is necessary to give the regents greater
"economic flexibility" and greater freedom to "shape" the university.

The regents seem to view the university as a has-been and also-ran in the
national sweepstakes the states are running to improve their research
universities to fuel their economies.

The attack on faculty already is "shaping" the university. Many first rate
scholars have resigned, others are seeking employment elsewhere, and
searches for new faculty are discovering that top scholars from other
institutions are now reluctant to consider the University of Minnesota.
The brain drain is a direct result of the regents' view of faculty as a
financial liability-not as the economic asset most national universities
believe their faculties to be.

Repeated requests for detailed financial information supporting the
regents' economic logic have been met with the glib statement that because
personnel account for 80 percent of the university's budget, changing the
standard faculty contract will help solve the university's financial

It is true that 80 percent of the university's budget involves personnel.
But only 11 percent of personnel are faculty. Faculty not only have become
few in number compared to other personnel, the faculty is significantly
smaller than the faculties of comparable universities.

Faculty compensation thus accounts for a relatively small portion of the
university's budget. In 1994-95, the university's total budget was $1.6
billion. Total faculty compensation was $271 million, of which only $191
million came from state appropriations--the remainder was raised by the
faculty themselves from research and other activities, a leveraging of
faculty salaries typical of research universities. In sum, state-supported
faculty compensation constitutes only 12 percent--not 80 percent--of the
university's budget.

In return for an investment of $191 million in their salaries, the faculty
raised $350 million in external research funds alone. This money generated
10,000 Minnesota jobs and supported the university's graduate programs and
other activities. It is also the faculty, of course, who bring in the
lion's share of the tuition revenue and on whom the academic reputation of
the university depends.

This is why other national universities regard their faculties as
revenue-generating engines. And it is just one reason why they make the
retention and recruitment of top faculty their highest priority.

The regents' careless disregard for the role of faculty in the financial
survival of a national university is not only reflected in their effort to
weaken tenure, but also in compensation policies that have ranked
University of Minnesota faculty near the bottom of the national
universities for many years.

This year is typical. Community college and state university faculty are
scheduled to receive a 4 percent salary increase. University civil service
and other bargaining unit personnel (not Twin Cities faculty) will receive
a 4.5 percent increase, resulting in a $17 million increased budgetary
burden. Only a 2 percent increase has been proposed for University of
Minnesota faculty, increasing the state's contribution to faculty salaries
by $3.6 million. Contrast that $3.6 million to the $17 million for other
personnel and to the $59 million the university spent last year on outside
"consultants," including platoons of lawyers.

Tougher to keep top faculty

Meanwhile, the university's trajectory of decline in academic reputation
has made it increasingly difficult to attract and retain top faculty.

In 1975, the university was ranked 12th nationally as an academic
institution. It had fallen to 16th by 1985, and, in 1995, careful analysis
revealed that it had slipped into the third tier, to a rank of 21.

Competitors such as the University of California at Berkeley and the
University of Wisconsin are sending resolutions of support for Minnesota
faculty on the one hand while raiding Minnesota's faculty on the other.
These universities have resisted tampering with freedom of inquiry. And
they have read the forecasts showing that over the next 10 years, large
numbers of faculty at all universities will retire and the fierce
competition to attract top faculty will escalate.

In the name of economizing, Keffeler and the regents' personnel
sub-committee have lit a match to the already flammable faculty tinderbox.
It has started the entire Board of Regents on a dangerous experiment to
see whether a state that increasingly depends on high-technology
manufacturing, value-added services and a highly educated work force can
continue to prosper in the absence of a major national university. And it
is inflicting another crippling blow to a once great university in its
long and losing struggle against mediocrity and national oblivion.

We appeal to the university's Alumni Association to rise once again to the
defense of the university's future. We also appeal to the Legislature, the
guardian of the state's almost 150 years of investment in the university,
to protect that investment. And we appeal to the regents who have not yet
formed an opinion to consider carefully the faculty's role in the
financial dynamics of the university as well as the impact that a further
decline in the university will have on the future of the state

Fennell Evans is director of the University of Minnesota's Center for
Interfacial Engineering.
Ellen Berscheid is regents' professor ofpsychology in the university's
College of Liberal Arts.