Suspending the Rules for Faculty Layoffs

Colleen Flaherty:

Giving just one day’s notice to the faculty governance chairs at its universities, the Kansas Board of Regents voted this week to allow for emergency employee terminations and suspensions. Tenured professors are no exception.

All nine voting regents approved the temporary policy, which takes effect immediately and expires at the end of 2022.

“In light of the extreme financial pressures placed on the state universities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, decreased program and university enrollment, and state fiscal issues,” any employee — including one with tenure — “may be suspended, dismissed, or terminated from employment by their respective university,” the policy says.

Previously, state institutions had to follow a specific process to declare financial exigency in order to shed tenured professors for budgetary reasons. This is consistent with norms established by the American Association of University Professors. Now through the end of next year, declaring exigency is not necessary. Universities only have to develop a policy framework for the board to approve. No existing campus policy hearing procedures need apply to these personnel decisions, either.

Kansas’s six state universities are reeling from a proposal by Governor Laura Kelly to slash state funding to higher education in 2022. The state universities face a 5.5 percent budget cut. This would be the most significant cut since 2009, Kansas State University president Richard Meyers wrote in a campus memo this week.