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The University Wave of Firings: A Crisis at the University of Arkansas System and Its Medical School
From:
Gini Graham Scott, Ph.D., J.D. -- Author of Fifty Books Gini Graham Scott, Ph.D., J.D. -- Author of Fifty Books
Lafayette, CA
Tuesday, March 6, 2018


University of Arkansas Campus
 

This is another article I wrote about the growing wave of firings of tenured professors that has become a national scandal due to budget cuts at universities around the country.  These firings are undermining our educational system, and may result in even more students not going to these schools, resulting in more budget cuts and firings.

 

 

The University Wave of Firings:

A Crisis at the University of Arkansas System and Its Medical School

 

By Gini Graham Scott, Ph.D., J.D.

Author of Scammed: Learn from the Biggest Consumer and Money Frauds and How Not to Be a Victim and Preventing Credit Card Fraud: A Complete Guide for Everyone from Merchants to Consumers

 

Previously I identified a national shame that's happening at universities all over the United States, where administrators are using budget cutbacks to slash programs and get rid of faculty. In this follow-up, I'll examine the situation at the University of Arkansas system, based on my discussions with several university professors who have been following this situation

Professors at several campuses of the University of Arkansas (UA) system, consisting of six universities and seven two-year colleges, are up in arms because of a new tenure policy the system's administration is trying to impose on its faculty. It began in 2015 when UA system lawyers began drawing up revisions to a long-standing tenure policy. They did so with no faculty input, and it remains unclear whether they did so solely at the behest of the UA System President, the UA Board of Trustees or others.

The UA Faculty only became aware of these revisions in mid-2017, and only at the Academic Senate of one UA institution, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Its Academic Senate Council was asked to provide feedback but to keep the draft document confidential and not show it to the rest of the faculty. Only in late October did the UAMS Academic Senate Council become aware that the UA system administration actually intended to ask the Board of Trustees to approve the document at an upcoming Board of Trustees meeting in November. The Academic Senate Council revolted and strongly condemned the document and the manner in which they had been used to keep it secret from the rest of the faculty. The document was circulated to the Academic Senates at other UA campuses, who similarly expressed profound disagreement with the proposed revisions, as well as with the approach used to create and keep the document secret.

As a consequence, the UA System administration postponed asking the Board of Trustees for approval[1] and met with the Presidents of most UA campus Academic Senates to negotiate a compromise. (The Board may also have been distracted by a pressing need at this time to fire the UA Fayetteville Athletic Director and its football coach.) Some of the more objectionable language regarding the cause for termination of the faculty was removed, but equally objectionable language was substituted and other statements about the ability to cut salaries remained. This second revision was only made available to faculty in mid-February with the intention of bringing it to the Board of Trustees for their approval at a meeting in late March.  

The situation is considered particularly grave at UAMS because administrative mismanagement during the tenure of its previous Chancellor caused the UAMS budget to run into the red, and it resulted in two-thirds of its financial reserves being squandered by the time of his departure. UAMS is the state's only medical school, and its budget dwarfs those of all other UA campuses because its hospital provides a huge clinical income. Nevertheless, its operating costs have recently exceeded that income, and an interim administration decreed a mass layoff of over 250 individuals, by far the largest in UAMS history. Morale has plummeted and the staff live in fear of a next layoff. The UAMS faculty not only fear another layoff, but all other measures its administration seeks to induce faculty to retire or resign. So far, these measures include forcing faculty to agree to reductions in their full-time status (and thus salary and retirement benefits) and the possible imposition of a new salary plan intended to justify further draconian salary cuts.  Also, they include the revised UA system-wide tenure document previously alluded to.

Paradoxically, these measures would result in an exodus of the best faculty, because these faculty members are the most competitive for positions elsewhere. As a result, these policy changes would lead to reducing the overall quality of medical services provided by UAMS, and the quality of teaching and research missions of the campus. These measures might resolve the budgetary problem on a short term basis, but they are already resulting in an exodus of the best faculty, not the worst. They are also seriously diminishing the institution's ability to recruit superior faculty in the future, thereby eroding the overall quality of the faculty, generating a very serious long-term liability.

As mentioned in my previous article, our institutions of higher learning, long considered the best in the world, are suffering financial crises, the solutions to which may erode their core mission. Additionally, our medical schools, also thought to be the world's finest, are facing a similar crisis, likely to grow even worse with the dismemberment of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. Will running universities and medical schools too much like businesses erode their educational mission and cause them to lose their souls? Stay tuned.

 

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Gini Graham Scott, Ph.D., J.D., is a writer and journalist, whose specialties include writing about social issues and consumer and business frauds. Her books in this area include: Scammed: Learn from the Biggest Consumer and Money Frauds and How Not to Be a Victim; Preventing Credit Card Fraud: A Complete Guide for Everyone from Merchants to Consumers; and Lies and Liars: How and Why Sociopaths Lie and How You Can Detect and Deal with Them. She has published over 200 books, over 50 of them with major publishers, including Random House and Simon and Shuster. She is also a frequent contributor to a variety of media outlets, including the Huffington Post. Her websites include www.changemakerspublishingandwriting.com and www.ginigrahamscott.com.

 

 

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