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Otterbein announces layoffs of two tenured faculty

The Faculty Assembly say that the decision to replace full-time faculty with part-time is a violation of the faculty manual

Two tenured Otterbein faculty members will be laid off after the 21-22 academic year, a move that faculty leaders say is a violation of tenure.

President John Comerford said in a March 9 email that two tenured faculty positions would be eliminated after the 21-22 academic year. 

Physics professor Nathaniel Tagg had tweeted before Comerford’s letter was released that he was one of the professors laid off. 

When a faculty member receives tenure, that comes with a certain level of job security. “Tenure is a commitment that the institution makes to a faculty member, and also that a faculty member makes to an institution,” said Meredith Frey, a professor of psychology and the chair of the Faculty Assembly Executive Board.

It is in the faculty manual that if a position is eliminated based on program discontinuance, tenured professors cannot be replaced for a minimum of three years. However, according to Comerford, a tenured position can be replaced by a part-time faculty member due to program discontinuance. 

The Faculty Assembly also passed a resolution that states it is a violation of the faculty manual to both fire tenured faculty and to replace the courses they would teach with part-time faculty.

That resolution will be presented at the University Senate meeting on Wednesday, March 17 at 4 p.m.

Otterbein isn’t the only institution having to go through this. John Carroll University is also laying off tenured faculty, despite protest from the university’s chapter of American Association of University Professors (AAUP), with support from the national AAUP chapter.  

The Faculty Assembly asked the AAUP to review the program discontinuance portion of the faculty manual, specifically as it relates to the layoffs of tenured faculty. 

AAUP recommended that the conditions for when to dismiss a tenured faculty member are too broad, and that the conditions for the appeal of a decision like this are too narrow. AAUP also recommended that the transfer of faculty should take place before the discontinuance process, whereas Otterbein’s currently takes place after the discontinuance process. 

“Our next step now as an assembly is to resolve that logical inconsistency,” said Frey.

The Otterbein faculty manual was last revised and approved by the Faculty Assembly on May 1, 2020 and was approved by the Otterbein Board of Trustees on May 8, 2020.

Story was updated March 11, 2020 to reflect exact date of faculty manual approval.

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