Senate committee holds emergency meeting over letters of termination to instructors

A student walks in front of Cherry Hall on Feb. 22.

Emily DeLetter

The University Senate Executive Committee (SEC) wrote a resolution during an emergency meeting Thursday to address a policy concerning non-tenure eligible faculty.

WKU Academic Affairs Policy 1.2000 requires the university to notify full-time, non-tenure eligible faculty by Dec. 15 if they will not be hired for the following academic year.  

The emergency meeting, which lasted for nearly three hours, followed an announcement by Provost Terry Ballman earlier this week in an SEC meeting that such letters “would go to all full-time, non-tenure eligible faculty, with the caveat that most of these faculty colleagues would be receiving in the Spring individual letters of rehire (at the same rank and salary) after careful analysis was conducted,” according to an email she sent to faculty on Wednesday.

Ballman said in the email that no letters would be distributed to non-tenured faculty by Dec. 15 this year, as there had not been enough time to have a thorough analysis and make careful decisions. 

The SEC chose to address the WKU administration in a “simple but strong” resolution.

Spanish Instructor Susann Davis said the problem she and other instructors were having was not with their contracts as instructors, which are renewed annually.

“The problem is a lack of transparency with the true financial situation of the institution,” Davis said. “The problem is the administration makes decisions based on questionable data. The problem is that policies that protect faculty are now subject to suspension when they are no longer convenient.”

Davis said she was told on Monday that 153 instructors would be terminated to “protect” the university.

“Did the university realize that 153 instructors wouldn’t wait around to be rehired?” she said, referring to the original idea that instructors would be terminated and potentially rehired once the Comprehensive Academic Program Evaluation (CAPE) was finished.

Geology Instructor Margaret Crowder said that academics have waited to be prioritized by the university “year after year.”

“We’ve been giving up our position in the budget year after year…how can you expect to continue to grow programs when you don’t have enough faculty to be able to grow those programs and teach the classes you need,” Crowder said. “This is the time, if ever there was a time, to draw a line in the sand and say no. That means that we require that [WKU] put athletics on the table.”

SGA President Stephen Mayer said in order for WKU to prioritize admissions and retention, they must also prioritize academics.

A draft of the resolution created by the SEC states WKU’s proposal to “both change and violate the spirit of an employment protection policy for faculty in the middle of the academic year was an egregious action by the university’s administration that has rightfully resulted in frustration and erosion of trust in the administration amongst all faculty.”

The SEC voted in favor of adopting the resolution, which will appear at the next University Senate meeting Dec. 13.

Reporter Emily DeLetter can be reached at 270-745-6011 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @emilydeletter.