Our View: Cutting tenured professors is bad for everyone


The Simpsonian learned over the holiday break that Simpson College violated national standards regarding the elimination of tenured faculty when the college moved to fire Kim Roberts, associate professor of music, and Mark Green, professor of management and marketing.

Since the circumstances of their elimination did not abide by guidelines set forth by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the AAUP urged the college to rescind its decision to fire Roberts and Green last spring. As far as we know, only Green has retained his position.

This news is troubling for a number of reasons, but perhaps the main one is that the college is attempting to do it again despite the criticism it received from the AAUP.

President Jay Simmons announced in October the layoffs of 13 more professors, including several who have achieved tenured positions. The layoffs would also mean the end of the Art, French, German and Clinical Health Science departments.

While only one of these eliminations, that of history professor Judy Walden, would technically violate AAUP standards regarding tenure, it is nonetheless disturbing that the college shows so little regard for professors who have tenure.

These are the professors who have the most experience teaching in their field and therefore have proven themselves as adept educators.

Noted higher education futurist, Bryan Alexander, often compares the elimination of tenured faculty to sacrificing the queen in a game of chess in order to eventually win the game.

“In the analogy,” Alexander wrote on his website, “tenure-track faculty are a college or university’s queens, having some governance role, a long term role in teaching and service, and (potentially) more job security than anyone else. They are, at least in theory, the most powerful ‘pieces’ on higher education’s chessboard. In 2018 we are now accustomed to their sacrifice.”

While college does need to make tough financial decisions to ensure its long-term viability as an institution of higher learning, the move to cast aside multiple tenured professors will have lasting negative impacts besides the college losing its most valuable educators.

First, this move shows the college cares little for the individual value of each of its most experienced professors; instead of seeing them as assets, the college sees these professors as expenses.

The college apparently would sacrifice these experienced educators—who have dedicated themselves to this institution for years—rather than pursue other avenues for financial relief.

Furthermore, if the college is willing to ignore tenured status of professors when it decides who to eliminate, what will this mean for non-tenured professors? One of the major benefits of achieving tenure is that it affords an added layer of job security.

But if the college decides tenured appointments are just too expensive, perhaps fewer professors at Simpson will even bother pursuing tenure or else seek it at a different institution.

The college can still choose to reconsider its decision to lay off the tenured appointments announced in October. The board of trustee’s Learning Resources Committee will have the final say over the matter in a vote later this spring.

However, if the board chooses to go ahead with the cuts, the college’s trouble with the AAUP—not to mention students, faculty and alumni—may only worsen.

The successful turnout for the student protest last fall in the Kent Campus Center shows that Simpson students are not blind to the college’s faculty reductions, nor are they indifferent to them.

Because in the end, students are also directly impacted by these reductions, since it is students who benefit most from the knowledge and experience of tenured educators.