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Can a Tenured Professor or Faculty be Fired or Furloughed?

Can tenured profs be fired

The global economy has numerous labor alternatives that make people always go for jobs that could be tenuous. One of them is tenured positions in the faculty. In schools, a number of instructors do enjoy job security, but questions arise whether a tenured professor can be fired or furloughed.

Security of tenure is a guarantee that the employer cannot fire the office-holder except due to exceptional and specified circumstances.

Therefore, a tenured professor is the most coveted position since one can achieve career goals making him relax and do the best. The institution will get the best out of them since they do not fear for loss of their jobs and perform to their best.

A tenured professor can be fired if he contravenes the terms of his employment contract or commits serious offenses that go against the university. While such a professor enjoys security of tenure, he or she is not exempted from the basic responsibilities or indispensable of the consequences that arise from professional misconduct.

More importantly, by offering job security to your employees, you will be saving an institution’s reputation. In the process, you will be keeping the top talents while attracting the best in your institution.

Still, many institutions prefer to provide a tenured position to their employees to avoid spending heaps of cash on recruitment.

For instance, it is possible to spend more than 28 weeks foe one to reach the required standards after recruitment which is also time wasting.

The purpose of this piece is to expand your understanding on the privileges and consequences of having a tenured professor in the institution. Let’s dig in:

What does it mean to be a tenured professor?

A tenured professor is an employment status within higher institutions where the professor enjoys job security, which is rather called security of tenure. The institutions can only terminate such a person for justifiable cause. It may be through extreme circumstances like severe financial constraints or discontinuation of the program.

It is always a great honor to land such a status in any institution of higher learning. Many professors are striving to get that honor and concentrate on research and maximize their potential.

That is because they can now exercise their academic freedom of both researching and publications. Again, the professor has an assurance of adequate economic security.

Owning a tenured position is a guarantee of permanent employment. In other interpretation, it is more than permanent employment. Most times, one teaches fewer courses and has adequate time to spend on research.

becoming a tenured professor

So, do all professors have tenure? No. It is a privilege that occasionally occurs for successful candidates in any given faculty.

The institution can only fire a tenured professor on specific circumstances.  Such may include the following reasons:

  • Immoral conduct
  • Incompetence
  • Negligence
  • Violation of institution’s policies

The legal process of terminating a professor’s job

The tenured position does not guarantee the legal immunity of the side of the beneficiary. Furthermore, it does not diminish the individual not to meet the expected duties and responsibilities.

As a tenured professor, the employer expects you to exercise academic freedom that is consistent with the job obligations.

Suppose the school has sufficient evidence to believe the professor is violating the agreement, then it can invoke a disciplinary measure per the terms of the agreement.

If the university proves non-performance of that a professor is bad at teaching, it can take disciplinary measures. Some of the disciplinary measures include:
  • A warning or reprimanding letter
  • Suspensions with pay
  • Suspension without pay
  • Dismissal for a just cause

The termination process begins with the institution writing the letter to the affected tenured professor to attend the hearing.

Administrators and scholars in that institution may also receive a letter to attend and participate in that hearing.

Suppose the tenured professor receives a termination letter on grounds not related to moral turpitude; the victim will receive the wages for one year since the day of notice.

If the institution fails to provide enough grounds for dismissal, they have no option other than reinstating the professor.

On a sad note, if the processor is guilty of the offences raised, then termination is inevitable.

A Case involving firing a Tenured Professor

In May 2019, Linfield University fired one of its renowned tenured professors who believed the University was guilty of sexual misconduct and racism.

It was a shocking revelation among the academic staff who thought the trend must end and make the institution credible.

A former professor in the same institution received the news with disbelieve. He termed the move as a blow to the students and the college since he preferred the University to be a safer and friendlier environment to everyone. 

After social posts by the fired professor, the Oregon Board of Rabbis and faculty members expressed disappointment and outrage in university leadership. Another Jewish professor echoed the racism trend saying he was once a victim of such sentiments when he was teaching in the same University.

An independent investigator could not substantiate racist statements since the accuser lacked enough evidence. Following the professor’s firing, the Pacific Northwest chapter began to pressure the University President Miles Davis to resign.

The pressure group did not believe in the circumstances that caused the termination of Professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzer.

Was it right or not

The President did not act right by firing a professor who only raised concerns about anti-Semitism in the University. After the university administration fired the professor, it shut down the faculty email list and issued a public statement within an hour.

The administration stood its ground that the fired professor was propagating false and defamatory statements, and did not change its stance.

The petitioners stated that Professor Pollack-Pelzner was only reacting and not causing troubles at Linfield University. The following day, more than 550 professors, community members and students had signed the petition.

Linfield’s faculty handbook has its provisions. Among its demands is that before firing a tenured professor, you must serve the professor with a statement of charges and hearing changes. Furthermore, the institution must produce clear and convincing evidence towards the accused. 

The petitioners said that the administration did not subject the fired professor to due process. They believed it was only a conflict of interest that led to mistrust.

Can a tenured faculty be furloughed?

A tenured faculty can be furloughed if the university is facing serious financial hardship, and a furlough is the only option. This is because a furlough involves an unpaid leave of absence while the affected employees retains their jobs. The idea is that the affected staff in this temporal employment will still get their jobs back.

One should not confuse furlough as a lay off since there is no permanent termination of one’s employment, including benefits and salaries.

When an institution falls into temporal economic pressure, it may force them to reduce their payroll. For that matter, furloughing can be an option.

Tenured professor be furloughed

Although one does not get the salary during this period, the affected persons will still get the benefits.

Some of them may include health and retirement benefits.

Depending on your state’s labor laws, the affected person can still apply for unemployment and get the benefits.

However, the case differs from nation to nation since others do not guarantee unemployment benefits to your expectation.

How long can one remain in a furlough state? Well, there is no straight answer to that. It all depends on the local jurisdiction and the regulations of the institution.

Typically, we view furloughs as short-term arrangements. The furlong may hold until the institution becomes stable, according to projections.

Final Word

A tenured professor has great privileges to enjoy and allow him or her to excising academic freedom. Such positions also allow the professor to draw career and economic plans predictably.

However, if the tenured professor abuses the opportunity by various means, it may lead to termination of the contract. Before an institution fires a tenured professor, it should have sufficient grounds to prove that the victim is guilty.

The best practice is to operate within the terms and tap what you may be targeting. The institutions offer such positions to some dons to motivate them to work and improve on their performance.