Yet Another Assualt on Tenure by the NMHU Administration

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Yet Another Assualt on Tenure by the NMHU Administration 

By Dr. Kathy Jenkins, President of the NMHU Facutly & Staff Association

New Mexico Highlands University: A Case of Denial of Tenure

The NMHU Administration has a long and storied history of assaulting the rights of tenured faculty at our institution.  A simple search of NMHU and AAUP reveals two disturbing assaults on tenure from previous administrations.   Both of these cases received national attention and the most serious one, during the reign of President Manny Aragon resulted in censorship from AAUP for attacks on tenure and academic freedom.  At this time, the university denied tenure to four out of the seven faculty members under evaluation, even though their peers and chair supported them.   It was probably not a coincidence that all four denied members were young, White males and that the university’s strategic plan indicated a push to change the demographic make-up of the faculty.   At the time, twenty-two tenured faculty members publically complained and sent a letter to the university’s accrediting agency and to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).  Subsequently, the AAUP launched an investigation against the university that resulted in Censorship (link to AAUP website included on disc).  The faculty raised important issues related to the appropriate role of faculty in the governance of the institution, including oversight of curriculum, academic policies and procedures, faculty personnel decisions, searches for deans, and the appointments of interim positions.  An important point raised by the faculty at the time is still appropriate today:

“The ability of the faculty to participate as a strong, effective, and collaborative voice in university governance is being systematically eroded.”

Also noted in the letter was the acknowledgement of an atmosphere of “fear, hostility, and intimidation.”  It is noteworthy that these are the same words that our NMHU staff exclaimed these past two years, as we organized them into our new bargaining units.

So, it is no surprise that once again we are facing an attack on tenure.  In the spring of 2016, Dr. Lora Bailey was hired as the new Dean of the School of Education.  Upon hire, Dr. Bailey was granted tenure.  This is a normal procedure that many universities use to help attract more successful candidates, especially when their salaries are so low compared to national averages.  When an administrator is granted tenure upon hire, upon termination of their administrative job, they automatically join the ranks of the tenured faculty in their discipline.  Not all administrators are hired with tenure, so not all administrators have the right to join the faculty upon termination.  This means that as a tenured faculty member, when they are no longer an administrator, they are granted the protections of our CBA.

In the case of Dr. Bailey, President Minner notified me of her administrative dismissal on the day that it occurred, and informed me that she was now a member of our collective bargaining unit, as she was tenured.  However, in the next few weeks, Dr. Bailey’s tenure was terminated without using the procedural steps in Article 28 of our CBA.  In fact, she was not even allowed to file a grievance at the university.  She was fired and completely cut off from all university due process, even though she was tenured.

In response to this outright assault on tenure, the NMHU Faculty Association filed a Prohibited Practice Complaint (PPC) with the Local Labor Board, for significant violation of our CBA and the Public Employees Bargaining Act (PEBA).  We cannot allow the administration to attack, yet again the rights of tenured faculty at our university.   An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.  The hearing for this PPC is scheduled before the Local Labor Board on August 2nd, 2017.  I hope you will join me in standing up to this.