Academic freedom and tenure are of fundamental importance, indeed the basis upon which America has achieved pre-eminence in higher education. Without its protections, faculty are at constant risk of arbitrary termination, with chilling and destructive effects on their ability to conduct groundbreaking research and provide state-of-the-art teaching. To enable termination of the appointments even of leading faculty members at any time and for any reason would inhibit the free flow of ideas, the building of stable departments, and the continuity necessary to conduct quality research and effectively teach students. The result for the university would surely be difficulty in attracting and retaining talented faculty, in securing research funding, in assuring current and potential students of a high-quality education with teachers and mentors who can be counted on to be there when they need them, and in living up to the expectations of our broader society, not least the citizens of Kansas. Academic freedom and tenure should be a line that no institution should be tempted to cross on any grounds short of actual exigency. Furthermore, members of the faculty accepted their positions in reliance on the existing policy, which was that in place at other institutions; this change is deeply unfair to them. Of course, the pandemic has caused financial crises in higher education, but that is why the policy allows for the declaration of financial exigency.
We therefore urge and implore the Kansas Board of Regents to reconsider and abandon their policy decision to degrade the bedrock principles of academic freedom and tenure, and we encourage other institutions and associations of higher education to maintain support of these principles.
Approved by the SCS Board of Directors, 01/28/2021