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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

St. Joe’s AAUP chapter advocates for USciences tenure-track faculty

USciences campus early last semester. PHOTO: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK

Tenure-track faculty at the University of the Sciences are at risk of not having their positions renewed once the institution merges with St. Joe’s, according to a Feb. 17 letter from members of the St. Joe’s Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). 

The letter, which was sent to University President Mark C. Reed, Ed.D., urges the administration “to continue the contracts of all pre-tenure faculty until they can go through the St. Joe’s tenure process at the appropriate time.” 

Amy Lipton, Ph.D., professor of finance and president of Faculty Senate, said the university has communicated information about faculty positions and the merger through town hall meetings and conversations with Lipton herself in her position as Faculty Senate president. 

“Our impression is that it’ll [position of tenure-track faculty] be decided on more of an ‘as needed’ basis,” Lipton said. “Faculty members who have tenure will be coming over and the ones that are tenure track, it’ll be determined by what the needs are in each program.”

Peter Graham, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry and St. Joe’s AAUP president, said the AAUP became aware of this possibility through a variety of different channels, so it was a natural next step to bring the issue to the administration through a letter.

“We became aware of that pretty recently, and we wanted to write a letter saying that those folks should be retained based on professional standards, that tenure track faculty should go through the tenure process,” Graham said. “Even if there is a merger, that shouldn’t change the process.”

The AAUP copied Cheryl McConnell Ph.D., provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, on the letter. The Hawk reached out to McConnell for comment. 

“The University received the letter, and will respond to the appropriate parties as necessary,” wrote Gabrielle Lacherza, associate director of public relations, in response.

 According to the St. Joe’s faculty handbook, “Tenure is the permanent and continuous employment of a faculty member until he/she voluntarily retires.” Tenure-track faculty have not yet received tenure but are in the process of working toward the qualifications that would make them eligible. 

The AAUP’s letter highlights the four main reasons a tenure-track faculty member can currently have their appointment terminated: tenure failure, cause (incompetence, moral turpitude, etc.), program discontinuation and financial exigency. 

Graham said a merger does not mean the university should stop adhering to these principles which have always governed faculty members’ careers. 

“As far as we’re concerned, in June, we’ll all be one faculty,” Graham said. “And so we think that we should be treated in a similar way, and they should be treated fairly as we would expect to be treated.”

Ann Green, Ph.D., professor of English and Dirk Warren ’50 Sesquicentennial Faculty Chair, signed onto the Feb. 17 letter. Green, who is former president of St. Joe’s AAUP chapter, said she understands this letter to be important because tenure upholds a university community that supports academic freedom and healthy intellectual debate. 

“Teaching without the protections of tenure means no job continuity,” Green said. “It dampens the ability to produce scholarship and to teach well, and tenure stream faculty are crucial to the institution’s intellectual mission. So if you’re going to eliminate some tenure stream faculty, it affects all tenure stream faculty. It has a dampening effect on morale for all faculty.”

Green also said because USciences professors were hired under the pretense that they would be able to come up for tenure in a way that adheres to best practices, it’s crucial for St. Joe’s to live up to those best practices as the university navigates the merger. 

“Mergers are complicated, but we have to be aware that the faculty are the heart of the university,” Green said. “Now, we have more faculty which we need to respect and acknowledge in terms of contributions to the institution.”

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