Survey: Georgia professors upset with tenure changes

Professors from the university system protested outside the Board of Regents meeting before members voted on the tenure changes. (Dr. Jennifer Morgan Flory)

A new survey of professors at Georgia’s public colleges and universities shows most respondents are unhappy with recent changes to the tenure process.

UNG professor Matthew Boedy is the president of the Georgia conference of the American Association of University Professors, which conducted the survey. He says 972 faculty members responded from all 26 University System of Georgia (USG) schools. USG data show it employs more than 11,700 full-time faculty members. Sixty-nine percent of those who responded have tenure.

Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed said it would affect whether they want to remain as faculty in the system. Some said they’d already started searching for new jobs.

“I think that that shows many, many people are thinking about [leaving],” Boedy says. “They might not all do it; they might not all find jobs. But yes, if you’re even thinking about [leaving] shows the impact of these tenure changes.”

The results also showed about 70% of respondents said the tenure changes would negatively affect their recommendation to a graduate student or faculty in another state seeking employment in Georgia’s university system.

About 30% said they knew of direct effects from the tenure changes on faculty searches at their university.

The AAUP censured the university system in March because of the changes, specifically one that eliminated dismissal hearings for tenured professors. Ninety-three percent of survey respondents agreed with the AAUP’s definition of tenure, which includes the right to a dismissal hearing. Boedy says restoring that protection would be enough to end the censure.

“It is a simple fix, putting back this right to a termination hearing,” he says. “It’s a massive problem, but it has an easy solution.”

USG issued the following statement about changes to the tenure process:

The University System of Georgia (USG)’s public colleges and universities have worked with faculty to develop strong institutional post-tenure, annual evaluation and student success policies. Their efforts strengthen tenure by allowing tenured faculty to be held accountable by their peers for at least maintaining, if not exceeding, the standards of a tenured faculty member.

A vast majority of faculty who have been awarded tenure continue to perform at a high level, and these revised policies also require institutions to reward faculty who demonstrate excellence in their post-tenure review. Additionally, the new policies continue to provide due process for faculty over multiple years in faculty-driven procedures. USG encourages a thorough reading of the updated Board of Regents policy about post-tenure review, which can be found here:

Board of Regents policy requires that “as public institutions of higher education, USG institutions must promote open ideas and academic freedom on their campuses.” That fact remains, and USG will investigate to the fullest any allegations that academic freedom has been eroded.