Florida House attacks college-teacher tenure, unless you’re the president

Tomorrow, the Florida House K-20 Competitiveness Subcommittee has on its agenda a newly-filed proposed committee bill that would eliminate tenure in the Florida College System. The Florida College System is the set of more than two dozen former community colleges that educate hundreds of thousands of Floridians every year. (California has a three-tier public higher-ed system; we have two tiers.) As is the case in many teaching institutions, there is tenure, and in about a third of the institutions faculty are unionized and represented by the same union I am a member of (the United Faculty of Florida). 

There are going to be similar constitutional questions raised about this bill as about the ability of Senate Bill 736 to eliminate continuing contracts when public employees are represented by unions. From recent history, we know that eliminating anything but one-year contracts is going to be problematic in terms of attracting faculty; Florida Gulf Coast University is the only member of the state university system in Florida that does not have a tenure system as such, and within a few years of its founding in the late 1990s, administrators were pleading with the central system leaders to let them offer rolling three-year contracts. Essentially, they had horrible retention when the faculty of the new university realized they had absolutely no job security. Today, faculty at FGCU do not have tenure, but they do have three year contracts that can remain perpetually in the first year of the three years if the faculty member's annual-review rating is high enough. A hinged or fixed-term multi-year contract always makes the last year the most precarious one, and the rolling three-year contract system at FGCU provides enough stability for faculty to know that one crazy decision by an administrator isn't going to eliminate their job. 

The bill as currently filed has a pretty obvious double-standard: no new hire can receive tenure or even a multi-year contract under the filed language, with one exception: the institutional president. One more case of "not for thee, but definitely for me if I can turn my political career into a tenured faculty post." (Yes, there are plenty of examples of former legislators who became community-college/state-college presidents.) 

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2 responses to “Florida House attacks college-teacher tenure, unless you’re the president”

  1. Glen S. McGhee

    Whoa! First K-12 new hires go to mandatory yearly contracts, and now CCs lose tenure (even if they now have 4 yr programs). I was even told there was no tenure where I taught. (But no union either.)

    Not to worry. CCs have been bulking up on adjuncts for decades, so that now they constitute most of the faculty. Part-timers can carry as many as 6 or 7 courses a semester too, and they don’t complain. They are happy to have more classes. No one cares.

    Maybe the deans will complain. But they can alreadu pick and hire whomever they want. SACS practically ignores out-of-field class assignments, all in the name of greater “flexibility” — just what the deans want. Everyone is happy.

  2. CCPhysicist

    The biggest problem with those anti-tenure proposals is that they will hurt home sales.

    As far as academic freedom is concerned, I’d recommend rolling contracts that slightly exceed the average tenure of a college President.

    Glen, you don’t run an accredited nursing program with adjuncts. It is hard enough to hire enough licensed MS RNs with tenure; I can’t imagine doing it without tenure unless salaries were doubled.