Faculty group censures Georgia university system over tenure changes

Georgia Tech professor Carol Senf rallied with professors from several Georgia universities in October against changes to the state system’s post-tenure review process they believe will make it easier for administrators to fire them. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

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Georgia Tech professor Carol Senf rallied with professors from several Georgia universities in October against changes to the state system’s post-tenure review process they believe will make it easier for administrators to fire them. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

The American Association of University Professors took the rare step of censuring the University System of Georgia, a move some believe will hurt in recruiting top-flight professors from other schools.

The censure is in response to the Georgia Board of Regents’ decision in October to revamp its post-tenure faculty review process. University System leaders and the board said the changes were needed to better measure student success. Many Georgia professors disagreed, saying the revisions will make it easier to fire professors and stifle academic freedom.

The century-old association voted unanimously Saturday to censure the Georgia system. The association has no regulatory power over Georgia, but it hopes the action will draw national scrutiny to its complaints about the system’s changes.

ExploreGeorgia Board of Regents approves changes to its post-tenure review guidelines

“By their unilateral actions, the USG board of regents has proclaimed to the academic community that they do not view academic freedom as important for public higher education in the state.” AAUP President Irene Mulvey said in a statement.

“The removal of protections for academic freedom will have a devastating effect on the quality of education in the USG system, and on recruitment and retention of faculty and students,” Mulvey said. “We call upon the USG regents to rescind the changes to the post-tenure review policy so that academic freedom, so essential for higher education, is restored.”

The University System says on its website it is working with faculty and campus leaders to refine the standards before they’re implemented this fall.

“While we’re disappointed the American Association of University Professors chose to ignore USG’s long-standing commitment to academic freedom and due process, we remain dedicated to working with faculty at our public colleges and universities to make sure post-tenure review strengthens accountability and rewards the work faculty already do to empower student success in the 21st century,” system officials said in a statement.

The last time the association censured a system of colleges or universities was in 1975 against Virginia’s community college system.

U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta, wrote a letter to the association before the vote supporting censure, saying the system’s changes may hurt efforts to recruit and retain talented professors.

“Academic freedom is essential and professors in the University System of Georgia may be watching theirs slip away,” she wrote.