Editorial: UA getting a second chance with Kay fiasco
The never-ending story of the UA's firing of professor Marguerite Kay has been rewound to the beginning.
In light of the court ruling that the 1998 termination procedures were performed incorrectly, and a recent state Supreme Court ruling that faculty members have a right to legal counsel at hearings, Kay has been rehired - sort of.
In a single move, University of Arizona President Peter Likins returned Kay to her former status, with back pay, and placed her on administrative leave with recommendation for dismissal.
That may seem a bit fast, but some faculty members say it's downright illegal. Faculty senators have repeatedly asked for the reinstatement of Kay, citing strict rules of tenure that must be followed.
Likins' recent actions have faculty rights supporters experiencing deja vu.
One clause of the former microbiology and immunology researcher's return is that she stay away from the UA campus.
This order and the fact that the university is taking action based on original committee findings - ruled improper by Pima County - have led faculty to believe that Likins is, again, damaging tenure.
As the bell rings, sounding round two of the fight, it's crucial that Likins carry out his pledge to follow "appropriate process." By jumping into recommendation for removal and banning Kay from campus, the president is dangerously close to the arbitrary and capricious days of old.
Likins stated that he returned Kay to her former status, which is a noble attempt to set back the clock. But by immediately putting her on academic leave he is defeating the point. This implies that the university is only jumping through the court's hoops instead of correcting its mistakes.
To use the words of law professors Roy Spece and Andrew Silverman at last night's Faculty Senate meeting, the university must "return to the very beginning and ... do it right this time."
That means a brand new Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure - with legal counsel - must re-evaluate whether Kay committed research misconduct. Then comes the recommendation for dismissal. And if the faculty find that Kay should be removed based on correct procedure and the case continues through Conciliation Committee, she can be legally removed from a tenured position. Tenured position will then continue to have a place at the UA.
Because this is not just a matter of research regulations. There is a good chance that Kay committed academic misconduct, and the faculty know this.
How this case ends - assuming it does - will set the stage for all faculty rights discussion at the UA. President Likins can send a much-needed message of security to the university's professors, or show that he will do whatever it takes to get rid of an unwanted employee.