Regents move tenure issue to central office

By Ann McBride

Arizona Daily Wildcat

TEMPE The Arizona Board of Regents, concerned it would receive a biased report on tenure-related issues from an all-faculty task force, approved 4-2 moving this responsibility to its central office during Friday's meeting at Arizona State University.

It was decided that the central office, which provides administrative assistance and support to the board, will work with an eight-member task force in formulating a comprehensive look at the issue of tenure including its possible elimination.

"Just do it here . I don't think we need your committee . I don't want to hear from just one side," said frustrated board President-elect John Munger, who added that he has been trying to raise this issue for discussion for two years.

The agenda item called for the board to adopt a plan that would examine conditions of faculty service and tenure, which grants professors the freedom to teach without fear of political retribution. The plan, as outlined by the Arizona Faculties Council, called for the establishment of a task force made up of a faculty and administrative representative from each university, plus a member from the faculties council and the Regents' central office.

Although the regents rejected the plan as presented, they voted to approve their central office working with the faculty task force in compiling varied points of view regarding tenure and present these views to the board. Munger clarified that while the task force will assist the central office, it will not present a recommendation to the board.

Munger and board President Eddie Basha said the issue is not only to discuss tenure and possible modifications to the system, but to also explore whether tenure is appropriate at all in the 21st century.

They both said they had not made up their minds on the issue of tenure, but wanted discussions about its possible elimination to be a part of the agenda.

Basha said the board has a right to discuss the topic and "we are not preordaining our decision . we want an evaluation of tenure."

Munger said he was concerned that all members of the task force came from academia and the board would not receive a wide range of views including those who question the concept of tenure.

UA President Manuel Pacheco and ASU President Lattie Coor expressed confusion about the direction of the board's discussion.

"If the board plans on entertaining abolishing tenure a step so radical that it would fundamentally change the institutions let's get that issue on the table," Coor said.

Pacheco said he was distressed by the direction of the discussion regarding tenure because he did not believe there was a consensus on the board regarding the issue, and he was concerned that some board members may have been misinterpreted.

"I would be lying to you if I thought we would come back (with a recommendation) and propose eliminating tenure," said Tom McGovern, Faculty Council representative for the regents. He stressed that the group did not plan to "duck the issue" but to "honestly, fairly" review all issues.

UA faculty representative John Schwarz, political science professor, told the board the task force had outlined fundamental questions that need to be discussed. He said he would welcome a collaborative committee because these questions "can stand up to scrutiny."

Munger said he was bothered that the committee's "prediction is so probable" and he wants a group to look at the issue "from the bottom up."

Milton Glick, ASU provost, said it's important to avoid a "we versus they" mentality. He said everyone is concerned about operating the best university system possible.

Regents Andrew Hurwitz and Hank Amos held the dissenting votes with Regents Arthur Chapa and Rudy Campbell absent.

Basha concluded the discussion by saying the "ultimate organization of this debate is the central office."

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