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A Review and Analysis of Current Themes for the Dismissal of Tenured Faculty as Reflected in U.S. Common Law

Edward H Meyer, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Abstract

Academic tenure is widely enjoyed, yet often litigated in the courts. Tenure is commonly viewed as irrevocably guaranteeing employment for life. This inflated view has produced the misconception that a tenured teacher may act with impunity, free from supervision. More accurately, tenure signifies that a faculty member’s continued satisfactory service will limit and qualify the power of the institution to terminate his/her employment, but that the institution nevertheless retains the power to discharge a tenured faculty member for just cause. ^ Tenure standards permitting dismissal and non-retention are subject to cases of varying and disparate treatment, to issues of vagueness for being stated in overly-general terms, and to instances of imprecision and inconsistency in interpretation. All of this leads to uncertainty, doubt, and timidity among both faculty members and university administrators in the application of tenure provisions for termination. ^ This study has examined, through a set of case studies, the grounds for dismissal of tenured faculty from colleges and universities, and it has synthesized the resulting data into a set of observations and guidelines for institutions and faculty members when employment actions are taken, or are contemplated, involving the severing of faculty tenure. ^ Specifically, this study answers five questions. On what grounds do institutions of higher education dismiss tenured faculty? What are the primary legal assertions presented by faculty in seeking reversal of, or compensation for, their dismissal? In the judicial review process, what are common points of consideration cited by courts in their decisions? What are the reasons courts uphold the dismissal of tenured faculty members? What are the reasons courts rule in favor of tenured faculty members who seek judicial review of their dismissals? ^ This study’s answers to these five questions represent data points carrying the potential to reduce uncertainty with regard to faculty dismissals, in some cases providing reassurances to parties involved in litigation, and in the end, causing tenure provisions to be more often implemented as intended. ^

Subject Area

Law|Educational leadership|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Meyer, Edward H, "A Review and Analysis of Current Themes for the Dismissal of Tenured Faculty as Reflected in U.S. Common Law" (2016). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI10003790.
http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI10003790

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