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UND to keep existing tenure procedures after SBHE policy revision

UND will not be reducing the 12-month notification period currently given to tenured faculty before dismissal, according to a Tuesday message from university leaders.

The message was sent in response to a recent North Dakota University System policy change which cuts the minimum required notice period for eliminating tenured faculty from one year to 90 days in the event of institutional fiscal insolvency. The revised policy, which was approved Feb. 23 by the State Board of Higher Education, would also allow NDUS institutions to dismiss faculty with 180 days of notice in the event of loss of legislative appropriation, a less-dire status which applies to the system's current budget situation.

UND's message to employees, signed by university President Mark Kennedy and Provost Thomas DiLorenzo, states that existing dismissal procedures at UND "remain unchanged" after the SBHE decision.

"As the state's flagship research university, we recognize a defense of our tenure protections is necessary for retaining and recruiting quality faculty," the message stated. "We stand by our existing procedures and fully support our current notification period—it remains unchanged and is at least 12 months."

The SBHE vote in favor of the change was attributed to expectations of a substantial reduction to the amount of legislative appropriation for higher education. The North Dakota Senate passed a higher education budget last week with $616.4 million in general fund spending for the upcoming 2017-19 biennium. That sum represents a decrease of about 20 percent from the funding level appropriated for the state's higher education system at the beginning of the 2015-17 budget period. UND itself is anticipating a funding reduction of about $16 million.

The SBHE policy revision was widely opposed by faculty members from across the university system who argued the shift would be perceived as an attack on tenure as a whole. That perception would hurt morale among existing faculty and make it more difficult to recruit outside applicants to the NDUS, opponents said. UND leadership also expressed opposition to the policy for similar reasons at a campus forum held before the board vote.

Advocates pushed back against characterizations of the revision as a shot at tenure, saying the move was necessary to grant a measure of flexibility for the state's smaller institutions in a time of budgetary hardship. In discussion of the shift, some board members suggested exempting the state's research universities—UND and NDSU—from adhering to the change in policy, though that idea was eventually scrapped.

All but one of the voting board members affirmed the revision, which immediately went into effect.

Andrew Haffner

Andrew Haffner covers higher education and general assignment stories for the Grand Forks Herald. He attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he studied journalism, political science and international studies. He previously worked at the Dickinson Press.

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