By Steve Gunn
DETROIT – It’s fun watching long-spoiled education professionals get a taste of the real world.
At Wayne State University in Detroit, the faculty union is upset that administrators want to include language in a new labor contract that would allow the university to lay off tenured instructors if their program is discontinued or curtailed.
The idea for the university is to gain flexibility in developing academic programs that match the needs and demands of students, according to Inside Higher Ed. For instance, if the school’s basket weaving department stopped attracting students, administrators would be free to lay off basket weaving professors and replace them with instructors with expertise in other fields.
Traditionally colleges are banned from laying off tenured professors unless they are guilty of a serious wrongdoing, or the school can demonstrate severe financial hardship. That means basket weaving professors traditionally remained on staff, even if their classes attracted no students.
Union officials are trying to maintain special protections for tenured instructors, regardless of what that could mean for the school.
“They can get rid of anyone,” complained Charles Parish, president of the faculty union. “They admitted at the bargaining table that tenure confers no special status in terms of invoking the procedure for dismissal.”
It must have been nice to live in a world where you couldn’t be fired, even if your employer no longer required your services. Unfortunately such policies are bad for private employers who are trying to make money and keep their companies afloat. And they’re equally harmful for tight-budgeted universities that need to focus on attracting students and tuition dollars.
Universities exist for students. They are not meant to provide permanent employment for professors who no longer play a viable role.
It’s no different than a welder being laid off from a factory that closes its welding department. Why should college professors be treated any other way?