“Tenure’s been working as best we can tell for 70 years at ECU, now all of the sudden tenure is a pain in the tuckus.”
By Katherine Ayers
Thursday, November 7, 2013
East Carolina University librarians hired after Nov. 5 no longer will have the option of tenure.
Provost Marilyn Sheerer informed Joyner Library employees while Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences Phyllis Horns spoke with employees at the Laupus Library on the health sciences campus.
The change only affects newly-hired faculty. Those who have tenure or are on the tenure track will keep it.
Sheerer said that the change aligns the librarians’ job descriptions more closely with what they are actually tasked to do.
“A tenure-track professor is evaluated on teaching, research and service. Librarians do not conduct classes, do not prepare syllabi and does not get evaluated by students,” she said. “They work in a library as librarians which do not have the same responsibilities as tenured faculty.”
Jeff Coghill, a librarian at Laupus, said Sheerer’s understanding of what he does is not accurate.
“We do publish, we’re encouraged to get published, do poster presentations and attend conferences,” he said. “Tenure’s been working as best we can tell for 70 years at ECU, now all of the sudden tenure is a pain in the tuckus.”
Speaking during a Faculty Senate meeting Tuesday, Sheerer said the recommendation to eliminate tenure came out of a two-year university Program Prioritization Committee review designed to look at ways the university could save money. It included conversations with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and N.C. Sate University, neither of which have tenured librarians, and Maureen Sullivan, immediate past president of the American Library Association.
“Faculty on both (the main and medical) campuses wanted to bring it to a conclusion within the last six months,” Sheerer said. “We made the decision, shared it with Chancellor (Steve) Ballard and he is in support of the direction.”
Sullivan, speaking as an individual rather than a spokesperson for the ALA, said colleges and universities should be free to approve or not approve tenure for librarians as they see fit.
“It’s critically important for librarians to have institutional support to carry out their duties,” she said. “It’s important for institutions to value and support their librarians and there are different models for that.”
She said she supports the ALA’s position on faculty designation and tenure that says, “the function of a librarian as participant in the processes of teaching, research and service is the essential criterion of faculty status …. Tenure (continuous appointment) shall be available to librarians in accordance with provisions for all faculty of the institution.”
According to ECU’s faculty manual, “academic tenure serves to ensure academic freedom by guarding faculty members against negative consequences of expressing unpopular points of view.” Tenure does not prevent the university from firing a faculty member, but requires the university to show “incompetence, neglect of duty, misconduct of such a nature as to indicate that the individual is unfit to continue as a member of the faculty.”
By removing the tenure option, Coghill said academic freedom is challenged.
“With tenure, you can research oddball projects that might not necessarily include traditional library duties,” he said.
Sheerer said that is not the case.
“All faculty under contract are guaranteed academic freedom,” she said. “For example, many faculty in the Brody School of Medicine are untenured and still protected.”
At the faculty senate meeting, Dr. Timothy Fitzgerald with the Brody School of Medicine asked about what benefit the change will have to ECU.
“There’s not a direct financial benefit,” Sheerer said. “I think it aligns the jobs of university librarians to what they actually do.”
Digital Collections Librarian Matt Reynolds asked Sheerer how many librarians were in favor of the change.
“It’s hard to give numbers, but certainly the majority didn’t come forth asking it,” she said. “I’ve had people tell me ‘I’m not going to say this in public, but tenure doesn’t make sense,’ but the majority didn’t come asking for (the change).”
Sheerer made it clear that the change will be phased in as new librarians are hired and that no other departments were in danger of losing their tenure option.
Contact Katherine Ayers at email@example.com and 252-329-9567.
via The Daily Reflector.