Protect University Tenure

When the Florida Board of Governors (FLBoG) first posted Regulation 10.003 for public comment in December, we mobilized over 1,400 people to comment protesting the threat it posed to academic freedom and tenure: thank you for your support! We shared the petition that you signed at the FLBoG meeting and several professors testified. This was the most commented upon regulation draft they have ever seen, and your efforts bought us time! Unfortunately, the FLBoG and the Florida state legislature are continuing their assault on higher education. 

(deadline March 9): The BoG closed the comment link early by mistake; please email [email protected] .  Please comment now on their revised, still harmful draft of regulation 10.003 for by March 9th (click on “comment” for BOG Regulation 10.003 “Post-Tenure Faculty Review”).

EMAIL The BoG : [email protected]

The revised draft continues to undercut academic freedom and tenure by vastly increasing the potential for political, corporate and donor influence and interference, thereby undermining the quality of public higher education in Florida. Here are some of the alarming provisions that remain:

  • Administrators, including Board of Trustees members, are still invested with tremendous, largely unchecked power to remove individuals’ tenure.
  • Criteria for post-tenure evaluation that are so vague as to provide carte blanche for retaliatory or capricious termination of tenured faculty.
  • With few protections for due process, corporations, donors and politicians will be able to target individual faculty for termination, tenured or not.

The recently filed bills HB 999 and SB 266 go even further:

  • Chair of the Board of Trustees can launch a post-tenure review of any tenured faculty member, at any time.
  • Chair of the Board of Trustees will have sole control over hiring faculty; no faculty consultation is required. Faculty review of applicants is key to ensuring those hired have the necessary expertise in their field and as academics to be assets to the university community.

Our state’s democracy relies upon brave, honest, and timely research that addresses public concerns and prepares our students for the responsibility of citizenship. We again urge students, employers, parents, alumni, faculty and everyone who values public higher education to write once more to the Florida BoG to make your voices heard about this regulation.

We recommend that you submit your comment in your own words. However, we have provided some of our members’ arguments below.

Thank you for your support!

Meera Sitharam, UFF-UF Vice President
Professor, University of Florida, Computer & Information Science & Engineering
Affiliate Professor of Mathematics                                            
On behalf of the UFF Post Tenure Review Task Force



The proposed regulation removes essential checks and balances, undermining academic freedom and the State University System’s global competitive edge to recruit and to stem the flight of faculty (with their research grants), burdening the taxpayer, and reducing the value of a Florida degree.  

In the current nationwide, indeed global, market in which peer institutions compete for students and faculty, academic freedom – protected by tenure – is part of a well-understood package for research-active and scholarly faculty.  Undermining tenure – by completely removing checks and balances in the post tenure review process proposed by regulation 10.003 – will seriously undermine Florida’s ability to compete in faculty recruitment and retention. 

Previous attempts at undermining tenure in other states provide cautionary examples: they subsequently cost taxpayers millions to stem the tide of departing faculty. In fact, news of this regulation is already having a deleterious effect at nationwide conferences where such recruitment is often initiated and causing faculty, many with large federal grants, to consider leaving for other jobs out of state, taking their grants with them. 

Furthermore, given that Florida’s public higher education system is currently well-regarded, the bureaucratic cost to the SUS – of superfluous evaluations of at least 5000 faculty each year – is guaranteed to have a negative return on investment. 

Overall, smothering academic freedom by undermining tenure – as this draft regulation does – will have seriously detrimental effects on the value of a Florida degree, to current students, alumni, and their parents.

Tenured faculty are already in an intensely scrutinized profession; they tolerate intense scrutiny and lower pay in return for the academic freedom that tenure protects.

Tenured faculty members are not afraid to be evaluated and can be let go at any time for just cause. In fact, tenured and tenure-track faculty are evaluated more than most professions. The current tenure-track experience starts with a noteworthy PhD dissertation and typically a postdoctoral fellowship experience. Then comes 6-7 years of research, teaching and service that are highly scrutinized by global peers to be awarded tenure.  And having tenure does not preclude annual evaluations and more rigorous evaluations every 6-7 years for promotions and sustained performance evaluations.

Despite such exhausting scrutiny, why do faculty members actively choose the profession, foregoing potentially higher paid jobs for which they no doubt qualify?  We do so precisely because tenure enshrines our academic freedom to pursue research and teach in a knowledge area of our choice and to work toward sound governance of our University and profession.  

Specifically, the ability to challenge dominant and prevailing research and scholarship — perhaps even the research of one’s own chair or dean — is a crucial component of the academic freedom protected by tenure. 

Tenure enshrines academic freedom, the bedrock of a quality higher education that develops critical thinking future citizens.

Consequently,  strong  tenure and academic freedom  protections are crucial for quality educators to impart a quality education to the multitudes of Florida high school graduates in the public higher education system.  Undermining tenure – as this draft regulation does – undermines the university’s ability to educate citizens to think critically and thus can competently shape the future economic and civic life of the state and the nation.   

The proposed regulation undermines tenure and academic freedom while simultaneously placing an entirely superfluous and wastefully bureaucratic burden on universities at the expense of Florida  taxpayers.

The proposed regulation removes checks and balances of the post tenure review process in at least three ways.

  • First, of the six criteria in Item 3(a) of the revised draft, five are largely unrelated to faculty performance. Furthermore, these criteria are so vague as to provide carte blanche to any administrator or trustee to terminate the employment of a faculty member upon any whim that is far from just cause. 
  • Second, the final decision on even the single performance related criterion is left to a university administrator and trustees who are far removed from the faculty member’s expertise.
  • Simple metrics and indices collected by web crawlers have been proven to be grossly inadequate in evaluating quality of faculty work.  Expert peer review – the only known modality to evaluate academic expert quality – is never mentioned in the draft regulation. 
  • On the other hand, a peer review of every faculty member up for post tenure review (at least 5000 faculty members across SUS) will place a tremendous time and cost burden on the university for no reason since all are annually evaluated and there is already a sustained performance evaluation.
  • Third, progressive discipline, due process, appeals and arbitrator’s judgement are short-changed in Item 5, with Item 7 of the regulation abridging collective bargaining rights.
  • Finally, processes already exist for awarding Merit and Market equity raises to high performing faculty. Hence such provisions in this regulation are superfluous, especially as they do not specify any new revenue sources for awarding these raises.

The regulation attacks the constitutional autonomy granted to higher educational institutions by the public of Florida, hurts Florida’s position as a world leader in access to quality higher education, and is a blueprint for similar attacks nationwide.

Altogether, the exclusive control of post tenure review decisions by a handful of administrators and politically appointed trustees –  far removed from the faculty member’s  expertise and without any checks and balances  – leaves the process open to all manner of political, corporate and donor influence.

As such, the revised proposal still compromises the constitutional autonomy of higher education demanded by the Florida public and enshrined in  the 2002 constitutional amendment that instituted the BoG and separated the powers and duties of the legislature, BoG and Boards of Trustees (BoT)’s, leaving personnel decisions to the BoTs in consultation with the faculty, and curricular decisions entirely to the faculty.   This separation of powers has resulted in Florida’s   reputation as a state with world class public higher education, both in terms of access and quality.  This regulation threatens this reputation as politics trumps expertise.

The stakes are high.  Several states are already following Florida’s lead in introducing similar legislation and regulations that will vastly increase political, corporate and donor influence on higher education curriculum, personnel and governance.  The result will be the decline in quality education, a waste of taxpayer money and the indoctrination that the proposed legislation/regulations aim to stop.

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