1435 Morris Avenue - Suite 3A, Union, NJ 07083
Tim Haresign, President

Tenured Faculty Taken Out of the Classroom and Assigned Administrative Duties

So you have been a tenured faculty member for decades, teaching your normal load of classes year in and year out. All of a sudden, out of the blue, you get called into HR or your Provost’s office and are told that a decision has been reached to take you out of the classroom and re-assign you to “administrative duties” as assigned by your Dean. Presto, you are now required to report to your office or another office on campus from 9 AM to 5 PM Monday through Friday. For how long? For as long as the administration likes.

Want an example? A senior faculty member is not proficient with computer technology. Yet his/her teaching has always been highly rated. The administration has a legitimate concern that the faculty member acquire a modicum of computer literacy. Now the administration has a few options. It can assign a student to assist the faculty member. Or it can encourage the faculty member to seek training on his/her own time. Or it can give the faculty member release time to undergo the training. Instead this particular institution, whose initials are KU, yanked the faculty member from the classroom for an entire semester and assigned him/her to 35 hours a week of computer training.

Want another example? The same august institution has issues with a tenured faculty member’s compliance with university policies. If it were to reprimand the faculty member, or issue him/her a written warning, or take stronger disciplinary action, the faculty member would have recourse to the grievance procedure or the courts. Why not take the easy way out? Reassign the faculty member to “administrative duties” on an indefinite basis. This faculty member has been, in effect, converted into a professional staff. After twenty years of teaching, and he/she ends up with an office job.

Here is a variation on this theme. A faculty member at the same august institution has already been assigned to administrative duties. Let’s accept that as a given. But while on administrative duties, he/she was subject to the A-328 five year post-tenure review process. Although the faculty member did not teach regular classes, he/she was allowed to give guest lectures in a colleague’s classes. The A-328 committee observers gave her teaching glowing reviews and the President himself found “no deficiencies” in the faculty member’s overall performance, including teaching. Based in the positive outcome, the Union requests that the faculty member be returned to his/her normal teaching duties. The administration’s response? A big fat NO.

One case that the Council resolved years ago dealt with a faculty member who was taken out of the classroom because of his/her unorthodox teaching methods and assigned to busy work in the library. The University knew that it did not have grounds to file tenure charges against the faculty member. Its goal was to force the faculty member to quit, but the faculty member was stubborn. Ultimately, the University agreed to a cash settlement in exchange for a resignation.
Your Union is not blind. Certainly there may be circumstances where a faculty member should be removed from the classroom. The issue is the absence of due process. And here is the kicker. Under law, you do not have any right to it. The way the tenure law is written, a tenured faculty member cannot be reduced in salary without due process. As long as a tenured faculty member receives his/her normal salary, there is no cause of action under the law. Unless, of course, the employer has an unlawful motive based on your race, gender, age, union activity etc., but such discrimination claims are very hard to prove.

Now it may be that your administration would never resort to such arbitrary conduct. Or at least it would have the decency to conduct a hearing before taking such action, where management would state its charges and a faculty member would have a right to contest them. But for those cases where the administration insists on taking the low road — and they are becoming more frequent — faculty need protection.

We need you to join the union if you are not already a member, and to also participate in your local union. Our success at the bargaining table and in our institutions is contingent on the strong support of our members.

Meanwhile, alert your local union if you believe that you may be in danger of being assigned to administrative duties and we will do all we can to find a better solution.