This post is about lack of due process in Carleton University’s policy to fill all vacancies created by retirement of tenured and tenure-track professors with assistant professors. This policy was hinted at in my 28 November 2013 blog and confirmed by Carleton’s vice president finance at his financial town hall meeting on 3 December 2013. This policy has both academic and financial implications: We replace seasoned internationally-recognized researchers with rookies, who may or may not end up being decent researchers, all in an effort to cut salaries by roughly a factor of two. Therefore I am simultaneously posting this to both my senate and board of governors blogs.
The policy to replace retiring tenured faculty members with untenured assistant professors seems short-sighted insofar as the Harper government has opted to put more research dollars in the hands of fewer researchers. Therefore, in order to obtain more federal research dollars, a stronger institutional strategy would be to hire more mid-career and upper-career researchers that have a proven track-record of obtaining funding (thanks to Chris Worswick for this insight). Our seemingly backwards policy was announced by Carleton’s vice president finance, but I can find no evidence that this policy was approved by Carleton’s vice president research nor vice president academic. There is lack of due process if these other two vice presidents never signed off on this policy or if they acquiesced to a policy imposed by the financial wing of the university. This specific aspect of my due process complaint, however, could be easily resolved if the vice president research and vice president academic publicly state their reasons for approving such a policy of replacing academic retirees with assistant professors.
University governance is bicameral, with academic matters under the purview of senate and financial matters under the purview of the board of governors. Yet, as best I can tell, the policy of replacing academic retirees with assistant professors has NEVER been approved by either Carleton University’s senate or board of governors. That constitutes utter lack of due process. The salary savings are potentially enormous for this policy decision. And the proportion of academic work that gets foisted upon newly minted PhDs is also enormous.
The province recently imposed upon all universities a quality assurance framework. The policy of replacing academic retirees with assistant professors clearly has a huge impact on quality of our academic programs. Yet Carleton’s office of quality assurance seemingly has never analyzed this policy, making my due process complaint more insidious.
A year ago, soon after Ontario’s new premier was installed, the minister of Training, Colleges and Universities was replaced and the mandate review process rebooted soon thereafter. The mandate review process is ostensibly to help differentiate universities in the province. Carleton is clearly identifying itself as a research-mediocre university by implementing a policy of replacing all academic retirees with assistant professors. Doesn’t this send the wrong message to the province?
Before closing my critique of lack of due process, I need to add a few caveats. First, the policy of replacing academic retirees with assistant professors seems to have been a long-standing policy. The only exceptions that I have seen are appointments of full professors for senior management positions (e.g. deans, provost, president, etc.) and one superb newly-hired associate professor in geography (while this might be just a coincidence, geography is the provost’s home department). I can understand this policy of replacing retirees with assistant professors being a default position when the university is in dire financial situations. But Carleton is currently in a seemingly great financial position, except for a few poor financial decisions (mostly poor investments, including our new un-needed 35 million dollar parking garage). Second, while I do not believe this, it could be argued that our policy of replacing retirees with assistant professors may temporarily make sense as we come out of a recession and currently have a relative dearth of assistant professors at Carleton. Third, our policy could be far worse, if we replaced academic retirees with instructors, who only teach and do not conduct research. Many colleges and universities have replaced tenure-track researchers with full-time and/or sessional instructors, which I hope is a route Carleton does not follow. But my issues are with lack of due process much more than with substantive issues.
Lack of due process regarding the policy of replacing academic retirees with assistant professors is a sign of (1) poor decisions being made when there is lack of meaningful consultation and (2) the sham of purported community engagement. I can tolerate poor substantive decisions being made with full consultation and due process, but will not sit quietly when due process is discarded.