Petition Against the Attacks on Tenure at Linfield College

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We, the undersigned faculty and students from colleges and universities around the country, reject and condemn the resolution issued by the Chair of the Board of Trustees, Mr. Dave Baca intended to abolish tenure at Linfield College. Such an attack on tenure is also an assault on higher education and cannot be tolerated at any cost.  Also, for the Chair of the Board to introduce such a resolution, whether it is voted or not, without any transparency or rationale as to how or why an abolition of tenure will lead to any financial stability of the college, constitutes a reckless violation of his fiduciary authority and responsibilities.

AAUP’s document on tenure makes it clear that “a tenured appointment is an indefinite appointment that can be terminated only for cause or under extraordinary circumstances such as financial exigency and program discontinuation.”  Such a protection is pivotal to uphold academic freedom. According to AAUP,

The principal purpose of tenure is to safeguard academic freedom, which is necessary for all who teach and conduct research in higher education.  When faculty members can lose their positions because of their speech or publications’ research findings, they cannot properly fulfill their core responsibilities to advance and transmit knowledge.

Chairman Baca’s attempt to pass a resolution during the Linfield College’s, BOT meeting on May 3, 2019 would have effectively made all faculty “at will employees” by using a new “Financial Crisis Policy” as a pretext to abolishing tenure.  Apart from Baca, the rest of the trustees in the “Financial Affairs Committee” strongly opposed the resolution, which resulted in it not being brought forward for any formal voting by the entire BOT. This however does not guarantee that this threat to abolish tenure will not come up again in some other non-transparent fashion.  It should be noted that the college maintains a healthy endowment of $124,538 million (2017-18), which for a small liberal arts college does not suggest any financial crisis whatsoever.  In November 2018, the college purchased an entire campus in Portland, Oregon for 14.5 million dollars to relocate and grow the Nursing Program.

This particular resolution that would effectively abolish tenure at Linfield represents an action in a long line of threats to tenured and tenure-track faculty with possibilities of terminations issued by their current administration.  Davis has been using the “financial crisis” narrative as an excuse to weaken the system of tenure.  On December 7th, 2018, Davis threatened faculty by informing the chair of the Faculty Executive Committee that 20-25 faculty positions (tenure-track and tenured) needed to be eliminated to reduce the budget deficit by $2.7-2.8 million, which accounts for 90% of the $3.07 million of the remaining projected deficit.  In February, 2019 Inside Higher Ed reported how faculty refused to serve on any committee designed to terminate their own colleagues.  In March 2019, administration offered all faculty an opportunity to apply for a “Voluntary Separation Incentive Program” (VSIP) and further threatened faculty that more “Involuntary Separations” may be on their way to ensure a balanced budget by June 30, 2019.  On May 20, 2019, Davis further threatened faculty by saying that less than ten faculty will be reallocated to various administrative roles and assigned a variety of tasks within the college.  In just one year our colleagues at Linfield College will be losing 20-21 tenured and tenure-track faculty members due to retirements and VSIP with the bulk of these losses coming from humanities and social sciences.  While faculty cuts and reallocations are being proposed by Davis, the college is simultaneously experiencing a historical growth in enrollments. 

We, the undersigned current and emeritus faculty, students and alums nationally and internationally, strongly condemn the threats faculty at Linfield have been subjected to and express our anger at such a reckless and impetuous act of introducing a resolution to abolish tenure. We demand that Miles Davis and Dave Baca must step down from their respective positions as leaders of Linfield College for failing to understand the fundamental principles embedded in the ethos of tenure and academic freedom as bedrocks of a society that serves the common good and affirming that faculty must be able to think, speak, and write freely without fears of reprisal against the increasingly autocratic, political and corporate takeover of education as a “business” to generate revenue and profit.