It turns out that Florida Atlantic is not the only school in that state that’s decided to downsize tenured professors through budget cuts. The situation at Florida State (via Washington Monthly‘s College Guide) is even worse:
Florida State University lured Mike Wetz away from the University of North Carolina with the offer of an assistant professor position in FSU’s highly regarded Department of Oceanography.
Wetz’s first day at FSU was Dec. 23, 2008. Less than six months later, in June 2009, Wetz received a layoff notice.
Wetz had done nothing wrong, by all accounts. He was one of five faculty members in his 15-person department whose positions were being eliminated as FSU decided to merge oceanography, geological sciences and meteorology in the wake of massive reductions in state revenue.
Two of his colleagues being terminated are tenured, which traditionally means their positions are secure.
Geological sciences fared even worse, losing six of 13 positions including four tenured faculty. No positions were eliminated in meteorology.
Since, as Washington Monthly explains, tenure protects people not the positions they hold, Florida State can do this. Whether they should is another matter:
FSU invested considerable resources in fall 2008 when it hired Wetz, Brian Arbic and Amy Baco-Taylor in oceanography and Davis Farris in geological sciences. Approximately $1 million in “start-up” fees were earmarked for the four new faculty members, who have all received layoff notices.
“Universities that hire a bunch of young people and then lay them off quickly afterwards, obviously something went wrong there,” said Arbic, who has accepted a position at the University of Michigan. “How many other universities around the country are taking the drastic step of laying off faculty? I think you’ll find it’s not a very long list.”
Who in their right mind would now take a tenure-track position at Florida State if they have any other choices, knowing what the administration there thinks about job security?