While I was away, I read the story of Downsized Darla from Dandy County. It’s one of those sad stories in which RYS specializes: Community College instructor let go after five years for no good reason. It ends:
And then I got a lawyer.
While Darla’s story is sad, it offers no hint of the case that that lawyer would build against the college that employed her for five years. No discrimination, just non-renewal of her contract after five years. Yes, their pretext stinks, but that community college didn’t need a pretext. That’s labor law, as one of the responses to her story put it:
Based on Darla’s description, it appears that she was working under contract. In such circumstances, one doesn’t need to be fired in order to be dismissed from one’s post. The contract simply isn’t renewed and that’s when things could get sticky. It lets the employer off the hook as no just cause need be given and there’s little, if anything, that the contractor can do about it.
It may be Barack Obama’s America, but it’s still Ronald Reagan’s labor law.
That said, I learned that there might hope in some cases like this while I was at an American Association of University Professors workshop last week in DC. This is from an investigative report that censured the University of New Haven:
Higher education’s fundamental 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure and the University of New Haven’s own policies on probation and tenure provide for a maximum probationary period: six years for reaching a decision on continuous tenure and a final seventh year if the decision is negative. The service of a faculty member retained beyond that period whose fitness to continue is questioned can be terminated only upon the administration’s demonstration of adequate cause with procedural safeguards along the lines set forth in the 1940 Statement’s complementary document, the 1958 Statement on Procedural Standards in Faculty Dismissal Proceedings.
What’s key here is that the faculty member in question was not tenure track. It’s not de facto tenure and it’s not a change in labor law, but if an institution cares about its standing in academia requiring cause to fire contingent faculty after six years is a huge improvement (even if it wouldn’t have helped Darla after only five).
Does your institution have due process protections for tenure length contingent faculty? The University of New Haven does now, which is why the censure has been removed.