OPED: EX-PROF ADDRESSES KEUKA ISSUES
As if the shock of hearing that six (6) academic programs were going to be discontinued prior to the advent of the 2020-21 year was not enough, what was even more shocking was that faculty members were not included in discontinuation decisions, a clear violation of the college’s faculty handbook, which is contratual, and also a clear violation of the shared governance model the college follows. “While not publically announced, the administration further demonstrated its lack of reverence for agreed-upon operating procedures by internally revealing that 12-15 faculty members, most of them tenured, had also been discontinued — fired, that is — without cause.” Here it is important to remember that tenure is something that faculy earn “based on years of evaluations of teacing ability, service, and professional contributions” and that faculty members “are often the first people a student will seek out to discuss academic, financial, and emotional challenges because of the mutual trust and respect cultivated among faculty and students.” This means that not only do these decisions negatively impact faculty, they negatively impact students.
According to Bill Brown, former Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Science at Keuka College, “Keuka College did not notify faculty of intentions to terminate appointments, nor has the college declared financial exigency, which would be of obvious concern to potential students and parents. They have not demonstrated financial exigency nor provided evidence of dire financial straits. They have not followed severance procedures. They have not followed their own rules.”
It remains unclear “how or why thousands of other colleges and universities across the country were able to respect faculty governance agreements in the face of COVID-19 and Keuka College could not or would not.” What is clear is that the leadership team at Keuka has “an antagonistic, unilateral approach to leading and overseen tremendous staff and faculty turnover. Condemnation of this approach by professional organizations like the AAUP, Keuka College’s own faculty and, ultimately, tuition-paying students will leave longer-lasting, negative consequences much greater than those of any pandemic.”