Texas profs sue university

An association representing faculty members at 85 University of Texas institutions is suing university officials on behalf of more than 3,000 University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) employees given the pink slip last week in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. "[The University of Texas officials] had a predetermined agenda that had nothing to do with Ike" that included efforts to privatize universities and weaken the tenure process, Tom Johnson, executive director of the linkurl:Texas Faculty Ass

Elie Dolgin
Dec 1, 2008
An association representing faculty members at 85 University of Texas institutions is suing university officials on behalf of more than 3,000 University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) employees given the pink slip last week in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. "[The University of Texas officials] had a predetermined agenda that had nothing to do with Ike" that included efforts to privatize universities and weaken the tenure process, Tom Johnson, executive director of the linkurl:Texas Faculty Association;http://www.tfaonline.net/ (TFA), told __The Scientist__. Galveston attorney Joe Jaworski filed a lawsuit today (Dec. 2) alleging that the nine members of the University of Texas Board of Regents, under advice from the University of Texas System leadership, violated the Texas Open Meetings Act when they held closed-door meetings and conference calls ahead of their November 12 announcement of mass layoffs at UTMB in Galveston. Johnson also implicated Kenneth Shine, interim chancellor of the UT system,...
ty of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) employees given the pink slip last week in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. "[The University of Texas officials] had a predetermined agenda that had nothing to do with Ike" that included efforts to privatize universities and weaken the tenure process, Tom Johnson, executive director of the linkurl:Texas Faculty Association;http://www.tfaonline.net/ (TFA), told __The Scientist__. Galveston attorney Joe Jaworski filed a lawsuit today (Dec. 2) alleging that the nine members of the University of Texas Board of Regents, under advice from the University of Texas System leadership, violated the Texas Open Meetings Act when they held closed-door meetings and conference calls ahead of their November 12 announcement of mass layoffs at UTMB in Galveston. Johnson also implicated Kenneth Shine, interim chancellor of the UT system, David Callender, the UTMB president, and Governor Rick Perry's office in the backroom decision, although they were not formally accused in the suit. Among the 127 faculty members laid off last week, 83 were tenured or tenure-track faculty, according to the linkurl:full list;http://www.galvestondailynews.com/story.lasso?ewcd=f29f32fec8ee6c23&-session=TheDailyNews:D19B19921d52c25BB6PQY25A36C4 of fired faculty, obtained by the Galveston County __Daily News__ under the Texas Public Information Act. "Tenure is increasingly becoming worthless in the UT system," George Reamy, a TFA faculty advisor, told __The Scientist__. He and Johnson stressed that the recent firings are part of a long history of attacking the tenure process and efforts to move the medical school away from Galveston Island to be closer to wealthier consumers of private health care from the Houston area. "They want flexibility to privatize and do what they want," said Johnson. "That agenda is amoral and flat out wrong." William New, UTMB's associate dean for research administration, countered that "not that many" researchers have been fired compared to hospital staff. "The university has gone out of its way to protect its research enterprise," he told __The Scientist__. "I'm not saying it's a good decision; I'm saying it's the best decision we could make given the options," New added. "The rationale is to cut deep, cut once, and get it over with." But this wasn't the only big round of cuts, noted Reamy. In 2006, hundreds of UTMB staff were laid off, and many others received significant salary cuts. Reamy cited a June 22, 2006, linkurl:e-mail message;http://txfacassn.typepad.com/utmb_galveston_chapter_te/2006/08/utmb_administra.html that the TFA obtained under the Texas Public Information Act in which Valerie Parisi, then dean of the UTMB School of Medicine, wrote that the medical school had "not really identified any appropriate strategy for us to reduce tenured faculty except for reducing salary." Johnson noted that most Texas researchers, even tenured professors, are under short-term fixed contracts, and that under Texas law, academic tenure is defined as a property right separate from benefits and salaries. He accused the UT system of undermining the tenure process through a continued assault on researchers' paychecks, in addition to the layoffs. The recent layoffs were effective immediately, although non-tenure track faculty will be paid for six months, while tenured and tenure-track faculty will receive support through August 2009, said New. Individual faculty could consult their department heads if they wanted to continue working for the academic year, he added. **__Related stories:__** * linkurl:Texas med center to lay off 3,800;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55187/ [13th November 2008]* linkurl:The Importance of a Plan B;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/54570/ [May 2008]* linkurl:Rebuilding research after Katrina;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/23174/ [March 2008] __Correction (Dec. 3): In an earlier version of this article George Reamy's last name was spelled incorrectly. __The Scientist__ regrets the error.__

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?