Monday, May 18, 2009

Tenured Professors Let Go in a Mass Lay Off

70 faculty, including tenured professors were let go by the Clark Atlanta University, a Historically Black College, in the middle of Spring semester. The bland invasion to the tenure system did not raise eyebrow of many college professors in the US, although the AAUP had launched an investigation. The consent seems to be a minority institution could get away from any bazaar things it did, as long as the act to be quarantined within the HBCU circle.

The black community, including many of CAU's current students and alumni, defended the administration's act as an ordinary cost-saving measure in the corporate America. However, they failed to realize the difference between a college and an ordinary business corporation.

At a bad time everybody suffers, including educators. However, for a country and a community, investing in education is the way of getting out of adversities; for an education institution in trouble, the moral of their teaching faculty is key to make a turn around.

Many universities and colleges had adopted severe measures to battle the economy, a few involves staff and faculty cut. In most cases, any reduction in teaching force were conducted in a cautious approach, with consultation to faculty body on guidelines laid out by faculty handbook and AAUP advisory.

Teaching is a special occupation. An individual can be angry or sorrow but still be able to write a computer program, or fasten a screw. A teacher can't teach effectively in a demoralized environment, even if he tried. Managing a higher education institution requires a different skill set than, say, managing a regular business comprised of regular workforce.

Assuming a substitute teacher can be hired in the middle of semester to teach any course is insane. Each professor has its own specialty and comfort zone of knowledge. Usually the more depth it goes, the narrower it gets. A teacher can teach a course strictly by the scope of a textbook, or he can give students his own understanding and opinions. There are difference in day and night between the two in terms of teaching effectiveness. Ignoring this shows the total disregard of students interest by the administration. Who would send their kids to such a place?

The reduction of faculty and perhaps even further reduction in addition to salary cut may be necessary for the Clark-Atlanta University's very survival. We would not know without insight knowledge on its financial status. On the face, it is fish though. A decline of enrollment from 4300 in the Fall to 4100 in the Spring is typical in every college and university. Fall semester enrollment is always larger than Spring. The second reason cited by the CAU, fund raising campaigns, is also skeptical because the university is mostly tuition driven. There may be blunders and fumbles in financial management that the university is not willing to tell. Either way, the problem is not what must be done, the problem is how was it handled. The particular way the current administration is handling the situation is commiting an insitutional suicide. The administrators may get a golden parashute, but the students would be left in sorrow.

A minority-serving institution like CAU can not survive in a long run on hope of remaining it's reliance on non-mainstream feeding of incoming students. If the administraion counts on the traidtional wisdom that 'no matter what black students will come and federal government will assist', they are making a wrong bet against the historic trend. CAU need to prove it is a place for quality education regardless of race profile. Unfortunately, the current admininstration is doing the opposite.

Colin Power reported of telling then President Bush on invading Iraq, 'Sir, once you break it, you own it'. A higher education insitituion, a traditional primary black college Clark Atlanta University is an even more delicate and fragile system then a pottery barn. It is time to count the loss and clear up the mess. The administration who broke it, should be sued for the loss of faculty, college as well as students affected.

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