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We strongly urge the Kansas Board of Regents to reconsider last week’s policy decision that makes it easier over the next two years to suspend, dismiss, or terminate employees, including tenured faculty members, without initiating the process of formally declaring a financial emergency.
The American Anthropological Association stands firmly with the American Association of University Professors in support of the essential principles of Academic Freedom and Tenure, originally released in 1940, updated in 1970, and reaffirmed by the AAA in 2017. As noted in our recent reaffirmation of these principles, “academic freedom is essential for researchers, teachers, and students to advance the purpose of institutions of higher education in service of the common good. In these institutions, tenure provides an important measure of protection for unrestrained teaching, research and service. This protection helps the academy, and the disciplines it supports, including anthropology, attract and retain qualified persons.”
We recognize the difficult financial circumstances that institutions of higher education face today, but we are concerned that in the current climate of divisive and rancorous public discourse, tenured faculty positions may be placed at risk with chilling effect, all cloaked in financial language when, in fact, the need for greater public investment in higher education has never been greater. Global competitiveness, cross-cultural understandings, worker health and safety, innovative schools, preserving our diverse cultural heritage, tackling the local effects of global environmental change – all of these depend on continued innovation in research and teaching among higher education faculty. When we don’t protect our university faculties’ freedom to pursue open-ended inquiry, we cut off the quest for fundamental understanding as well as the ways in which advances in understanding can be applied to today’s complex problems.