Revisions in the University of Arkansas tenure policy that many faculty believe serve as a curb on free speech were challenged in a federal lawsuit filed Friday.
The class action suit is led by Dr. Philip Palade, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences; Dr. Gregory Borse, an associate professor of English and philosophy at the University of Arkansas at Monticello; and J. Thomas Sullivan, a distinguished professor of law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Bowen School of Law. Attorneys for Plaintiffs are Joseph W. Price II and Brittany Ford with Quattlebaum, Grooms & Tull in Little Rock.
In short, says a news release, the suit says July changes in promotion, tenure and faculty review rules expanded the grounds for discipline and termination. This placed a limit on academic freedom and altered vested contract rights, it says.
The suit says that an expanded definition of cause for firing or discipline gives nearly “limitless authority” to the UA Board and administration.
By obliterating the fundamental safeguards provided by tenure, the Revised Policy puts all University of Arkansas System faculty at a much greater risk of being terminated, disciplined, or otherwise harassed based on an administrator’s or trustee’s disapproval of the content of a faculty member’s teaching, research, service, or even statements made completely outside the campus setting.
The suit reflects criticism from faculty during a long and contentious discussion of the change. The policy will have a “chilling effect” on academic pursuits, the suit says.