David Boies, the star trial lawyer who helped lead the legal charge that overturned California’s same-sex marriage ban, is becoming chairman of the Partnership for Educational Justice, a group that former CNN anchor Campbell Brown founded in part to pursue lawsuits challenging teacher tenure. As the New York Times reports:
“Mr. Boies, the son of two public schoolteachers, is a lifelong liberal who represented Al Gore in Bush v. Gore and prosecuted Microsoft in the Clinton Administration’s antitrust suit. In aligning himself with a cause that is bitterly opposed by teachers’ unions, he is emblematic of an increasingly fractured relationship between the Democrats and the teachers’ unions.
“As chairman of the new group, Mr. Boies, 73, will join Ms. Brown as the public face of a legal strategy in which the group organizes parents and students to bring lawsuits against states with strong tenure and seniority protections.
“In a suit filed in New York last month, plaintiffs supported by Ms. Brown’s group argued that tenure laws make it too difficult to fire ineffective teachers and force principals to make personnel decisions based on seniority rather than performance. The suit argues that such laws disproportionately harm low-income and minority students.A California judge recently ruled in a similar case that teacher tenure laws violate students’ civil rights under the state’s constitution. The group that brought that case, known as Vergara v. California, said it would be pursuing similar litigation elsewhere as well. In a sign of the legal firepower attracted to the cause, Theodore B. Olson, Mr. Boies’ partner in the California same-sex marriage case, has been advising the Vergara plaintiffs.In an interview in his firm’s offices in Manhattan, Mr. Boies said he viewed the cause of tenure overhaul as “pro-teacher.”
“I think teaching is one of the most important professions that we have in this country,” he said. But, he added, “there can be a tension” between union efforts to protect workers and “what society needs to do, which is to make sure that the social function — in this case teaching — is being fulfilled.” Mr. Boies, who said he viewed education as a civil rights issue, is offering his services pro bono.
At almost any gathering of academic publishers or librarians, you’ll hear someone float the idea—sometimes phrased as a question—that the model for publishing scholarly monographs is broken.
As InsideHigherEd reports: “Two sets of ideas aired at the Association of American University Presses’ annual meeting, held here this week, don’t say the model is damaged beyond repair. But the proposals, both from groups outside the university-press community, suggest that it needs to be retrofitted, at the least.
“One possible approach came from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the other from a task force on scholarly communications run jointly by the Association of American Universities and the Association of Research Libraries. Both raised the question of how to better subsidize the digital publication of scholarly monographs, and both included the notion that faculty authors’ home institutions might do more to help pay for those books to be published. Such support would help deal with what university-press people often call the “free-rider problem,” in which institutions without presses—most of them, in other words—leave it to those with presses to support the system that gives faculty authors publication credentials.
“The AAU/ARL task force describes its plan as a “prospectus for an institutionally funded first-book subvention” that would shift the burden of payment to authors’ home institutions. That would “address the principal causes and effects of the market failure for monographs,” the prospectus says. It envisions that colleges and universities would agree to pay for an openly available “basic digital edition” of some faculty members’ first books; scholarly publishers could offer those titles for sale in other formats too.
“The plan also envisions that universities with a high level of research activity would offer subventions for three or four books a year, with an “annual subvention exposure” of roughly $68,000 to $73,000. Small colleges would pay for one or two books a year, and offer more modest subventions.
A California judge ruled Tuesday that teacher tenure laws deprived students of their right to an education under the State Constitution and violated their civil rights. The decision hands teachers’ unions a major defeat in a landmark case, one that could radically alter how California teachers are hired and fired and prompt challenges to tenure laws in other states.
“Substantial evidence presented makes it clear to this court that the challenged statutes disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students,” Judge Rolf M. Treu of Los Angeles Superior Court wrote in the ruling. “The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience.”
The decision, which was enthusiastically endorsed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, brings a close to the first chapter of the case, Vergara v. California, in which a group of student plaintiffs backed by a Silicon Valley millionaire argued that state tenure laws had deprived them of a decent education by leaving bad teachers in place.
Both sides expect the case to generate more like it in cities and states around the country. David Welch, a Silicon Valley technology magnate, spent several million dollars to create the organization that brought the Vergara case to court — Students Matter — and paid for a team of high-profile lawyers, including Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., who helped win a Supreme Court decision striking down California’s same-sex marriage ban. While the next move is still unclear, the group is considering filing lawsuits in New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Oregon, New Mexico, Idaho and Kansas as well as other states with powerful unions where legislatures have defeated attempts to change teacher tenure laws.
Historically, most administrators in academic affairs, whether they be department chairs, program directors, deans, or provosts, have come out of the ranks of tenured faculty. However with faculty increasingly being contingent and off the tenure track (70 percent), there has not been much consideration of where administrators within academic affairs will come from.
Clearly very different opportunities and constraints exist at different institutional types, but the problem will occur across all institutions of higher education to a greater or lesser degree. Fewer tenure-track faculty at research-focused institutions could mean that those who do have tenure will be expected to continue to focus more on grant and research production over leadership.
Teaching-focused institutions, including liberal arts college and community colleges, may be more reluctant to transition faculty from classroom duty to campus leadership. Regardless of institutional mission, it seems as though little action is taken toward leadership succession planning. There are often reports of difficulty filling positions. It’s not unusual to hear of department chairs or deans being chosen because someone was the only individual willing (and able in terms of being tenured, not necessarily commitment or capability) to take the role rather than best suited for it.
An emphasis on related experience, if tenured, has become more relaxed. It is not unusual to hear of an internal dean moving into a provost role, or a chair moving into a dean role after just a year or two, not because the person is an undeniable choice, but because so few other individuals have the experience needed and an external candidate could not be identified.
Post-tenure review is viewed by many professors with skepticism.As InsideHigherEd reports, “To some, it seems like an attack on tenure; to others, a waste of time. And recentannouncements by two colleges, Ball State and Suffolk Universities, that they’re considering adopting post-tenure review policies that could in some cases lead to dismissal have brought out those skeptics.
“But at another college, administrators say they’re hoping to shore up an existing post-tenure review policy not in an attempt to weed out the bad professors, but to make the good ones better. So Westmont College’s newly mandatory, peer-led reviews for full professors raise the question: Can post-tenure review win faculty backing?
“One principle that I think is important in thinking about full professor reviews is to think of them as something that’s designed to be enriching for anyone who goes through it,” he said, “rather than something that’s designed to be a bureaucratic competency check for all faculty members.”Sargent said that means the process has to be faculty-driven. Luckily for him, even before his arrival at the college two years ago, Westmont had in its faculty handbook a periodic peer-review policy for “accountability of full professors.”
“The policy was formerly enforced on a voluntary basis. Sargent is making it mandatory, starting next year.The policy says that after a faculty member becomes a full professor, he or she will participate every six years in a “structured process of discussion, reflection, evaluation and future goals.” The purpose of the process, Westmont says, “is to encourage ongoing personal and professional development in all areas of service to the college.” The review process involves meeting with the provost and an individual written reflection component, but it hinges on work with a mutual mentoring group that meets on its own throughout the semester. This is not a system for getting rid of tenured professors.