Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Suit Targets Changes to UA Tenure Policy:
A University of Arkansas System revision to the faculty tenure policy violates faculty due-process rights by retroactively modifying faculty contracts with their employers, a federal lawsuit filed Friday afternoon states.
Three faculty members at three UA System institutions filed a lawsuit over the revised policy. The lawsuit describes the policy as going into effect July 1 and expands the examples for why a faculty member may be fired. The lawsuit seeks class-action status.
A 1993 Arkansas Supreme Court decision in Arkansas Dept. of Human Servs. v. Walter held "that statutes can be construed to operate retroactively so long as they do not disturb contractual or vested rights or contractual rights," the lawsuits states.
"Under Arkansas law, both parties to a contract must consent to any changes to that contract," the lawsuit states, citing a 2011 decision in Bancorpsouth Bank v. Shields. That ruling states that "[f]undamental principles of contract law require that the parties to a contract agree to any modification of that contract."
The revision allows trustees and administrators to use annual reviews of faculty members to be the basis for termination, which was not previously allowed, the lawsuit states. It further provides more "grounds" that an administrator could cite in firing someone, the lawsuit states. ...
The old tenure policy, last updated in 2001, listed four examples of grounds for dismissal: "incompetence, neglect of duty, intellectual dishonesty, and moral turpitude."
The revised policy lists 12 examples of grounds for dismissal, including a "pattern of conduct that is detrimental to the productive and efficient operation of the instructional or work environment." ...
Senate Bill 232, sponsored by Sen. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, during this winter's session of the Legislature sought to prevent new rules from retroactively applying to existing contracts between faculty members and their schools. It failed to pass through the education committee.
Robert Steinbuch, an attorney at the UA Law School, worked the legislation with Hammer. The bill "would have obviated this lawsuit," he said when reached by phone Friday afternoon.
"Contract rights should be enforced," he said. "That was the goal of the legislation, that was the goal as I understand it of the litigation. No party should be able to aggregate the contract rights of the other side of the contract."