23 May 2013

University of Texas Brownsville struggles while waiting for merger into new Texas university

In discussing the plans for a new research university in South Texas, I have told a lot of people that my institution is not the one that will benefit the most. I told them about how the other institutions in the lower Rio Grande Valley have been struggling. A new article in the Texas Observer documents more officially what I had only heard informally.

It is uglier than I had heard. Not surprising when you get rid of a fifth of your faculty, including many with tenure.

Early in March 2012, UT-Brownsville formed review committees to determine which faculty would stay with the school, and which would be let go. The committees ranked faculty based on advanced degrees or tenure status. Teachers at the bottom of the list got cut. The goal was to create an objective rubric for the type of faculty each department wanted to keep—but some departments were so small, it was obvious who would lose their jobs. Fuss-Sommer, whose layoff came in that second round, calls it “a perfect opportunity to get rid of people you don’t like.” ...

The layoffs began in late March 2012, with 30 adjunct professors who taught trade courses like air conditioning or car maintenance. At the end of April, Fuss-Sommer and 104 other faculty members—nearly a fifth of the school’s 518 total faculty—were also let go. Of those laid off, 53 were tenured. ...

“There’s no consistency to it,” Ramirez says. “Some people are staying without Ph.D.s and other people aren’t. … It really looks like cronyism to me, where they’re just picking all of the people that they want or they don’t want.”

Ramirez calls it a “really baroque system” developed by UT-Brownsville Provost Alan Artibise to “shield what he’s really doing, which is firing tenured professors.”

I truly hope the merger into a new university stabilizes things.

External links

In Brownsville, Two Colleges Split and a Community Suffers

Picture by final_station on ; used under a Creative Commons license.

No comments: