More than 30 years ago, Metropolitan Community College of Kansas City laid off some full-time professors, saying it was in the name of managing tight finances.
The move landed what was then known as MCC on the American Association of University Professors’ list of schools censured for actions attacking issues of academic freedom and tenure.
Last week, the AAUP membership voted to lift the censure imposed in 1984.
Removal from the list “is welcomed by us and our faculty leaders as well,” said Kathy Walter-Mack, who on behalf of the college worked for a year with AAUP to get the censure lifted. “Nobody wants to be on a censure list,” she said. “It is not the way we do business.”
AAUP’s long list of censured institutions is something professors refer to when considering applying or accepting a position with a college or university.
Last week, the University of Missouri was added to that list for the way it terminated the employment of Melissa Click, the communications professor caught on tape calling for “muscle” to remove a student journalist from the Columbia campus quadrangle during last November’s racially charged protests.
MU faculty and the AAUP contend that Click, at the time a tenure-track professor, was fired without a hearing before her peers to determine whether her actions warranted termination. Due process for faculty is a policy at MU.
“The purpose of the censure list is to communicate that conditions for academic freedom and tenure security are not satisfactory at this institution,” said Hans-Joerg Tiede, associate secretary with AAUP’s Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance.
When MCC was put on the list, the academic organization took issue with why faculty were laid off and the lack of policy addressing how the college would reduce its faculty.
Community college officials said the school recognized that being on the censure list blemished the its reputation. Walter-Mack said the college had, in the last few years, successfully navigated through one of the deepest recessions in U.S. history and managed state reductions in higher education funding without layoffs.
“This was a legacy we did not need to leave on the books,” Walter-Mack said. “It didn’t seem right to have a legacy hanging out there that didn’t now accurately reflect the way we do business.”
The college did not have the longest run on the AAUP censure list. Time on the list, Tiede said, has ranged from a few years to more than 50 years.
To get off the list, a school has to make some amount of redress to impacted faculty and develop a policy that satisfactorily protects faculty in the future. AAUP contacts schools on the list every two years to update them on their status.
Within the last year, Metropolitan Community College cleared its final outstanding case of redress and put finishing touches on policy to ensure what happened 32 years ago would not happen again.