Thirty-free faculty members were laid off in a meeting at Emporia State University on Thursday, Sept. 15 with little to no explanation as to why. They walked into the building for a “mandatory” meeting where they were given a letter, mental health resources and unemployment/insurance resources.
ESU President Ken Hush, who the Kansas Board of Regents (KBOR) named as ESU’s president on June 22, worked quickly to submit a workforce management plan to KBOR, which they approved unanimously on Wednesday, Sept. 14. Originally, KBOR passed the Framework for Workforce Management Plan in December 2021 as a temporary way of dealing with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on higher education. This allowed for budget cuts including firing tenured professors, which is exactly what happened to these ESU faculty.
There seems to be very little experience in the field of education prior to Hush’s presidential position, so the question remains, why Ken Hush? How can a man who has no experience in education make such decisions over those who are inside the educational workforce every day?
In response to these firings, Hush claimed that the only other choice would have been to raise tuition prices, which ESU did not want to do.
Maybe charging students isn’t a solution, but neither is firing those who have been a part of that school’s community for decades, that’s how you lose support.
Among those fired was Christopher Lovett, a tenured professor of social sciences for 26 years at ESU. Lovett asked why he was being fired, but ESU could not give him a reason.
Not only did ESU fire employees who have been with them for over two decades, but the university also fired a professor who was one year away from retirement. These educators are the same ones who stuck it out through the Covid-19 pandemic, and this is how they are being repaid. It is clear the effects the pandemic has had on educators. Not only were they not – and still are not- getting paid enough, but no one ever prepared them for a pandemic, they were stressed and had to deal with students who didn’t even care because they could simply stop watching and caring at the click of a button.
Within the last two years, Kansas public schools have been struggling to keep educators, even having to ask 18-year-olds to substitute teach .
How is it fair that those still willing to educate the younger generations, even throughout the Covid-19 pandemic still somehow get shot in the foot?
Tenure could have possibly been the only thing keeping these professors going because it ensured job security and now it’s being thrown out the window as if it has not been an established principle for years. This has taken an emotional toll on professors in a time in their career where a tenured position should be peace, stability and an accomplishment–not stress, anger and regret.
If professors were hired and ensured tenure, it is only right for that institution to follow through with what they promised. New educators know this risk, but those who thought they passed the “test” have been stripped from what educational institutions have been built on since the 1600’s. Allowing to fire tenured professors demolishes the purpose of it and forces them to find work at another college or university where they will have to start the tenure process all over again.
The Bulletin, ESU’s student newspaper, confirmed 30 departments among those impacted:
- College of Liberal Arts and Sciences – 23 were dismissed
- Teacher’s College – two were dismissed
- Business College – five were dismissed
It could be possible that the decision to terminate these employees came from the original framework that was adopted in January of 2021. To help understand why ESU faculty were fired, in the original document KBOR offers these reasons:
- Low enrollment
- Cost of operations
- Reduction in revenues for specific departments or schools
- Current or future marker consideration as to the need for a program or department
- Restructuring of a program, department, or school as determined to be necessary by the university
- Realignment of resources
- Performance evaluations
- Teaching and research productivity
- Low service productivity
- Conduct of the employee
With this list of possibilities, why were professors not even given the smallest amount of respect to know exactly why they were fired?
Hush said Emporia State will focus on its core programs and take away some low-enrollment majors, which clearly isn’t fair to those who are so close to graduation already. Students and faculty protested on Wednesday, Sept. 14 at ESU not only for the teachers being affected, but for those students whose programs might be cut because of this decision. These students may have to worry about transferring, and this puts students who are working towards a degree at ESU in a state of panic and stress. How much will it cost to transfer? Where will they transfer to? What new place will they be forced to call home?
As if being a college student was not stressful enough, this decision was made so abruptly with only care for those in the business of making profits.
Hush claimed that ESU wanted student input and that he was listening, but is he really listening and to whom?
What about those local students who are not going to ESU for their best programs but because it is their cheapest or maybe only option?
An educational institution should not solely be based on money like Koch industries is. Hush is looking at a university as if it were a business that only focused on profiting from its customers. These are real people, who are at least trying to further their education, not customers.
Twenty-three Liberal Arts and Sciences faculty were fired, which leads one to imagine the number of programs within that field that will be cut. This is something that would deeply affect my education if I were to be attending ESU. This also may affect the student voices of ESU like The Bulletin who are essential in getting information on decisions like these to their students. What will happen then?
There are too many questions that remain unanswered, and we need them answered.