Professors at Saint Louis University have voted “no confidence” in the university’s president, Fr. Lawrence Biondi, S.J., in retaliation for his promising but short-lived proposal to reform tenure. The policy was announced in August but rescinded in September.
The vote was an overwhelming 35-2 during a meeting of the Faculty Council of the College of Arts and Sciences. This follows two faculty no-confidence votes last month against Vice President for Academic Affairs Manoj Patankar, who was a driving force behind the proposal. Patankar reportedly called the reaction “hysteria.”
That seemed to be confirmed by political science professor Timothy Lomperis, whoreportedly alleged that the University “has now become a place of tyranny.”
The Jesuit university’s proposed policy for post-tenure reviews, which was scheduled to go into effect starting in January, stated that the reviews could result in 1) the faculty member remaining tenured, 2) the faculty member being placed on a “performance improvement plan” with another evaluation to follow, or 3) the faculty member could be switched back to a non-tenured position and/or fired with a year’s notice.
The idea of tenure as a lifetime appointment has come under fire recently from other institutions as well. Wayne State University in Detroit attempted to implement a policy that faculty members said would abolish tenure, but it too has reportedly walked that back.
And in a decision that The Cardinal Newman Society reported on, a federal appellate court sided with a private law school in saying tenure does not guarantee continued employment.
In Catholic colleges and universities, tenure has sometimes been used to protect the jobs of professors who undermine the institutions’ Catholic mission. So The Cardinal Newman Society will continue keeping a close eye on this story.
This is not the first time that Saint Louis University and Fr. Biondi have made news this school year. The Dean of Saint Louis University’s law school resigned at the beginning of the school year with a scathing resignation letter that called into question the integrity and honesty of the institution.
“It is the ultimate irony that a Jesuit university would operate so far outside the bounds of common decency, collegiality, professionalism and integrity,” Annette E. Clark, the resigning dean, wrote in her resignation letter. “I simply cannot be part of, and I assure you I will not be complicit with, an administration that can’t be trusted to act honestly.”
Clark, who had only been in the job for about a year, accused Fr. Biondi of taking law school money and using it for general university purposes, contrary to agreements made with the law school. Specifically, she said the university removed $800,000 from funds that were to go towards preparing a new building to house the law school, and she said the university “unilaterally” took $260,000 that was to have been used for faculty research stipends during the summer.
To replace her, Fr. Biondi hired a new interim dean, a personal injury lawyer, who,The Cardinal Newman Society reported, represented a mother in a “wrongful life” lawsuit, claiming doctors had failed to detect that her child had a congenital condition leading to the loss of the baby’s left foot. Had she known, the woman said she would have aborted the baby.
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