The board of Kentucky's community college system has reversed a decision to eliminate the possibility of tenure for new faculty.
The reversal, made Friday by the Kentucky Community and Technical College System's Board of Regents, came after an opinion released this week by Attorney General Jack Conway said the board did not have the authority to deny tenure to new hires.
Tenure is a type of job security that academics can generally pursue. The board had approved in March a plan to eliminate tenure for faculty members hired after June 30, saying it would allow greater flexibility to alter programs during a rocky economy. Opponents had said eliminating tenure could compromise the quality of education and encourage new faculty to avoid controversy.
Board chairman Thomas Zawacki said the board disagree's with Conway's opinion but wants to move on.
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"Although we don't agree with that, we do feel that the opinion is going to continue to allow the pot to keep bubbling," Zawacki said. "We have many initiatives that we want to accomplish in the next several years. We don't need that distraction."
Still, KCTCS might make changes to its tenure program in coming months. The board asked its finance, technology and human resources committee to review, among other things, how faculty earn tenure.
KCTCS president Michael McCall said the board committee would recommend changes after studying how the system's tenure process compares with that at other colleges.
"It may not do anything to it," McCall said. "It may leave it exactly as it is. They may make some tweaks to it."
Roy Silver, a sociology professor at Southeast Community and Technical College, said the tenure process for community college faculty "is pretty transparent" and similar to that at the University of Kentucky.
"We've grown exponentially during the 10 years that the system was created ... and we've done it with tenured faculty," he said.
Rep. Rick Nelson, D-Middlesboro, requested Conway's opinion, which noted that state law says new faculty at KCTCS "shall earn tenure."
Faculty at almost all of the system's 16 colleges have had votes of no confidence in the Board of Regents after it eliminated tenure for new faculty.
KCTCS employs 5,000 faculty members, of which 890 are tenured and 168 more are on track for tenure.