Today’s Inside Higher Education reports that all 21 tenured faculty members at Florida State University who had been told that their positions were being eliminated will keep their jobs. The arbitrator’s ruling released on Friday found that the university’s decision to eliminate the jobs of 12 tenured professors violated provisions of Florida State’s contract with its faculty union. The case of anthropology professor Elizabeth Peters and the situation of the anthropology department generally is featured strongly in the article and ruling.
Further, the arbitrator touches on an issue that has angered many faculty members in traditional liberal arts departments in this era of budget cuts: the idea that their departments are somehow evaluated as less financially viable than others that attract outside grants. The arbitrator uses anthropology — the target of cuts at Florida State — to challenge this thinking by noting, as many faculty members have, that its tuition revenue makes it financially strong (running a surplus in fact).
The finding compares anthropology (subject to deep cuts) with meteorology (which was protected), applying the administration’s stated goal of focusing on departments with high costs. Anthropology’s cost per degree awarded is $33,343, compared to more than $50,000 per meteorology degree. And anthropology’s net tuition earned exceeds that of 14 of the 17 departments in arts and sciences at the university. “It made no sense to eliminate anthropology from a budget standpoint,” the arbitrator writes.
The university, while continuing to defend its actions, announced that all the tenured faculty members whose jobs had been eliminated should be treated the same way, and so rescinded the layoff notices given to 21 tenured faculty members.