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Alamo Colleges faculty fear tenure is off the table after board approves multi-year contracts instead

A wall of windows with pillars holding banners with the Alamo Colleges symbol in each of the five colleges' colors at the community college system's central office.
Camille Phillips
/
Texas Public Radio

Five months after a faculty working group at the Alamo Colleges District presented a proposal to the board to reinstate tenure, professors fear they’ve lost the chance to see it return.

Faculty hired prior to 2011 have tenure, but new faculty currently only have one-year contracts. In May, a faculty working group presented a proposal for a revamped tenure policy with increased accountability, but the community college system’s leaders recommended offering multi-year contracts instead.

Tuesday evening, the Alamo Colleges board voted five to three in favor of the administration’s recommended employment policy.

“We're providing a plan that would enhance job security for 440 folks,” Alamo Colleges Chancellor Mike Flores said during discussion before the vote. “The path of least resistance would have been, I think, for us in dialogue to have just not done anything. That would have been an easy decision.”

Flores said Tarrant County and El Paso are the only two community college systems in Texas with tenure. He added that a national association that represents professors estimates that only 30% of colleges in the United States now have tenure.

It’s unclear why that datapoint differs so much from federal data, which reported 58% of public community colleges having tenure in 2019. It’s possible the federal data includes institutions like the Alamo Colleges, which have tenured professors but no longer offer it to newly hired faculty members.

But it’s also possible that the datapoint Flores referenced actually refers to the percent of faculty with tenure, not the percent of institutions with tenure programs.

Trustees Lorraine Pulido, Anna Uriegas Bustamente and Clint Kingsbery voted against the proposal for multi-year contracts.

Kingsbery said he didn’t understand why they weren’t considering the plan proposed by faculty in May.

“It was a good compromise, I thought, between the multi-year contracts and the push for a tenure-type proposal,” Kingsbery said. “This feels very one sided for something that's supposed to be shared government.”

Pulido said when she was a college student most of her professors had tenure.

“I think that we need to make sure that we appreciate the correlation between the students’ success that we push for and having quality professors that have the tenure track, that feel that sense of security, that feel that academic freedom that we've spoken so much about here,” Pulido said.

Board chair Roberto Zárate, who voted in favor of the multi-year contracts, said he and several other board members had worked under multi-year contracts during their careers.

“I don't see this as a as a tenure issue. I see this as a contractual law issue, strengthening our ability to protect our professors and staff,” Zárate said.

Professors who spoke during public comments said the decade without tenure has created two classes of faculty — those with tenure and those without. They also said the way the administration had handled the tenure recommendation process has reduced their trust in district leadership.

“I was honored to be hired to work at (San Antonio College) in 2015, I found a home here, one of excellence, where I work alongside amazing historians,” said history professor Lisa Ramos, "And yet, of 11 full-time faculty in history, only two have tenure. Those two are white men. The nine full-time faculty without tenure are eight women and one man. Four of the women without tenure are women of color."

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Camille Phillips can be reached at camille@tpr.org, on Instagram at camille.m.phillips and on Twitter at @cmpcamille. TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.