Monday, April 29, 2013

Brooklyn Law's Dean Allard Replies to Concerns about Academic Freedom

On Friday, Dean Nicholas Allard at Brooklyn Law School, sent me a constructive reply to the concerns raised on Thursday about the proposed definition of "adequate cause" (and, in particular, "demonstrated incompetence") for termination of tenured faculty.  Dean Allard also kindly gave me permission to share his response with the academic community.  I post it below in its entirety:

I appreciate your acknowledgment of Brooklyn Law School as a school of long-standing and good reputation.  I also share, and applaud, your commitment to academic freedom, and I welcome a vigorous discussion about how best to achieve it.  It is a critical issue and a core value at Brooklyn Law School.

The recent change to our faculty regulations that you wrote about added the concept of “demonstrated incompetence,” which, as I understand it, is a long-recognized and widely accepted regulatory term supported by the AAUP and others.  Our regulations did not previously include any reference to “demonstrated incompetence.”

The definition of the term “demonstrated incompetence” that was also included in the new regulations was not meant to expand its scope, but quite the opposite: the intent was to offer additional language to clarify a term that seemed potentially vague without further explication.  The
particular language of the definition obviously has raised concerns and will be addressed.  To that end, I welcome further input from the faculty — and from other sources, like the AAUP, as referenced by the post on your blog — and that is exactly why the matter has been referred to our Faculty Hearing Committee for its review and guidance.

Last week I asked the Hearing Committee, which is the panel of BLS professors that applies internal regulations to tenured faculty, to review the definition for “adequate cause.”  Under our regulations, this committee assures that peers are responsible for performance review — an important safeguard of both due process and academic freedom.  I await their suggestions, concerns, and improvements, which I will take to our Board of Trustees to address. 

I have full confidence that faculty peers will apply the standard fairly and in alignment with Brooklyn Law School’s tradition of outstanding scholarship. 

I view this as welcome news, and will be interested to see the final standards that emerge from the process.  I think this will also be an instructive process for other academic institutions.

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