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As States Take Aim at Public College Tenure, Adjuncts May Come Out on Top

by John A. Neilsson

Iowa State Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, again has filed a bill seeking to end the tenure system at Iowa’s three state universities. Sen. Zaun has filed the bill before, but this year Senate File 41 may get more attention with Republicans controlling the Senate. The bill also would ban tenure at community colleges. The bill would allow universities to fire any member for “just cause, program discontinuance and financial exigency.”

Iowa joins Wisconsin in the legislative effort to end tenure and promotion systems at colleges and universities. On its surface, the move may appear to be an easy opportunity to save costs in compensation and retirement benefits. But colleges will likely lose a significant portion of the talent which attracts federal research dollars, encourages graduate school enrollment and builds the institutional profile in media and industrial circles.

University of Iowa officials say using adjunct professors, who teach part-time and don’t receive benefits, is one way the university is saving money during the budget crisis. Adjuncts are the fastest growing position at the UI, increasing 19 percent in the last five years. The number of permanent faculty increased 6 percent in the same time. In the fall

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