Irreplaceable: Illinois Supreme Court Says Community Colleges Can't Lay Off Faculty and Replace with AdjunctsBreaking News
tags: tenure, academic labor, Academe, faculty labor
In 2016, 27 tenured faculty members at John A. Logan Community College in Illinois were laid off. The following year, seven of those faculty members sued the Board of Trustees, arguing that the college replaced them with adjuncts in violation of the Illinois Public Community College Act. Last month, the Illinois Supreme Court sided with the faculty.
The decision is a rare win for tenured faculty, who have seen their power and job protections erode in recent years. Numerous institutions have laid off faculty members this year, and at some, administrators have all but stated the professors will be replaced with adjuncts, who are cheaper to employ.
The decision won't affect professors outside Illinois or those working for four-year institutions, but it sets a precedent that a community college in the state cannot lay off full-time faculty members to replace them with adjuncts.
Much of the Illinois Supreme Court case rested on interpretation of a few words in the law. The Public Community College Act stipulates that laid-off faculty members shall have preferred right of reappointment for about two years for positions they are qualified for, “provided that no non-tenure faculty member or other employee with less seniority shall be employed to render a service which a tenured faculty member is competent to render.”
The majority opinion held that “other employees with less seniority” includes adjunct instructors. The dissenting opinion argued, in part, that because adjuncts cannot accrue any seniority at all, the clause does not refer to them.
“As I argued and the majority found, no seniority is less than some seniority,” said Loretta Haggard, a lawyer for the faculty members. “To say that someone isn’t capable of earning seniority and therefore they don’t fall within the definition of someone who has less seniority doesn’t really make sense.”
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