Report: Academic Freedom and Tenure University of Central Arkansasa

Academe, March/April 2000 | Go to article overview

Report: Academic Freedom and Tenure University of Central Arkansasa


Academic Freedom and Tenure University of Central Arkansas1

This report deals with action by President Winfred L. Thompson of the University of Central Arkansas to dismiss Professor John H. Lammers, who had taught in the Department of English for twenty-four years. It deals also with the president's decision to deny tenure to Dr. Linda D. Arnold, then an assistant professor who had completed thirteen years of full-time service in the Department of English; with the release of two instructors in the Writing Program, Drs. Bill Jenkins and Lou Ann Norman, each of whom had served full time for eight years; and with statements and actions by President Thompson and the board of trustees relating to faculty tenure.

I. Introduction

The University of Central Arkansas, located in Conway, was founded as the Arkansas State Normal School for the purpose of training elementary and secondary school teachers. Classes began in 1908, with 107 students, eight faculty members, and a campus consisting of one partially completed building. The baccalaureate degree was first awarded in the early 1920s, and the institution was renamed the Arkansas State Teachers College in 1925. Initial accreditation, by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, was achieved in 1931. The first graduate program, begun in 1955, led to the master's degree in education.

An Association investigation was undertaken at the college during the 1961-62 academic year, following the administration's action to terminate the services of a tenured professor. The investigating committee found that the action was a dismissal in violation of the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, and censure was imposed by the 1963 annual meeting. The censure was removed in 1968, when Committee A was able to report to that year's annual meeting that a settlement had been reached with the dismissed professor and that the regulations of the institution, its name changed by then to the State College of Arkansas, had been brought into full harmony with the 1940 Statement of Principles.

The institution, which in 1975 became the University of Central Arkansas, grew rapidly over the ensuing decades. Currently there are thirty-eight major buildings on its 262-acre campus. The university's departments and programs are organized into six academic colleges and an honors college. Approximately 9,000 students are taught by a faculty of 350.

Dr. Winfred L. Thompson, the institution's seventh president, has been in office since 1988. He has an undergraduate degree from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, J.D. and LL.M. law degrees from George Washington University, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in history from the University of Chicago. He held administrative positions successively at Arkansas State University and at the University of Arkansas before coming to the University of Central Arkansas as president.

11. The Case of Professor Lammers

Professor John H. Lammers received his B.A. degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Auburn University, specializing in Victorian poetry. He came to what was then the State College of Arkansas in 1973 as an assistant professor in the Department of English. Granted tenure in 1979, he was subsequently promoted in rank first to associate professor and then to professor. His wife, Jane, remains on the university's faculty as a tenured professor of health sciences.

Over the years, Professor Lammers was frequently at odds with colleagues and administrators on a range of issues from faculty governance to such educational matters as pedagogy and testing. Dean Gary D. Stark of the College of Liberal Arts, writing in August 1996 about a complaint from a student that Professor Lammers sharply disputed, stated to him that "your student evaluations indicate you are a dedicated, caring, demanding teacher who makes his students work hard, and that many, many of the students you teach have a very positive experience in your class and recommend you very highly. …

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