My alma mater has today forcibly terminated its second consecutive president in three years. I will not grieve excessively for John Lilley, for I never believed that a Presbyterian elder ought to be at the helm of an erstwhile Baptist university. Nevertheless, I think it is worthwhile for us to consider where University life in America has come.
Because of the tenure system, faculty positions are essentially secure. Exceptions that allow for the termination of a tenured faculty member are quite difficult to execute. The de facto situation in American universities is that the president and his administration cannot terminate faculty members.
On the other hand, faculties seem to be gaining more and more political influence over the job security of administrators. Both Sloan's and Lilley's departures are basically the result of faculty lobbying efforts (although in Sloan's case the influence of a former president contributed). But this is not a phenomenon unique to Baylor. Harvard president Lawrence H. Summers succumbed to faculty pressure at the unfriendly conclusion of his tenure at the nation's most prestigious university. Faculties are learning that it is well within their power to obtain the chief executive's head on a silver charger.
The net effect? The institutional situation at our universities is coming to be convoluted beyond belief: The supervisory executive branch cannot terminate the employees, but the employees can terminate their supervisors. Does anyone really believe that this is healthy? If so, would you care to explain why?