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Professors Challenging University of Arkansas Tenure Policy Have to Wait Until They've Actually Suffered

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - SEPTEMBER 26:    Exterior of Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium before a game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Arkansas Razorbacks at Razorback Stadium on September 26, 2020 in Fayetteville, Arkansas  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
By Laura Temme, Esq. on December 11, 2020 10:35 AM

Faculty in the University of Arkansas system don't have standing to challenge new tenure policies until someone actually loses their job - according to recent decisions in the 8th Circuit.

Professors from three University of Arkansas campuses - UA Little Rock, UA Monticello, and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences - claim that changes made last year to the university system's promotion, review, and tenure policies "limit academic freedom." Among other things, the new policy expanded the university's authority to terminate a faculty member's employment.

District Judge James Moody dismissed the case in March, finding the professors' claim was not ripe for litigation. None of the plaintiffs had faced disciplinary action or termination under the new policy, making their claim one of potential harm rather than actual injury.

Ask Again Later

Perhaps setting the record for the shortest court of appeals opinion this year, the panel issued a one-paragraph decision upholding Judge Moody's dismissal. On appeal, the professors argued that they had standing to challenge a loss of vested contract rights as well as violations of their First Amendment rights. But, it seems the 8th Circuit was not convinced, as the brief per curiam opinion lays out: "Having carefully reviewed the record and the parties' arguments on appeal, we find no basis for reversal."

Related Resources:

First Circuit Upholds Harvard's Affirmative Action in Admissions (FindLaw's First Circuit)

DOJ Says Yale Discriminates Against White and Asian-American Applicants (FindLaw's Law & Daily Life)

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