Chairman Murman and members of the Committee, good afternoon. I am Chris Kabourek and I am Interim President of the University of Nebraska.
I appreciate the opportunity to share with you why the University is opposed to LB1064. Put simply, eliminating tenure would tie both our hands behind our backs at the very time our University is setting high aspirations to compete with the best of the best.
My job as President is to make sure the University of Nebraska has the right tools to help us compete. We need tenure in our toolbox. Tenure is a crucial benefit for faculty who have put in years of work to earn it. Without it, we would be at a grave competitive disadvantage in trying to recruit and retain the world-class cancer doctors, ag faculty, scientists and professors who are the lifeblood of our institution.
I can’t underscore this enough. No other Big Ten university, nor any institution in the prestigious Association of American Universities that we want to join, is without tenure. Nebraska can’t afford to become a club of one.
Additionally, governance of the University, including the authority to set the terms and conditions of tenure, is vested in the Board of Regents, and I know our Board takes that responsibility seriously.
I do want to be clear. I am a strong supporter of tenure and its place in a university like ours where academic freedom is a cherished value. But I do not support lifetime job guarantees. Earning tenure is no easy feat. It takes years of rigorous work and a proven record in scholarly performance and productivity. Even once earned, tenured faculty are subject to annual performance reviews like all University employees.
That’s good news for Nebraska, because accountability matters. Growing up in David City, my parents taught me that nothing in life is guaranteed. You earn your opportunities. I’m raising my three sons with the same values and this is the approach I bring to my University work as well. Our students and taxpayers expect and deserve a University where all 16,000 of our employees, not just our 1,600 tenured faculty, work our tails off each and every day for Nebraska.
Senator Lippincott has been gracious enough to meet with about this bill and I have told him I think he has opened an important dialogue about rigor and accountability. I have no doubt that the Senator, myself and our faculty are all aligned around a goal for our University to be the best it can possibly be.
I have worked here for 27 years and been in this role for 44 days now, and my eyes are opened every day to the amazing work our faculty and staff are doing. I truly believe that if you or I were to pop into one of our classrooms or research labs right now, we would be proud of what we see. There’s a reason Nebraska is a world leader in agriculture, medicine, national defense and business. It’s because we have some of the best and brightest minds working right here in Nebraska.
And yet, I always want us to aim higher. Maybe it’s the coach in me, but I’m convinced the University of Nebraska is not yet competing to our full potential. When I look at the rest of the Big Ten and the AAU in terms of research and academic outcomes, the data speaks for itself. We all need to step up our productivity and performance to compete at a higher level.
I can tell you we are having robust conversations with our elected Board of Regents about how to improve our competitiveness across the enterprise. I have great confidence in the Board’s authority and leadership in holding our teams accountable. The Board has shown it is willing to make tough calls to eliminate tenured faculty when appropriate. And I welcome opportunities to sit down with
anyone and look at our annual review and post-tenure review processes to ensure we are working toward uncommonly high expectations.
I have full confidence that together with our Board, we will find ways to raise the bar across the University of Nebraska. And I believe we can do it while preserving a valuable tool offered by every other university whose company we want to keep.
Thank you, and I would be happy to answer any questions.