JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - The Lincoln University Board of Curators voted 5-0 Wednesday to modify how the administration can define "financial exigency," a term that describes the college's lack of ability to fulfill the requirements of an employee contract.
Under the new rules, the university president, Dr. Kevin Rome, can declare exigency on any particular department rather than the college as a whole.
The bankruptcy-like status allows administrators to take drastic measures to mitigate the financial problem, including cancelling tenure contracts.
"They gave him (Rome) the power to declare certain programs and departments in a state of financial trouble," said Faculty Senate Chair Dr. Bryan Salmons. "He is now free to override tenure or any other consideration."
This action comes one month after the university announced it will cut five faculty positions in departments that have undergone significant reduction.
Dr. J. Mark Leslie holds one of those five positions as a tenured associate professor of history.
After being granted tenure in the spring of 2016, Leslie received a letter from the administration in December informing him that his contract would not be renewed after the current academic year.
"It was a little shocking, but it was not surprising given the deactivation over the summer," said Leslie. "Tenure is there to let faculty have a voice and to give them the ability to protect the integrity of their classrooms."
In November 2016, Rome announced layoffs were imminent due to more than a million dollars in budget restrictions by Governor Jay Nixon.
Last week, newly sworn Republican Gov. Eric Greitens announced more withholdings which include $1.34 million from Lincoln's state funds and more than $80,000 from its federal land-grant match.
A spokesperson for the university's administration would not comment on the board's policy change other than to say it was not motivated by Greitens budget actions.