An ariel view of the Emporia State University.

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has accused Emporia State University of violating academic freedom and tenure rights by laying off two tenured faculty members without adequate cause.

Emporia State administration dismissed Russell Grass, associate professor of geosciences, and Richard Klingaman, professor of history, on June 30. Both professors had tenure and had not received negative performance evaluations, according to AAUP.

“The university has provided no evidence that Professor Grass or Professor Klingaman were not meeting their contractual obligations or not performing their duties in a satisfactory manner,” AAUP said in a letter to the university president. The faculty union argued the layoffs were made for arbitrary reasons unrelated to assessment of job performance or program needs.

The dismissals have been condemned by Emporia State faculty, national AAUP, and local advocacy groups. Over 400 people signed a petition demanding the firings be rescinded and the professors reinstated with full employment and tenure rights. AAUP said the university’s actions violate the organization’s widely accepted 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure.

“While professorial incompetence or willful neglect of duty may constitute grounds for dismissal, the mere decisions of administrative officers to dismiss a faculty member are not alone sufficient,” AAUP said. The dismissals lacked the procedural safeguards and substantive evidence of cause needed to overcome the strong presumption of continued employment afforded by tenure.

Emporia State administration has defended the layoffs, claiming budget shortfalls required “difficult decisions.” However, AAUP and others rejected this justification, noting layoffs of tenured faculty should be an absolute last resort, and that the professors’ programs showed no significant budget issues. They allege the dismissals were unjust and an attempt to undermine tenure through abuse of financial exigency claims.

The fate of Grass and Klingaman’s positions and academic freedom at Emporia State remains uncertain as advocacy groups weigh potential legal challenges and call for broader faculty review of administration decisions. However, the dispute has drawn national attention to concerns over threats to tenure and shared governance in higher education.


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