Faculty Sues USC Over Tenure

Seventeen medical school professors at the University of Southern California (USC) filed suit against the university on 14 November charging breach of contract in response to university plans to lower their salaries.

The suit comes more than 2 years after USC sent a new contract to members of the Basic Science faculty that bases annual pay on 9 months instead of 12, reducing salaries by 25%. The contract also makes future salary levels contingent on researchers' success at obtaining outside grant money. The university issued the new terms following a 3-year pay freeze, according to the plaintiffs' Los Angeles lawyer, Jeffery W. Kramer.

Kramer says the university is trying to balance its budget ``on the backs'' of the Basic Science faculty, and in so doing violates the faculty handbook's guidelines on tenure. ``Being tenured carries with it the idea that you need to pay these people enough money,'' says Kramer. If the university carries through with its plan, ``then tenure at USC has no meaning.''

The plaintiffs, who make up about half the tenured Basic Science faculty at USC School of Medicine, have demanded that their old contracts be restored. Failing that, they seek damages to cover past and future salary losses.

A spokesperson said the university would have no official comment before ScienceNOW went online.