An effort is underway to protest the decision of the University of St. Andrews to fail to make permanent the contract of a philosopher on a fixed term appointment who has done an extraordinary amount of work for the university over the past three years.
The University of St. Andrews policy on fixed term appointments says that those hired into such temporary positions should have the expectation that after three years of service, “they will normally be provided with confirmation that their post is to be made standard unless clear objective justification applies, or their post is not being renewed at this point” and that they should “not be selected for redundancy or be unfairly dismissed if the principal reason for the selection was because of their fixed term status.”
Alison Duncan Kerr has been continuously employed by the University of St. Andrews since 2017. In 2018, she obtained a 3-year research fellowship in order to establish the St Andrews Institute of Gender Studies (StAIGS) and a new Gender Studies MLitt program. It appears that in many ways she went above and beyond what was expected in her position, not just in regard to the development of the new institute and program, but also in teaching, research, and service.
Dr. Kerr’s contract is set to end at the end of June, 2021. The university has declared that they will not be transfering her to a standard contract and intend to let her go—despite the apparent absence of a “clear objective justification” for doing so and the university’s plans to make sure the work she has done in her post continues to be done (by others, who reportedly do not have central research interests in gender studies).
In response to the university’s plans, colleagues and students of Dr. Kerr have published an open letter (currently accepting additional signatories) and created a website (and Twitter account) to advocate for her. The letter, an accompanying fact page, and some commentary on the strategic goals of the university, make clear how outrageous the university’s decision seems, given the expectations with which it hires people into positions like Dr. Kerr’s.
As of the time of this post, the letter has over 900 signatories.
UPDATE (2/15/21): The story has made The New York Times.