Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
May 2, 1997

Faculty respond to P&T proposal

by Linda Charles
Post-tenure reviews drew criticism during two open forums on a proposed promotion and tenure policy.

Approximately 70 faculty members attended the forums on April 16 and 22 to voice their opinions on the policy draft, developed by the Faculty Senate Committee to Review Promotion and Tenure Criteria.

The proposal will be reworked based on suggestions gathered over the coming months and submitted to the Faculty Senate for consideration next fall.

Five-year reviews

The draft proposal calls for tenured faculty to be reviewed every five years. This review would address faculty performance in teaching, research/artistic activities, extension/professional practice, institutional service and contributions to the university community and its mission, and achievements in scholarship.

Under the proposal, those whose performance is deemed inadequate would be referred to the DEO to develop a plan for improvement. The plan would include actions to improve performance, a timeline and standards to be met.

A second unsatisfactory review could signal the possible need for disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.

Many of the faculty at the forums expressed concern about the time commit-ment that such reviews would require. Others voiced concerns that post-tenure reviews would circumvent the faculty's academic freedom, and could be used to dismiss faculty whose research wasn't mainstream. Some noted that members within a department might disagree over what research was worthwhile.

Still others seemed to resent the implication of a post- tenure review.

"This says that once you reach full professor, you need to be reviewed or you won't be productive," said one faculty member attending a forum.

Another said, "It sounds like what they intend to do is abolish tenure."

Some noted that faculty already undergo annual department reviews and questioned the need for the five-year review. Others objected to the possibility of dismissal being written into the promotion and tenure policy, saying the Faculty Handbook already includes procedures for dismissal under certain circumstances.

Broader definition of scholarship

The proposal also broadens the definition of scholarship. Currently, scholarship is defined as research and artistic activities. The proposal broadens the definition to include intellectual work in teaching, research/artistic activities or extension/professional practice that is communicated to various audiences and validated by peers.

Now, faculty seeking promotion or tenure are required to demonstrate at least one area of excellence. The proposal calls for faculty to be evaluated on the sum of their teaching, research/artistic activities, extension/professional practice and institutional service efforts, as they relate to their position responsibilities.

A few objected to the new definition, which would make it easier to obtain tenure based on teaching excellence.

"We should not hire pure teachers," one faculty member said. "We should hire people who could create something."

Under the proposal, job descriptions would be co-developed by a faculty member and DEO so scholarship could more easily be judged. These descriptions also raised concerns.

"Do you mean," asked one faculty member at the forum, "that my DEO is going to tell me, a full professor, what I'm going to do?"

"Wait and see"

Some at the forums said that the proposed policy would hinder the university's quest to hire the best.

"What we're talking about is reducing job security," said one faculty member. "When you do that, to keep good people you have to compensate them in other areas, such as higher salaries."

Responding to comments that the public is starting to view tenure in a negative manner, one faculty member said, "The administration and the faculty need to do a better job in communicating what tenure is and why it came about."

Another said, "I'm not sure Iowa State should get in front of this issue. We could find ourselves doing things that other premier institutions are not doing. We should wait and see what they do."

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