Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
May 15, 1998

Faculty reject post-tenure review

by Linda Charles

The proposal that would have mandated a post-tenure review for faculty at least every seven years was narrowly defeated in a faculty vote on the proposed promotion and tenure policy. The remainder of the policy, which revises standards for promotion and tenure, was approved.

Only half of the ISU faculty cast ballots on the proposed policy. Results of the vote were revealed during the May 5 Faculty Senate meeting. Faculty voted on the policy in two sections: one dealing with evaluation and review of faculty, and the other with promotion and tenure.

The post-tenure review section, which also would have required an annual departmental review and preliminary reviews during tenure-track faculty's second or third year, was defeated 431 to 390, with 52.5 percent of voters opposed to the measure and 47.5 percent favoring it.

During earlier Faculty Senate discussions, some had worried that if the faculty did not adopt its own form of post-tenure review, such a review might be mandated by others. That concern resurfaced after the vote.

Iowa State is the only one of the state universities that does not have some sort of post-tenure review, outgoing senate president Bill Woodman said.

"I strongly fear that external forces might take this decision out of our hands," Woodman said. "I have a feeling we made a fateful mistake" in not passing the peer review section of the policy.

Iowa Board of Regents president Owen Newlin, who attended the senate meeting, said post-tenure review has been, and will continue to be, important.

"My personal opinion is that it is very important," Newlin said. "I would prefer that we not get a directive from the Legislature. I would hope we could work this out internally."

New senate president Denise Vrchota said she was "surprised and disappointed with the outcome" of the promotion and tenure vote. "I'm concerned about having a policy imposed upon us."

Vrchota said she has no plans at this point to push the senate to revive the issue of post-tenure review next year.

"The senate used the whole of last year dealing with the document. I don't see any point in dealing with it again. Life goes on, other things go on," she said.

However, Vrchota said she has asked the senators to indicate their interest areas for next year and it is possible they may want to revisit it. Or, if it looks like external forces might impose a plan, it is probable the senate will reconsider the issue, she said.

Vrchota added, "That slightly less than 50 percent of the faculty voted was appalling."

Woodman blamed the defeat of the peer review section of the policy on low voter turnout.

"The people who felt strongly were the ones who felt most threatened by post-tenure reviews," he said. "Those who were the most upset about it were the ones who knew the least about it."

Woodman noted that his department, sociology, has had post- tenure reviews for a long time. The faculty view the reviews as an opportunity to take stock of where they are and where they would like to go, he said.

A college breakdown of the post-tenure review vote reveals it was opposed by a majority of voters in only two colleges -- Business and Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Voting results

Evaluation and Review of Faculty portion
of the proposed Promotion and Tenure policy

College Yes No
Agriculture 91 75
Business 14 26
Design 24 18
Education 21 20
Engineering 58 55
FCS 31 25
LAS 117 188
Vet Med 34 24
Total 390 431

The promotion and tenure section, which was approved by the faculty, 573-242, expands the definition of scholarship to include creative activities and teaching and extension/professional practice. Traditionally, "scholarship" has been more narrowly defined as research and artistic activities. The policy also calls tenure "the keystone for academic freedom."

Both Woodman and Vrchota said they were pleased the promotion and tenure section was approved.

"Embedded in it were a lot of important changes," Woodman said, citing the redefinition of scholarship and broadening of the areas in which excellence can be achieved.

Vrchota said she also was pleased with the expanded definition of scholarship, along with the provision for position responsibility statements for faculty. Faculty with long careers will be able to redefine their responsibilities as their interests and careers modify, she said.

The new policy will affect tenure-track faculty hired fall 1998 or later. Tenure-track faculty already at Iowa State will decide, in discussions with their DEOs or departmental committees, whether they want to be under the old or new policy.

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