Promotion and Tenure Revisions to UT Board Policy Information
On Aug. 17, 2017, the UT Board of Trustees workshop focused on Board concerns about the process of reviewing faculty for tenure and the subsequent evaluation of tenured faculty, including a discussion of post-tenure review of all tenured faculty as one means of addressing Board expectations for enhanced academic excellence, accountability, and transparency with respect to tenured faculty. After the workshop, UT system administration began the process of developing proposed revisions to the Board’s tenure policy for consideration at the upcoming March 23 Board meeting.
Draft policy revisions were submitted to the University Faculty Council for review on Feb. 6, 2018 with a March 2, 2018 deadline for comment. The draft revisions included a paragraph on post-tenure review, which some faculty misinterpreted as a means of singling out individual faculty members. Upon hearing of those concerns, President DiPietro and other members of system administration met with faculty representatives on several occasions to discuss their concerns. In response to what was learned from conversation with faculty, substantial changes were made to the proposed revision. The proposed revision now reads as follows:
As part of its due diligence, UT system administration conducted a review of peer institutions’ post-tenure review processes. The review found that periodic post-tenure review and/or triggered post-tenure review of tenured faculty is a common practice among peer institutions.
Note from Faculty Trustee Cooper
A note to fellow faculty,
Many of you have sent comments about the policy requiring a six-year post-tenure review to your University Faculty Council representatives and we much appreciate it. Your comments range from concern to questions to disappointment and frustration. These feelings are understandable, especially since objective faculty accountability has been broadly implemented only recently. Moreover, most faculty members are highly dedicated to their profession and students in much the same way as physicians are to theirs. Indeed, we may sometimes feel that our dedication should be beyond question. But, can we really ask the public to just take our word for it – just trust us? It doesn’t work.
Sadly, trust is in relatively short supply for almost anything today. We live in a “show me” environment of increasing accountability for everyone – it is an inescapable reality. That reality and the consequences of ignoring it generated the proposed review policy. Since we can’t avoid it, how do we now move forward constructively? As one of you, a faculty member trying to protect fellow faculty, I suggest that it is a matter of perspective, is the glass half empty or half full? Real data generates public confidence in us and for most of us there are impressive work-product data to be shared. Constructive evaluation also provides an opportunity for positive career development, which is just as important at mid- and end-career as it is at the beginning of one’s career. The best way of assuring constructive use of evaluations and preventing their abuse is through transparency, a requirement for documented reasoning through which an evaluative conclusion is reached. Imposing objective evaluation of the evaluation and when needed, constructive collaboration in remediation. But you say, the proposed policy contains so little detail. That is a major asset. The policy requires evaluation – but it directs our leaders to figure out how to do it.
Therein is a significant opportunity. Working collaboratively, we have the opportunity to participate in shaping development of the policy’s implementation and figuring out how to accomplish its objectives while minimizing the amount of faculty time devoted to it. Faculty and administration development of the Enhanced Post-tenure Performance Review (EPPR) policies has been a model of shared governance and collaboration. There is every reason to believe that implementation of the six year review policy will follow the same collaborative process. Shared governance and collaborative policy development is the only way of achieving a truly successful policy, one into which there is major buy-in. That requires faculty and administrators working together. That is my view of where we are. I hope you will join me in turning an inescapable reality into a showcase for faculty excellence.
Wishing each of you a good day,
Terrance G. Cooper, Ph.D.
Harriet S. Van Vleet Professor
Department of Microbiology, Immunology & Biochemistry
University of Tennessee Health Science Center
Questions and Answers
Why are the administration and the Board of Trustees considering a policy revision to require periodic post-tenure review of all tenured faculty?
The revision is being considered as a means of addressing UT Board expectations for enhanced academic excellence and accountability, and as an opportunity to add further transparency with respect to tenured faculty.
Is revising the policy being done to eliminate tenure?
When did the current review of the policy (to bring a proposal for Board consideration/vote on March 23) begin?
On Aug. 17, 2017, a Board workshop focused on Board concerns about the process of reviewing candidates for tenure and the subsequent evaluation of tenured faculty, including the subject of post-tenure review of all tenured faculty. After the workshop, UT system administration began the process of developing proposed revisions to the Board’s tenure policy for consideration at the upcoming March 23 Board meeting. That initial step included researching similar policies at other public universities around the country.
On Feb 6, 2018, draft policy revisions were submitted to the University Faculty Council for review and comment by March 2. The draft revisions included a paragraph on post-tenure review, which some faculty misinterpreted as a means of singling out individual faculty members. Upon hearing of those concerns, administration met with faculty representatives multiple times to discuss their concerns. In response to what was learned from conversation with faculty, substantial changes have been made to the proposed revision.
Have faculty been engaged in the process and how?
Yes. In addition to the timeline and steps articulated above, UT System administration determined that each campus’ Faculty Senate and the University Faculty Council were the appropriate vehicles through which to communicate information, feedback and concerns.
What is the current proposed language to be considered by the UT Board on March 23?
Annual performance reviews of tenured faculty already happen. What’s the difference between those and what’s being proposed for the Board’s vote on March 23?
Annual performance reviews evaluate performance of the most recent 12 months, generally conducted by the supervisor without involvement of peers. Post-tenure review is a comprehensive review of sustained performance and impact, generally involving at least peers in the same department or college.
What is periodic post-tenure review?
Cyclical and comprehensive performance review according to pre-determined intervals (for example, every six years).
What is triggered post-tenure review?
A comprehensive performance review in response to specified ratings on an annual performance review (for example, “unsatisfactory”).
Are periodic post-tenure reviews or triggered post-tenure reviews already in practice at UT?
The policy currently provides only for triggered post-tenure review of tenured faculty.
What’s the effect of, or what are the limits of revising/establishing Board policy?
The proposed policy revision establishes the requirement of a post-tenure review of all tenured faculty not less often than every six years. The proposed policy revision does not articulate procedures for conducting post-tenure review.
How would procedures for periodic post-tenure review be developed?
The proposed policy revision delegates responsibility for establishing procedures-operationalizing the policy-for the post-tenure review process to the president, a common practice in higher education. The president will seek the input of chancellors, provosts, and the Faculty Council on proposed procedures.
How widespread is periodic or triggered post-tenure review at other universities?
The great majority of UT peer institutions have some type of post-tenure review.
What about the importance of tenure to academic freedom?
The Board understands and supports tenure as important for the protection of academic freedom.