Proposal on promotions and tenure sparks discussions

A proposal from Provost Ann Cudd to create a university-wide committee of faculty members to make promotions and tenure decisions that are currently made by her office was a hot topic of discussion in two University Senate committees recently.

Laurie Kirsch, vice provost for faculty affairs, development, and diversity, told the Tenure and Academic Freedom committee and the Faculty Affairs committee that the provost wants to establish normalized standards for promotion and tenure decisions and increase “the transparency of the process.”

Maria Kovacs, co-chair of the Tenure and Academic Freedom committee and a professor of psychiatry and psychology, said that, “The notion that you can have uniform criteria across unites is a mythology.” This is not the intent, Kirsch said. The idea is to make sure the process, particularly on appeals, is the same for everybody.

Faculty Affairs Committee co-chair Irene Frieze, retired psychology faculty member, noted that the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences, for one, has ad hoc committees to consider tenure prior to the provost’s office approval, and the entire process is “enormously slow.” She and other committee members suggested Cudd’s proposal might work if it didn’t further slow tenure approvals.

Today, each school has its own process for deciding on whom to recommend for tenure, after which the decision is passed to the provost’s office, where the approval committee consists of vice provosts.

Kovacs questioned whether another level of bureaucracy was needed, but Kirsch said the university-wide faculty committee would replace the review currently done by the provost’s office.

To handle the volume of promotion and tenure issues, an ad-hoc committee has recommended to the provost splitting the decisions between four subcommittees, each handling faculty from different areas — School of Medicine, regional campuses, appointment-stream faculty and tenure/tenure stream.

“All of this is under discussion,” Kirsch said.

Kovacs objected to the idea of putting School of Medicine faculty in a separate category, saying, “It makes us second class citizens.”

Kirsch noted that in benchmarking against peer schools, they found medical school faculty were often handled by a separate committee.

Already, Kirsch said, the School of Medicine has requested and received an extension of the tenure acquisition process from seven to 10 years for its entire faculty, where all but clinical faculty had previously had the shorter deadline. The provost’s office is considering letting other schools opt in to this extended “clock,” she said.



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