FSC, CAP delay full review of tenure

During last Wednesday’s faculty meeting, the Faculty Steering Committee (FSC) decided not to recommend a comprehensive review process until the 2013-14 academic year in light of recent changes to the tenure review process. 

After improving the transparency of decisions for candidates who are denied tenure in March 2011, the faculty has continued to enhance the tenure review process. The FSC hopes that delaying a full review will provide adequate time for the recent changes to the tenure process to take full effect.

The Committee on Appointments and Promotions (CAP) recently approved changes to the process regarding faculty on maternal, paternal or medical leave, as well as changes in transparency for outside reviews of candidates’ scholarly work. At the faculty meeting, the FSC also intitiated a discussion on changing how senior faculty members that are on leave during the tenure review process participate in evaluating candidates.

The FSC first raised the complex issue of candidates who delay their tenure review until they return from maternal, parental or medical leave, forcing the review process to occur in the final year of their contracts.

In this situation, candidates who are denied tenure do not have a full academic year to find employment at another institution before leaving the College. The CAP approved the automatic extension of contracts for such faculty so that the tenure review process occurs before the final year of their contract. “In the case that someone does delay their tenure review because of maternal, paternal or medical leave, we wanted it to be the case that this will not put them in the situation of coming up for tenure in the terminal year of their contract, as then they would potentially find out in December that they were not receiving tenure, and they would immediately have to find a job for the next academic year,” said Colin Adams, professor of mathematics and a member of the FSC.

The FSC also sought to improve transparency in the tenure review process regarding outside reviews of scholarly work. Tenure candidates are allowed to recommend particular reviews of scholarly work for consideration by their respective departments, as well as request that some reviews be excluded from the review process.

Under the previous procedures, the CAP did not have access to the candidates’ list of recommended and excluded reviewers. Accordingly, the CAP could not verify that candidates’ departments had taken the candidates’ lists into consideration in looking at outside reviews.

“With this new system, the CAP will also receive that list, so they can at least check that the department or program has taken the list into consideration appropriately when they choose the reviewers,” Adams said.

The final proposal for changing the review process concerned the role of senior faculty who are on leave when tenure decisions are made. Currently, senior faculty on leave submit letters evaluating the tenure candidate, as they cannot be present at the department’s deliberations.

However, the FSC concluded that the accurate evaluation of candidates was greatly enhanced by having these senior faculty members present at meetings to discuss the candidate and conduct a back-and-forth discussion.

Further, the FSC was concerned that the letters from senior faculty often carried more weight in deliberations than did the discussions among present senior faculty.

“The essential part of the decision-making process is at the mercy of which senior faculty members happen to be on leave in the critical year [under the current system],” Adams said. “This seems unfair to the junior faculty member, so we are trying to enhance the ways in which senior faculty will participate.”

Accordingly, FSC put forth a resolution to require that senior faculty members on leave would be required to participate in tenure candidate deliberations via videoconference or teleconference rather than sending in a letter relating their position.

“With these proposed changes, we would eliminate the option of appending letters and thereby increase the transparency of the process,” Adams said. The resolution is still under consideration.