Board of Regents impose controversial post-tenure review process

Liz Farmer

The UT System Board of Regents voted to alter the post-tenure review process for faculty members, despite strong opposition from some faculty.

The Regents approved the provisions at their Thursday meeting, and the UT System administration pressured faculty who disagreed to accept the changes. The change applies to the post-tenure review process at all 15 UT institutions.

Tenured faculty will now be categorized into four groups: “exceeds expectations”, “meets expectations,” “does not meet expectations” and “unsatisfactory.” If a faculty member receives two unsatisfactory annual reviews they could face possible termination. The new process includes reinforcement regarding the importance of remediation to improve the teaching approaches of professors “when it is clear that a faculty member would benefit from such support.” It states that faculty members who fail remediation could face termination.

UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa said the changes were prompted by his concern that the post-tenure review process lacked clarity. He said the provisions will allow faculty members to get more assistance throughout their tenure.

“We need to provide support and guidance,” Cigarroa said. “It’s our responsibility.”

Alan Friedman, Faculty Council chair and English professor, said the new provision to the rule is a radical change and an assault on tenure.

“This administration has fired people with tenure on occasion, but carefully and with proper safeguards,” Friedman said.

Friedman serves on the UT System Faculty Advisory Council and created an alternate version of the provisions with less extreme changes, which committee members approved in an electronic vote.

However, the chancellor’s office told the committee that they had to retract the alternative version and instead approve the original document, Friedman said.

“We were told that not doing that would embarrass the chancellor and would undermine tenure greatly in the eyes of the public,” he said. “So the group did indeed do what they were told. Despite my protest, that’s what happened.”

Regent Alex Cranberg said he spoke with faculty who appreciate the provisions and thanked them for embracing the initiative.

Radio-television-film professor Janet Staiger said the change is very unnecessary and is an insulting move by the Regents.

“Becoming so rigid in formalizing annual and post-tenure reviews is suggesting that the faculty is incompetent in their current review process,” Staiger said.

Staiger, who previously served as the Faculty Council chair, said faculty are not against being helped to improve their teaching, but the changes could cause friction in departments as faculty members worry about how their performance will be categorized.

“We don’t want people publishing inadequate work in order to meet the expectations,” Staiger said.

Staiger said the UT System Board of Regents and administration do not understand that tenured faculty are passionate about connecting to students and conducting significant research.

“They think faculty aren’t working, aren’t doing their job,” Staiger said.

The UT System Board of Regents and administration are approaching these issues as if the University was a corporation that should meet annual reviews, but that is not the environment necessary for successful academic research to be done, Staiger said.

“The more these kinds of unnecessary and thoughtless policies are put into place,” she said, “the more unfriendly the University will seem.”  

Printed on Friday, February 10, 2012 as: Board of Regents alters tenure review