A comment on the last post reminded me that I'd been meaning to write about post-tenure review. Our university has it (we are all reviewed every year), but does the review have teeth?
It has teeth, but they are baby teeth.
However, all departments have recently been asked to update and revise their post-tenure review policies and procedures, and so we've been talking about this issue lately: whether/how to add bigger, sharper teeth, but still have a fair system.
In theory, if a tenured faculty member is not performing to the level of 'department norms', the executive committee of the department (several elected faculty + the Chair) meet with the faculty member, discuss the problem, come up with a plan to rectify the problem within a certain time (typically a year), and then reevaluate after the year.
That sounds good, but the tricky part of course is what do you after that year is up if the problem is not solved? There are some senior faculty here who just aren't going to jump-start their careers this year and start getting NSF or other funding, although the 'department norm' and expectation is that we all have grants.
Do you re-balance their responsibilities so that they do more teaching and service and have lower research expectations? That might work for some, but do we want some of our least active faculty to teach more students and play more of a role in decision-making in the department? For the student's sake, some of these people should be teaching fewer students.
A related issue that I am particularly concerned about is that any toothy post-tenure review be fairly applied. I know of a situation in which there is an 'under-performing' female professor and an 'under-performing' male professor, but, although the woman has at least some research activity, an international reputation, and has had one NSF grant in the past decade, the under-performing man (who has none of these) is viewed as being more 'active'. He is very aggressively involved in department politics and he has one student (she has none). Possible explanations for his greater intra-departmental reputation are sexism, ignorance, or both.
Did I mention that he's a full professor and she's a terminal associate professor? I can see why this woman has never been promoted to full professor, but in a just world, this man would not have been promoted either. It's the classic case of a mediocre man making it through a promotion hoop, which is widened just enough for him to squeeze his beard and tweed coat through, but then the door slams shut behind him. In my opinion, which is fortunately shared by some like-minded colleagues, the new post-tenure-review-with-teeth system cannot go after her and not him.
In any case, in the interest of trying to be fair now, do they both get to survive post-tenure review, do they both get chewed up by it, or is there some way to optimize the talents they both have so that they are earning their academic keep (so to speak)? They are both 10-15+ years from likely retirement age, so it's not as if the problem will resolve itself in a couple of years.
If the University offered a better retirement package for faculty, more faculty would retire sooner. I know this is expensive, but I know some senior faculty who would like to retire but don't feel that they can because they are worried about not having sufficient health insurance coverage.
9 months ago