- Assistant Professor #1 at a major research university does pretty good but not outstanding research (however that is defined by the norms of AP#1's field/department/university), and is an excellent teacher and adviser.
- Assistant Professor #2 at a major research university has met or exceeded the criteria for excellence in research, but is a mediocre teacher.
No, AP#2 is a mediocre, somewhat uninspiring professor who maybe kind of bores students, but is able to convey some information.
As posed by Alex, the questions are whether these people should and will likely be awarded tenure. Depending on your answers to the should vs. will questions, you can assess your degree of cynicism about the system. If I made AP#2 an unintelligible puppy-kicker, then we could really see how cynical you all are.
But if you do that, you will be off-topic and that is the same as writing in the margins of your exam despite being told that you should not do this, and I know that you wouldn't want to do that.
Of course, not all MRUs are the same, and the answers to questions posed for these scenarios, if they occurred in real life, would vary from institution to institution and department to department. But ignoring that complication: How do you vote? It would be most helpful if you indicate in your opinion whether you are or have been a professor at a major research university and therefore are opining from direct experience, or whether you are making a slightly more remote guess as to what you think the results would be.
If AP#1 really did fall short of research expectations, it is likely that he/she would not get tenure. But: I have seen exceptions to this. I have seen faculty of the Teaching God/Research Failure species be initially denied tenure at an MRU, but have this opinion overturned on appeal.
Should AP#1 get tenure? Technically, no. If the criteria for tenure were not met, then AP#1 should not get tenure. In the real world, though, there is some wiggle room. In at least one example of a Teaching God/Research Failure tenure denial overturn, I didn't have a problem with the decision overturn and awarding of tenure because I think there is room at a big university for some Teaching Gods. In the case of this particular colleague, I have managed to co-author one paper with him in the past 15 years, but other research projects have died owing to his research lethargy. This has been frustrating, but I appreciate him nevertheless.
What about AP#2? I think AP#2 would and should get tenure. The key for me is the word "mediocre". It is unreasonable to expect that we are all excellent teachers. We can hope for better than mediocre, and there should be programs and mentoring and encouragement and such to help us become better teachers (no matter what our career stage), but mediocre is not and should not be a tenure-killer at a research university. Unintelligible, unfair irredeemable puppy-kickers should not get tenure no matter how great they are at research, but teachers who get a "C" for teaching should be allowed to pass.
Tenure means you probably get to keep your job, but, in my experience, it doesn't mean that you can do whatever you want, be as lousy at teaching or research as you want for the rest of your life, and never make another improvement in your skills ever again. If a mediocre teacher is awarded tenure, there are ways to provide incentives to improve; in my experience, these range from merit raises (when such things exist) to variation in teaching assignments/teaching load depending on teaching effort and ability. That's being a bit cynical, actually, to suggest that only self-interest would drive someone to improve their teaching; some of my colleagues work at becoming better teachers because they want to be better teachers, even after getting tenure.