Volume 4, Number 2; September 2012
A Letter to Tenure-Track and Tenured Faculty Members
On May 18, 2012, the Texas Tech University System (TTUS) Board of Regents approved a significantly revised version of the Operating Policy and Procedure (OP) 32.01: Promotion and Tenure Standards and Procedures. Knowing that an OP is not the liveliest reading material, but knowing too how important OP 32.01 is in the lives of tenure-track and tenured faculty members (most importantly those who will seek promotion from associate professor to professor), I wanted to share some perspectives from a provost (in the case of TTU, provost and senior vice president [PSVP]) who has been involved in tenure and promotion decisions in more than 1,500 cases across five research universities. At end, I will suggest that all TTU faculty members read the newly revised and all-important OP 32.01, which affects not only untenured faculty members and those seeking promotion to professor, but also those tenured professors who sit in judgment of their colleagues.
The newly revised OP 32.01 is only strictly applicable to faculty members who are hired or placed in a tenure track after its approval. Thus, it will affect the professional lives most directly of faculty members who join TTU in the fall of 2012. But, faculty members whose employment or appointment in a tenure track preceded May 18, 2012, may choose to be reviewed according to the new policy and procedures. An individual faculty person need only declare a preference (the former 32.01 versus the newly revised 32.01) at the time of action guided under one or the other OP (e.g., review for tenure in the fall of 2012).
An interest in revising OP 32.01 began in the Faculty Senate during 2008-2009 under the leadership of President Sandy River. Sadly and ironically, President River passed away (see eulogy in this issue of ATTT) just seven days prior to the OP's approval on May 18, 2012. In the interim period, President River remained as a faithful advocate for revision (including her Faculty Senate service as parliamentarian and secretary) until the time of her death. This paper is dedicated to her memory.
The Faculty Senate's wish that OP 32.01 become a clearer and more thorough—therefore a more professional document—has been affected in the judgment of colleagues at all levels, including the TTUS Board of Regents. Specifically, during the lengthy review process, the revised OP was discussed exhaustively by the Senate's Faculty Status and Welfare Committee, the Faculty Senate, President Bailey and members of his executive team, the Provost Office senior staff (esp. Senior Vice Provost Rob Stewart, who performed yeoman's work in leading deliberations between TTU administration and the Faculty Senate to insure shared governance), tenure-line faculty members, general counsel and TTUS staff, and TTUS Chancellor Kent Hance. The Faculty Senate adopted a supportive resolution on May 12, 2011, and re-ratified their action more than once during 2011-2012, when general counsel brought forth proposed language revisions. Overall, the process at times was challenging, but in the end patience and good will overcame differences and potential misunderstandings.
The Changes Implemented with the Newly Revised 32.01
As noted above, the newly revised OP 32.01 is a more thorough and professional document, with directives for improved evaluations and processes as follows:
- Uniform third-year review: Departments and colleges were not uniformly employing third-year reviews, which are extremely valuable aids to faculty members in tenure tracks. The third-year review should inform the tenure-track faculty member whether she or he is making good progress with favorable prospects for tenure given consistent accomplishments in teaching, research, and professional service and outreach. When progress is satisfactory, the tenure-track faculty person is offered solid encouragement to stay the course. In the cases of alternative results—need for improvement or not making satisfactory progress—guidance can be offered by a department chair or dean about the need for significant improvement in case of the former assessment. In the latter case, the faculty person will most likely receive a terminal year contract, which is a traumatic experience, but one that would be worse, assuming a tenure denial three years hence. In problem cases, the deans know that provost staff members stand ready to assist with advice or other aid. In cases of favorable or guarded outcomes (i.e., need for improvement), documentation of annual reviews and third-year reviews must become part of the dossiers submitted for tenure and promotion.
- Early tenure: Much clearer guidelines are offered for faculty members contemplating early tenure along with college-level administrators who may be considering positively recommending tenure before the sixth year in a tenure track. In general, the message in OP 32.01 is this: If you wish to come up for early tenure, your record should be as strong as or stronger than the faculty person being considered in their up-or-out sixth year.
- Submission of dossiers: All materials submitted in support of tenure and promotion decisions are required in electronic versions only. This directive saves paper and improves efficiency, since files (previously contained in multiple boxes) do not have to be carted from place to place during review processes.
- Role of the Vice President for Research: The vice president (or senior vice president) for research (VPR), at the discretion of the PSVP, may participate in review of dossiers, akin to that of the academic vice provosts. However, the VPR and vice provosts do not vote relative to the PSVP's recommendations to the president.
- Teaching, Research and Creative Activity, and Professional Service: Faculty members' contributions in the areas of teaching, research and creative activity, and professional outreach and service are carefully and much more thoroughly delineated in the revised OP 32.01. For example, under teaching, faculty members are now judged not just on student teaching evaluations but also peer review of teaching effectiveness. Contributions to graduate education must also be documented where applicable. The roles of faculty members in traditional and nontraditional learning situations are codified, including—for example—faculty contributions to study-abroad programs. Regarding faculty members' efforts in research and creative activities, recognition is accorded to a wider range of accomplishments, including (where appropriate) grant-getting efforts, the development of intellectual property as reflected in patent or equivalent commercialization efforts, and other scholarly efforts such curatorships, and artistic productions and performances. In the area of professional services, a wide array of outreach and engagement efforts are referred to, including services within and external to TTU. Overall, the significant recognition of a balance among the teaching, research and creative activity, and professional service efforts clearly reflect the institution's adoption in principle of the Integrated Scholar approach to faculty development (Smith et al., 2012).
- Peer Review: This is a very important part of the OP that merits careful attention. In effect, it emphasizes that the University looks closely at the authority, expertise, and objectivity of external reviewers—three of whom—whenever appropriate—being affiliated with TTU's national peer or aspirational peer universities.
Summarizing, we now have in place a clearer, more thorough, and more professional set of directives and guidelines for considering candidates for promotion and tenure. While it behooves all candidates for promotion and tenure to peruse OP 32.01, I hope this epistle will make the job easier. For others, my hope is that those who are not or who will not be subject to changes in OP 32.01 may become more conversant in the kinds of changes we have affected through a shared governance process—changes that should serve us well as TTU continues its progress toward Tier One status. As always, I welcome your comments, which should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Provost and Senior Vice President
Addendum: Articles Referenced in the Letter
- Colleagues, Friends, and Relatives. "Remembrance and Celebration of the Life of Sandra Arlene River." All Things Texas Tech 4 (2) 2012, September 2012; http://www.depts.ttu.edu/provost/attt/2012/09/sandyriver.php.
- Smith, Bob, Rachel Pierce, and Scott Irlbeck. "Texas Tech Integrated Faculty Scholars—2012." All Things Texas Tech 4 (2) 2012, September 2012; http://www.depts.ttu.edu/provost/attt/2012/09/integratedscholars.php.