Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

Post-Tenure Review at Graduate Institutions in the United States: Recommendations and Reality

Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

Post-Tenure Review at Graduate Institutions in the United States: Recommendations and Reality

Article excerpt

Introduction and Background

Evaluations of faculty performance, whether formal or informal, have been undertaken in one form or another for as long as colleges and universities have existed. Modern conceptions of tenure and academic freedom, which were largely shaped by the efforts and leadership of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) came at most U.S. institutions in the twentieth century to mean that once a faculty member achieved tenure, subsequent evaluation was primarily for the sake of making salary or promotion decisions. In the early 1970s, however, some institutions of higher education introduced a more searching process of evaluating the performance of a tenured faculty member, which has become generally known as post-tenure review (Fry, 2000). Such reviews extend beyond the scope of typical annual reviews involving salary decisions or student evaluations of teaching (AAU, 2001). Licata and Morreale (1997) defined such an approach to faculty evaluation as "a systematic, comprehensive process, separate from the annual review, aimed specifically at assessing performance and/or nurturing faculty growth and development" (p. 1).

The decade of the 1990s witnessed a rapid growth in the numbers of institutions undertaking such efforts, and many states established a policy calling upon public institutions to do so (Miller, 1999). Harris, based on data collected from institutions representing all 10 Carnegie classifications, reported in 1996 that 61% had established post-tenure review policies of some kind. In the same year Trower reported data collected from 1200 four-year college and university provosts: 23% of his respondents had a post-tenure review process in place, and another 6% reported one under review. Licata and Morreale, in 1997, reported that a system of post-tenure review was "in the discussion or implementation stage in state institutions in 28 states" (p. 3), and the next year they upped that number to 30 (Licata, 1998). In a 2001 report the Association of American Universities reported that 24 of 41 responding member institutions indicated that they had post-tenure review policies in place. Still, across the states and th e large number of institutions implied by this figure, policies and practices seemed to vary significantly in terms of expectations and practice (e.g., Licata, 1999; Magner, 1999; Wilson, 2001).

Quoting Virginia's 1994 Commission on the Future of Higher Education on tenure and post-tenure review, Miller (1999) reported what she believed to be the primary motivation behind most such state initiatives, "For the general public and corporate executives, tenure is about an entrenched system that is perceived to place a much higher premium on research than on teaching, that causes the institution to be inflexible rather than flexible, and that appears to ensure employment regardless of performance" (p. 4). Thus, she argued, policymakers viewed post-tenure review as a means of providing accountability and performance incentives in an entrenched system lacking such mechanisms.

Advocates hold that it is valuable for addressing accountability issues, improving faculty development and morale, linking mission and individual performance, and identifying unproductive, though tenured, faculty members (AAU, 2001; Bennett & Chater, 1984; Edwards, 1997; Licata, 1986; Licata & Morreale, 1997). Critics claim that the process has the potential to undermine or even destroy hard won faculty rights of tenure and academic freedom, is excessively costly in time and money needed for other important endeavors, and may erode tenure, academic freedom, and faculty collegiality (AAU, 2001; Bennett & Chater, 1984; AAUP, 1983, 1997; Reisman, 1986). Still others, such as Licata (1999), Chait (1997), and Tierney (1997), have sought to consider both pros and cons of this and related policies in proposing ways in which colleges and universities may continue to honor commitments to traditional concepts of academic freedom and faculty security while revising conventional tenure and related faculty personnel polic y and practices. …

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