Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

Beliefs about Post-Tenure Review; the Influence of Autonomy, Collegiality, Career Stage, and Institutional Context

Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

Beliefs about Post-Tenure Review; the Influence of Autonomy, Collegiality, Career Stage, and Institutional Context

Article excerpt

Introduction

Post-tenure review is a hot topic in higher education these days. Critics argue that post-tenure review "dampens creativity and collegial relationships and threatens academic freedom" (AAUP, 1995, p. 49), while advocates suggest that it enhances faculty performance by guaranteeing systematic, continuous, and comprehensive feedback and opportunities for professional growth (Lees, Hook, & Powers, 1999; Licata & Morreale, 1997; Plater, 2001). But neither critics nor advocates have much evidence to support their claims. Little is known about the actual implementation of post-tenure review within large state systems (Alstete, 2000; Licata & Morreale, 1997). Likewise, few studies have explored faculty beliefs about and response to post-tenure review. There are a few notable exceptions. Goodman (1994) studied the outcomes of post-tenure review at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, and found that "the program tended to enhance faculty morale and sense of purpose and engagement in their disciplines" (p. 93). However, other research suggests that faculty think post-tenure review is unnecessary, experience little to no benefit, and often experience it as a threat (Harris, 1996; Licata, 1986; Wesson & Johnson, 1989). A recent study by Wood & Johnsrud, (2001) explored faculty values and beliefs regarding post-tenure review in two public doctoral/research extensive universities in the Western United States. Findings suggest that union resistance to post-tenure review influences faculty perceptions of its implementation and that rather than being a "scholarly form of continuous quality improvement," post-tenure review can be "a continuous thorn that pricks at a number of cultural values" (p. 20). This research is consistent with Licata & Morreale's (1997) finding that faculty resistance to post-tenure is often related to a belief that post-tenure review threatens established faculty values and institutional mores. Clearly, additional research is needed to explore faculty beliefs about and experiences with post-tenure review as well as the factors that influence beliefs.

Conceptual Framework

This article draws upon the literature on academic culture and the academic profession to provide a context for beliefs about post-tenure review. Schein's (1992) theory of organizational culture and Kuh & Whitt's (1988) application of cultural theory to higher education settings divides culture into a conceptual hierarchy comprised of three levels--artifacts, values and beliefs, and basic assumptions. This study focused on the middle layer of Schein's three levels of culture--values and beliefs. Values are "widely held sentiments about the importance of certain goals, activities, relations and feelings" (Kuh & Whitt, 1988, p. 23). Common understandings between people about what is right or wrong, or what ought to be, are examples of values (Kuh & Whitt, 1988; Schein, 1992).

Values influence peoples' beliefs within specific contexts and/or groups. This study focused on the influence of commonly held values within the academic profession on beliefs about post-tenure review. Tierney and Rhoads (1993) define a profession as a "group of people who engage in similar types of work, share common values and beliefs and derive a similar sense of identity from their work (p. 11)." Across academic specialties and institutional types, three basic values are shared by faculty, two of which, autonomy and collegiality, are explored in this article (Birnbaum, 1988; Bowen & Schuster, 1986; Clark, 1984, 1987; Kuh & Whitt, 1988). Autonomy in the conduct of academic work is viewed by most faculty as necessary to the advancement of learning, and is reinforced through peer review and the promotion and tenure system (Bowen & Schuster, 1986; Kuh & Whitt, 1988; Tierney, & Bensimon, 1996). Autonomy is considered a major value and benefit of an academic career. In the 1998-1999 HERI survey data, faculty rated "autonomy and independence" very satisfactory or satisfactory 86. …

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