Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

A Helpful Tenure Process

Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

A Helpful Tenure Process

Article excerpt

Throughout American universities, many assistant professors live in fear because decisions about the granting of tenure sometimes seem arbitrary and unfair. Despite some flagrant problems, the process of tenure review at every university is designed to provide a reasonable and fair system. The following basic characteristics are found almost universally:

* The most important review is done by a committee of peers in the same department of the university. The professors on this committee know well the appropriate standards in the specialization of the applicant for tenure.

* The chair of the applicant's department has access to much information and writes a very important review of the applicant's performance.

* Committees at the college level and at the university level are especially focused on assessing the process of the reviews and consistency in the analyses.

* Administrators, including the dean of the college and the president of the university, are eager to enforce the standards of the university.

This system provides a long series of reviews with checks and balances, starting with reviews by peers and ending with the highest administrator of the university. The tenure review seems to resemble legislative processes of American government with its many checks and balances.

Of course, failures do occur in the human systems of well-organized governments and universities. Nevertheless, universities can reduce the problems by having a clear philosophy. An admirable philosophy exists at the California State University-Hayward (CSUH): the tenure-review process should be supportive and helpful to the applicant. At CSUH there is an assumption of good will with the goal of encouraging the good work of the applicant.

At CSUH the procedures well match the philosophy. These procedures include the following:

* The chair of the department meets annually with the assistant professor to plan professional development. …

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