As criticism of tenure grows, some profs. face new scrutiny
By Sarah Betts, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Wednesday, April 3, 2002
As tenure has come under increasing scrutiny since the 1980s, especially in public university systems, a new procedure known as post-tenure review has emerged to both praise and fierce criticism.
Post-tenure review is a broad term that refers to monitoring the work of tenured professors through committees, peer evaluations and reports. The process, which arose in the 1980s, has been popularized as part of a movement to increase faculty accountability. In states like Arizona and Texas, legislation stipulates that colleges have some sort of review system in place.
The American Association of University Professors has strictly opposed post-tenure review since its beginning, saying in a 1983 statement that institutional evaluation would "bring scant benefit and incur unacceptable costs."
According to Assistant General Secretary Jordan Kurland '49, the AAUP feels that post-tenure review has the potential to be used as a "cheap and easy way to get rid of someone." Also, Kurland is concerned that the review process will lead to large amounts of bureaucracy.
"We have always recognized the need for dismissal procedures," Kurland said. "But post-tenure review could allow a school to simply have an inquiry without demonstrating formal charges in order to dismiss someone."
At some schools, however, post-tenure review has proved to be popularly embraced. The University of Massachusetts Amherst has used a procedure very similar to post-tenure review, called "Periodic Multi-Year Review," since April 1999.
"I think there was a sense that our existing review procedure did not give us the opportunity for a more thoughtful look at the work faculty had done over a long period of time," Associate Provost Susan Pearson said.
Pearson said that while there were some fears about the procedure when the subject was first broached, most faculty members have come to accept it.
"Based on the reviews, we allocate $150,000 for grants to faculty, equipment, books and travel," Pearson said. "It is developmental, to help faculty develop potential."
In contrast to the AAUP's stance on post-tenure review, the American Association for Higher Education is in favor of the process. After conducting a study that surveyed provosts of four-year institutions, the organization concluded that post-tenure review could be beneficial when structured properly.
"It ought to be developmental in character, and it ought to be peer reviewed and not imposed from the outside,"the AAHE's Dr. Eugene Rice said. "Post-tenure review can help maintain the vitality of senior faculty. It also gives professors feedback, something they usually get only with research."
Rice said that there is little grounding for fears that post-tenure review will be used to eliminate faculty.
"There are so many safeguards before dismissing a tenured faculty member," Rice said. "And it is too big a system to use just to catch a few people. That's not why you invest in it."
While Dartmouth does not have a post-tenure review system, professors do submit a yearly review on their scholastic activity, according to Dean of the Faculty Jamshed Bharucha. They also undergo a review process in order to become full professors.
Neither of these systems of evaluation is new, but Bharucha said the reviews have become more stringent as more emphasis is placed on faculty performance.
"Nationally, the expectations for faculty have gotten higher, and this has affected our review process," Bharucha said.
There has been no recent formal discussion of the review policy, and Bharucha was not aware of any faculty objections to the system.