Faculty Senate to vote next month on tenure appeal policy

The Tenure, Promotion and Grievance Committee presented the final draft of its new tenure appeal policy to the Faculty Senate at Thursday’s meeting and the Faculty Senate will vote in May.

The tentative policy applies to tenure-track faculty who wish to appeal when denied a promotion and/or tenure.

In order to get tenure, a faculty member must be approved by his or her department, then by his or her college and finally by the provost.

The revised policy does not allow denial of tenure on substantive issues at the university level. Substantive issues address research in the faculty member’s area of expertise, and because substantive issues are not in the provost’s hands, faculty members who are denied tenure by their department or college because of their research cannot be saved by the provost.

“Unless the provost is in that same discipline, they really can’t make decisions about someone’s qualifications,” said Nowell Donovan, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.

Those within the department are the experts, and they are the best judges of whether someone should be denied tenure, Donovan said.

Some faculty agreed with the provost.

“I don’t want the provost giving someone tenure if the department did not see their research as worthy,” said Nadia Lahutsky, a religion professor and member of the Faculty Senate.

Ultimately, the provost has the final say and can deny tenure for any reason without an explanation, Donovan said.

Faculty Sens. Sally Fortenberry and Fran Huckaby disagreed with the revised policy and said they want faculty to be able to appeal substantive issues at the provost level.

As of fall 2007, 54 percent of full-time faculty have tenure.

Since the Faculty Senate missed the March meeting because of bad weather, the committee addressed concerns from February’s meeting.

“We sought feedback at the February meeting so that we could refine the elements of the policy,” said Dianna McFarland, the committee chairwoman. “Subsequently, we have discussed all the concerns and suggestions and integrated solutions or responses into the current draft.”

One concept McFarland said the Faculty Senate decided to keep after its February meeting was having a university-level Hearing Committee, a group that hears appeals after they have passed the department and school levels. Previously, Hearing Committees were not used at the university level.

Also, the new policy would provide a neutral third party, an ombudsperson, to ensure all parties abide by the procedures outlined in the appeal policy with the intention to speed things along and would protect appellants from fear of reprisal if they appeal, McFarland said.

The committee has decided that there will be an ombudsperson from within the appellant’s department and an associate ombudsperson from outside, she said.

“If there is a conflict created by a prior association such as a department or college, the associate ombud can step in,” McFarland said.