Faculty Response to Post-Tenure Review Recommendations

Many thanks to all faculty who participated in the Faculty Senate's four forums on the topic of proposed revisions to the University's Post-Tenure Review Standard Administrative Procedure (SAP) held this past Spring, as well as to those who have provided comprehensive feedback on the Faculty Senate website's Post-Tenure Review comment section.  Based on this feedback, and collaborative discussions between Faculty Senate leadership and University administration the SAP was revised, and can be found here


The Faculty Senate will be holding two sessions providing information with respect to the proposed implementation of the revised SAP on Wednesday, September 7, 2016 and Thursday, September 8, 2016.  The Senate will vote on this document at its September 12, 2016 meeting.  The times and locations of the September 7 and 8 meetings are below. Information about connecting remotely will be available close to the date of the meeting. We look forward to your participation at these upcoming sessions. 

                Wednesday, September 7                2:30pm-5:30pm               MSC 1403
                Thursday, September 8                    1:00pm-3:00pm               MSC 1403


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During the 2015-2016 school year, a University Task Force was appointed to carefully review Texas A&M University’s Post-Tenure Review Rules. The members of this Task Force were:
                Michael Benedik (chair), Provost Office
                Ruth Bush, Health Science Center
                Richard Carlson, Geosciences
                Jasen Castillo, Bush School
                Margaret Ezell, Liberal Arts
                Cecilia Giusti, Architecture
                P.R. Kumar, Electrical Engineering
                Blanca Lupiani, Interim Dean of Faculties
                Yolanda Padron, Education
                Antonietta Quigg, TAMU Galveston
                Gil Rosenthal, Science
                Dorthoy Shipen, Biochemistry & Biophysics
                John Stallone, Veterinary Medicine
                Robert Strawser, Mays Business School
                Neal Newman, School of Law
 
The recommendations of this Task Force (available here) were used as input for the proposed amendments to TAMU's current Post-Tenure Review Rules (available here). The Faculty Senate held four faculty forums to discuss these issues. The dates, times, and locations were as follows: 
                Friday, April 29                                  2:30pm-4:30pm                Rudder 601               Transcript
                Wednesday, May 4                           9:00am-11:00am               Rudder 601               Transcript
                Tuesday, May 10                              3:30pm-5:30pm                 Rudder 601               Transcript
                Monday, May 16                              1:00pm-3:00pm                 Rudder 501               Transcript
 
The transcripts for each forum can be found above. 
 
Various faculty members have inquired about the current status of post-tenure review guidelines at other major/peer institutions. A compilation of those guidlines can be found here
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Comments
 
1.  Need to define "peer"--does it mean "tenured but not tenure-track," "same rank," "same rank and same time in rank,"
external or internal or both, etc.?
2.  Dean of Faculties says depts and colleges have posted their policies for annual and peer reviews.  Where are they posted?  They are hard to find.
 
 
"First and foremost, switching the title of a tenured professor to that of a senior lecturer is appalling.  Doing so would effectively mean the abolishment of the tenure system.  Could you imagine demoting someone from full professor to senior lecturer just prior to retirement? I can’t!  Hiring of tenured and tenure-track faculty and faculty retention will become even more difficult than it is now.  If you were looking for a job would you take one at a university with a real tenure system or one simply under the guise of tenure, one where tenure could be revoked? As correctly stated, under University Expectations 1.1, research needs to be changed to scholastic activities, all departments do not engage in research nor are all tenured faculty carrying out research but are still contributing scholastically. University Expectations 1.2, it is stated that modifications to these assignments may be expected as a career changes but should not go to zero in any category.  If this review is to help faculty remain on track what will the university do to help research active faculty remain research active?  Usually a loss of one’s research activities means that a loss of outside funding has occurred.  Will the university ensure several years of support of bridge funding?  If the person is unsuccessful in restoring outside funding, what will fulfill the expectation of scholastic activities?  Annual Review by Department Head 2.4 A single unsatisfactory annual evaluation should not bring about a “Comprehensive Professional Review” of the faculty member.  This is too much power given to department heads and the timeline is way too short to spur a “Comprehensive Professional Review.”  This statement must be deleted from this document! Comprehensive Professional Review section 3.1 Strike the statement that the department head can spur a “Comprehensive Professional Review.” Again this gives too much power to department heads who can use it to target specific faculty or use it to pursue their own agendas." 
 
 
"Personally, I like the general construct, but am a little concerned about how the “needs improvement” category is actually going to operationalize, particularly in the case of a  faculty member that continues to “need improvement” in the Research area even after various review iterations (given that only an “unsatisfactory” rating or TWO “needs improvement” ratings trigger PTT).   If a faculty member continues and continues to “need improvement” in Research, then they really won’t be “three dimensional” (per the Provost’s initial charge to the committee), but it’s a little unclear how this might be dealt with if the faculty member is doing a good job on teaching/service and there is reluctance to mark the individual “unsatisfactory” on Research (although it seems that if after a decade or so  their research still “needs improvement”, they probably almost  by definition are “unsatisfactory” on that dimension)."  
 
 
"The definition of Acceptable, etc. should not be reduced to a bean counting exercise. There are diverse ways that faculty contribute to the department. Whether the contribution in a particular area is acceptable should be determined in the context of the contributions in all areas, not just one at a time. In other words, the identical bean counts in one of the categories for two faculty  could be for one faculty member acceptable and for the other totally unacceptable. The judgement should be made at the departmental level." 
 
 
"1. I believe that the ranking of a single aspect of a faculty career as unsatisfactory as a trigger for a comprehensive review is rather unfair and does not take into account the fact that some faculty may truly excel at some things that bring much more value to the department/college/university and this level of excellence would definitely overshadow deficiencies in one other area. A grade of unsatisfactory in TWO areas seems more suitable as a trigger of a comprehensive review
2.  Paragraph 3.2.5 is very unclear and poorly written. It is not clear how the peer reviews will be considered as possible triggers to comprehensive review. Is it one unsatisfactory ranking in a peer review if it happens every three years or so?
3. It is also unclear how the peer review committee will be integrated. The policy leaves open the possibility of having external members but this should be clearly spelled out.
4. The fact that a DH can trigger a comprehensive review without having any unsatisfactory ranking is completely unacceptable and will probably be voted down at the Senate. Without having any cause, the ability of a DH to trigger such a review would provide undue influence by the DH on the career of a faculty and can be misused as a political tool or as a strategy to harrass a faculty member out of the department. This is absolutely and completely unacceptable.
5. In section 4.1.3 it is required that faculty prepare a dossier including a teaching portfolio as one of the minimal requirements of the review package. Many colleges do not request a teaching portfolio from their faculty (including Engineering) so this should be removed in the general policy.
6. The timeline for completion of Professional Development Plan should be extended to at least 6 years. It should take as long as a normal tenure 'clock'." 
 
 
"I would like to express my concerns with the defining of an unsatisfactory overall review as needing only an unsatisfactory ranking in a single category.  This could easily be placing a determination of satisfactory or unsatisfactory on the basis of a faculty member's performance in only a small portion of their job responsibilities.  For instance if a person has a large majority research/teaching appointment with a small, say 5%, service component.  They could conceivably be highly effective at 95% of their responsibilities in research and teaching but have very little service involvement resulting in an unsatisfactory overall ranking for only a 5% of their duties.  One could easily see a similar situation occur where a faculty member has small percentage responsibilities in various other combinations.  The weight to satisfactory or unsatisfactory performance should be reflected in the weight of their various job responsibilities.  More weight should be given to relative performance in the faculty member's primary areas of responsibility and much lesser emphasis placed on performance in secondary duty areas."
 
 
"The fact that the PTR was in place since 1998 does not justify the proposed changes; actually, it requires a justification for why the revision is needed.  I do not think somebody in the administration explained what is broken with the current PTR system and how the proposed changes will fix these (unknown to me) issues. Additionally, the PTR of some of our peer institutions is somewhat similar to our current PTR, not to the PTR with the proposed changes (see 2.1, 2.2, 3.4, etc.). I fear that by implementing the proposed changes we will further widen the gap between our ranking based on our endowment (seventh place, after Harvard, Yale, UT, Stanford, Princeton and MIT) and our US News ranking that is currently at number 70."
 
 
"The proposed changes to the post-tenure review will further dilute the tenured status of the faculty.  As word gets around, it will make it even more difficult to attract new talent to A&M.  In addition, it is conceivable that productive faculty will leave A&M and go to universities that respect faculty tenure. Consequently, I strongly oppose the proposed changes."
 
 
"I have reviewed the procedure that is being proposed for post tenure review of the faculty. I appreciate the openness of the process of this decision making and your soliciting our faculty comments. Below are my first thoughts. The process seems generally fair and sound. We have to consider a few more subtle issues related to these proposed changes:
 
1- The faculty serving at all administrative positions, throughout the university, should be considered as fulfilling only the “service” portion of their triad of responsibilities of “teaching”, “research”, and “service”. This will protect us from mediocre faculty escaping to administration jobs. Thus, we will ascertain a community of scholars being administered by scholars. Alternatively, the administrators that do not wish to be considered for the triad of faculty excellence, can relinquish their faculty positions and simply accept an administrative position with no tenure.
 
2- The assessment of the faculty triad responsibilities, although may be done annually, but must be in view of a longer time scale. Otherwise, there will be negative unintended consequences that result in the decline of standing of the school. For example, if the triad is assessed on a year by year basis, based on the year by year performance, then to be safe the faculty will focus on small incremental annual deliverables and not on far sighted, long term, high risk/high achievement undertakings. For example, is it better to bring in $100k of individual funding each year or bring in a $10M multidisciplinary multi year award? The champion of the $10M project, which may take a few years of high risk and hard work will never clear the short sighted triad review, will be judged unfit and burdened with more teaching and other work, thus doomed to failure. Of course, no rational person would choose that tack. Thus, the unintended consequence will be that the school will decline to mediocrity. The same goes for high risk/high dividend research.  You can extrapolate from these examples to many other unintended consequences.
 
3- Finally, I must mention that academic excellence results from an nurturing, encouraging, supportive, rewarding, and leading by example environment, and not by compulsion, rule-making, negative incentive, omens. Defining and designing the former environment requires enlightenment and having been there. Instituting and enforcing the later environment is simplistic and wishful thinking."
 
 
"In the document that was circulated to us (attached here)  I have highlighted  with yellow items that are of concern since they appear to be substantially different from the task force recommendations. I may be misreading these items, please correct me if I am reading these items incorrectly. Specifically:  In section 2.4, there is a statement that implies that a DH can initiate a peer review or a comprehensive professional review based on a single unsatisfactory annual review. This language is repeated in section 3.3. where the idea of 3 consequtive unsatisfactory reviews has been replaced with "a finding of "Unsatisfactory..." same with a "needs improvement" (section 3.4). In section 4.1 it states that a comprehensive professional review can be simply requested by a department head (presumably without having any  cause)"
 
 
"Clearly some departments have not been meeting the minimum reviews required by state law.  This should be rectified but without adding a significant burden to departments that have appropriate reviews in place.  There is no one-size-fits-all process.Two problems stand out to me in the current document:
1. I see no reason why the dean should be required to sign off on every adjustment to duties.  This has two undesirable effects: it usurps department autonomy and gives at least the impression that this is a punitive action.
2. There is absolutely no reason that one unsatisfactory in one of the ill-defined categories of research (should probably be "scholarship"), teaching and service should trigger a PTR.  Aside from the folly of trying to pigeonhole every activity into one of these categories, there are many reasons that it is preferable to even replace one of these duties with a higher load in one of the others.  Moreover, tenured faculty that are not writing papers/grants anymore usually contribute in ways that APT faculty cannot, be it teaching advanced classes, advising/mentoring students and junior TT faculty, outreach, editorial/refereeing work, pedagogy etc.  Requiring significant scholarship from everyone will inevitably lead to poor scholarship published in predatory journals and a waste of faculty's time."