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Post Tenure Review: CFA Considering New Revisions

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 22 - February 29, 1996

The Commission on Faculty Affairs, working with input from the Faculty Senate, has revised proposed Post Tenure Review policies.

Major changes since Spectrum's November 9 article and January 18 publication of the then-current draft include placement of most of the text in section 2.9 rather than 2.11 of the Faculty Handbook and the addition of review by college-level promotion-and-tenure committees of any departmental recommendations to initiate consideration of dismissal for cause.

The CFA has also elected to specify guidelines for departmental minimal-performance standards, a critical element in the overall process, within the text of the Post Tenure Review Policy itself.

Concerned members of the university community are urged to forward their reactions and suggestions to Paul Metz, CFA Chair (ext. 1-5663; pmetz@vt.edu) as soon as possible. A vote on the policy is scheduled for the March 8 meeting of the commission, with first reading at University Council on March 18.

The CFA is free to consider and make changes in the proposal even after the first reading has taken place, but the sooner comments are received the easier it will be to consider them thoughtfully.

(Following is the text of the resolution which would establish the proposed Post Tenure Review Policy.)

WHEREAS, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia has required all colleges and universities to develop regular, rigorous post-tenure review processes and ties their support of faculty salary increases to the development and implementation of such policies; and

WHEREAS, Virginia Tech conducts annual faculty performance reviews which are serious and deliberative, leading to recommendations for merit increases, and these annual reviews may be considered one element of an effective post-tenure review process affecting all tenured faculty; and

WHEREAS, peer review of Unsatisfactory performance by tenured faculty is designed to identify and deal appropriately with the few cases of incompetence or willful non-performance among tenured faculty; and

WHEREAS, the Commission has kept the university community informed of its deliberations through Spectrum, by posting drafts electronically, through the close involvement of the Faculty Senate Working Group, and through discussions of the policy at Faculty Senate meetings, incorporating input from all parties as possible and appropriate;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the following additions be made to section 2.9 of the Faculty Handbook which a) establish an Unsatisfactory rating for faculty who fail to meet departmental minimum standards; b) provide guidance to departments for the development of such standards; and c) provide a process for post-tenure review of faculty members who have received two successive Unsatisfactory performance reviews.

Change heading of Section 2.9 to Faculty Evaluation and Post Tenure Review

2.9.1 Annual Evaluation and Salary Adjustments (all current language)

An evaluation of every faculty member's professional performance is held each year. All persons holding non-temporary faculty appointments are asked to complete a form at the end of each calendar year citing their instructional activities, creative scholarship, and other professional activities and recognitions during the year. Reviewed by the department head or chair or division director and the dean, these annual reports become part of the basis for salary adjustments and also become part of the dossiers for promotion-and-tenure evaluation by faculty committees.

Salary adjustments are based on merit; they are not automatic. Recommendations for salary adjustments originate with the department head or chair or division director and are reviewed by the dean, the Provost, and the President. Because salary adjustments are determined administratively on an annual basis, based significantly on the quality of the faculty member's response to assigned responsibility, they do not necessarily reflect an accurate measure of the full scope of the faculty member's professional development as evaluated by relevant committees in the tenure and promotion process.

The salary adjustments of continuing faculty members are approved by the Board of Visitors at its Spring meeting (assuming that University appropriations by the Commonwealth are known in time), and each faculty member is informed of the Board's action as early as possible, ordinarily in May.

Heads, chairs, or directors shall be evaluated annually by the dean and at least every five years by the department. For more information, see Policy 6100, "Department Head, Chair and Division Director Appointments," on the INFO system, under ADMINSYS, Academic and Student Policies and Procedures, Academic Policies and Procedures.

2.9.2 Unsatisfactory Performance

Failure to meet the minimal obligations and standards the department has stipulated for its faculty will result in an "Unsatisfactory" rating. Written notification of an Unsatisfactory rating and the considerations upon which they are based shall be given to the faculty member, with copies to the Dean and Provost. It is in the interest of both affected faculty members and department heads to recognize that a single Unsatisfactory evaluation indicates a serious problem requiring prompt remedy. Faculty members may respond in writing with a letter to the head or chair for inclusion in their personnel file, or they may seek redress through either the reconciliation or grievance procedures. Two successive annual ratings of Unsatisfactory performance for a faculty member with tenure or continued appointment will result in a post-tenure review.

2.9.3 Departmental Minimum Standards

Each academic department shall develop, maintain, and publish a statement of minimum standards for satisfactory faculty performance using the following process:

1. Standards should be written with the participation of faculty in the department.

2. Standards should be approved by a vote of the tenure-track faculty in the department.

3. Standards developed and approved by departments and the head or chair will then be reviewed by the college-level promotion and tenure committee and the Dean, and approved by the Provost.

4. Once approved, the department's standards will be published and made available to all faculty in the department.

5. Revisions of departmental standards should also follow the procedures outlined above.

The following guidance is provided for the development of departmental minimum standards:

1. Departments should carefully assess and state the overall standards of professional performance and contribution they consider minimally acceptable for tenured faculty. Each department's evaluation mechanism should allow a distinction between performance which is deficient in one or more areas and which requires improvement and performance which is so seriously deficient as to merit the formal designation, "Unsatisfactory."

2. Departmental statements should affirm support for the basic principles of academic freedom and should express tolerance for minority opinions, dissent from professional orthodoxies, and the potential for honest and civil disagreement with administrative actions.

3. Departmental statements must include the expectation that tenured faculty will adhere to the standards of conduct and ethical behavior as stated in the Faculty Handbook and/or promulgated through other official channels.

4. Departmental standards should embrace the entire scope of faculty contributions. Expectations should recognize differences in faculty assignments within the same department. Departmental standards should typically address:

a. the individual's skill, effort, and effectiveness in contributing to all aspects of the instructional mission;

b. the individual's activity in and contributions to the academic discipline;

c. the degree to which the individual contributes to the collective life of the department, college, and university; and

d. the individual's activity in and contributions to the University's outreach mission.

2.9.4 Post Tenure Review

Nothing in this section should be interpreted as abridging the University's right to proceed directly to dismissal for cause as defined in 2.11.1, or the right of individual faculty members to pursue existing mechanisms of reconciliation and redress.

A post-tenure review is mandatory whenever a faculty member with tenure or continued appointment receives two consecutive annual evaluations of Unsatisfactory performance. Annual reviews for years spent on leave without pay shall be disregarded for the purpose of this calculation. The review will be conducted by the departmental promotion and tenure committee, unless the same committee was involved in the original Unsatisfactory annual evaluations. In this case, the department shall elect a committee to carry out the review function.

Upon recommendation of the head or chair and with the approval of the Dean, a post-tenure review may be waived or postponed if there are extenuating circumstances (such as health problems).

The purpose of a post-tenure review is to focus the perspective of faculty peers on the full scope of a faculty member's professional competence, performance, and contributions to the department, college, and university mission and priorities.

The faculty member has the both the right and the obligation to provide a dossier with all documents, materials, and statements he or she believes to be relevant and necessary for the review. Ordinarily, such a dossier would include at least the following: an up-to-date vita, the past two or more Faculty Activity Reports, teaching assessments, and a description of activities and accomplishments since the last Faculty Activity Report. The faculty member will be given a period of no less than four weeks to assemble the dossier for the committee. The head or chair will supply the review committee with the last two annual evaluations, all materials which were considered in those evaluations, any further materials deemed relevant, and other materials the committee requests. Copies of all materials supplied to the committee will be given to the faculty member. The faculty member has the right to provide a written rebuttal of evidence provided by the head or chair.

The committee will weigh the faculty member's contributions to the discipline, the department, and the university through teaching, research, and service. The burden of proving Unsatisfactory performance is on the university. The committee will prepare a summary of its findings and make a recommendation to the head or chair, with copies to the Dean and Provost. Final action and notification of the faculty member is the responsibility of the head or chair and Dean, with the concurrence of the Provost.

The review may result in one of the following outcomes:

1. Certification of satisfactory performance:

The committee may conclude that the faculty member's competence and professional contributions are satisfactory to meet the department's minimal expectations, thus failing to sustain the head or chair's assessment. The review is then complete. An Unsatisfactory rating in any subsequent year would be counted as the first in any future sequence.

2. Certification of deficiencies:

The committee may concur that the faculty member's competence and/or professional contributions are Unsatisfactory to meet the department's minimal expectations. The committee may recommend dismissal for cause, an alternative severe sanction, or a single period of remediation. Remediation is an option only at the conclusion of a committee's initial review.

a. Dismissal for cause--If dismissal for cause is recommended as the appropriate sanction, the case shall be referred to the college-level promotion and tenure committee as described in section 2.8.4.2, which shall review the case as presented to the departmental committee and determine whether the recommendation is consistent with the evidence. If the college-level committee upholds the recommendation for dismissal, then the procedures specified in section 2.11.1 of the Faculty Handbook will begin immediately. The committee review satisfies the requirement in section 2.11.1 for an informal inquiry by a standing personnel committee. If the President decides to proceed with dismissal, the faculty member shall be provided a statement of charges and notification of a right to a formal hearing in accordance with section 2.11.1

b. Alternative severe sanction--If a severe sanction other than dismissal for cause is recommended, the review is then complete. An Unsatisfactory rating in any subsequent year would be counted as the first in any future sequence.

c. Remediation--If a period of remediation is recommended, the committee specifies in detail the deficiencies it has noted, defines specific goals and measurable outcomes the faculty member should achieve, and establishes a timeline for meeting the goals. The head or chair will meet with the faculty member at least twice annually to review the individual's progress. The head or chair will prepare a summary report for the committee following each meeting and at the end of the specified remediation period, at which time the committee will either certify satisfactory performance or recommend dismissal for cause or an alternative severe sanction following the procedures described above.