Post-Tenure Review UpdateBy Jim McKenna, vice-president,
Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 09 - October 24, 1996
As everyone knows, last spring the Board of Visitors accepted and put into place the new Post-Tenure Review (PTR) Policy written by last year's Commission on Faculty Affairs and endorsed by the University Council. The policy specifies that each department shall define its minimal standards and sets up procedures by which faculty members whose overall contributions are seen as unsatisfactory for two consecutive years will be subject to additional reviews which may potentially ensue in consideration of Dismissal for Cause. The entire policy, which was printed in the February 29 issue of Spectrum, can be accessed on the Provost's Page web site (select Administrative Information, then Provost from general university web site, www.vt.edu); the schedule for implementation is also available in the same location.
Minimal standards will go into effect fall 1997, with the first use of the unsatisfactory rating in fall 1998. A faculty member receiving two successive unsatisfactory ratings would be subject to a post-tenure review sometime during 1999-2000. As chair of the Commission on Faculty Affairs (CFA), I feel it is important to keep faculty members updated on the progress of the PTR process as we move toward PTR implementation.
It is critical to an understanding of the policy to recognize that we have not created a single, university-wide performance standard for tenured faculty members, but instead developed general guidelines for establishing department-specific standards and for the conduct of a post-tenure review by a committee of peers. As a consequence, it is imperative that individual faculty members pay attention to and participate in establishing policies for their home departments, which will be the subject of departmental votes by the end of January.
This summer, six departments representing different colleges and missions prepared prototype "minimal standards" documents. These documents were submitted to the Provost's Office the first several weeks of this fall term. The completed documents were reviewed by the provost's staff group and the Deans' Council, and were shared with CFA in recent weeks. Some of these drafts are well-developed and have been through a number of iterations and a few have already been voted upon by departmental faculty. Others are in a more developmental stage.
Two colleges, Engineering and Veterinary Medicine, are considering documents covering all departments within their colleges. This might be possible where there is a shared culture and a set of standards about the mission. These plans are still dependent on the support of the departments within the college. Departmental faculty members will vote to adopt these college-wide documents, or develop their own adaptations within college guidelines.
The Provost's Office is creating a cover sheet for each draft. Each cover sheet includes a checklist which codifies and enforces the principles and protections the CFA wrote into the policy. These include a distinction between performance which is merely inferior and in need of remedy and performance so deficient as to trigger the initial steps of post-tenure review. Other requirements of each policy include reflection of the entire scope of each faculty member's contributions, with a relative emphasis across areas appropriate to the faculty member's individual assignment.
Provost Peggy Meszaros, Associate Provost Pat Hyer, and Associate General Counsel Kay Heidbreder have made comments on each draft. Hyer has also asked that CFA members review the drafts and give her their comments. The completed check sheets and drafts will then be returned to the college deans, who will ask their departments to initiate the process of writing their own policies. It is hoped that the models produced by the pilot departments and the associated comments will give individual departments a place to start in developing an appropriate document. All department drafts must be ready to forward to their college promotion-and-tenure committees by February 1. They must be subsequently approved by the dean and provost.