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CFA Chair Provides Post-Tenure Review Information

By Paul Metz, principal bibliographer, Virginia Tech University Libraries, and CFA chair

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 12 - November 9, 1995

The Commission on Faculty Affairs is currently drafting policies to implement post-tenure faculty review. The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) has explicitly made its recommended increases in faculty salaries contingent on each institution's implementation of post-tenure review, and the Tech administration, while pointing out that rigorous, annual faculty evaluation and merit-based salary adjustments have long been our practice, has indicated that a new policy will be adopted this year.

Although faculty members constitute a majority of the CFA's membership, the importance of post-tenure review to faculty life has led us to work very closely with other faculty members throughout the drafting process. A working group of Faculty Senators has met between each CFA meeting to provide suggestions and feedback, and the full Faculty Senate will be the first forum to which the draft will be presented for review. After review and discussion by the Faculty Senate and consideration of comments received by the faculty at large, a final version of the policy will be referred to the University Council.

The procedures currently in draft would seek to minimize both faculty anxiety and additional workload by focusing any new procedures on a small minority of faculty members whose performance had been identified as problematic and by relying to the extent possible on existing mechanisms.

Only faculty members who had received unsatisfactory evaluations for two consecutive years would be affected. Each department's existing Promotion and Tenure Committee would receive the case of any such faculty member. They would work with the faculty member and department head in assembling a full dossier (vita, recent activity reports and evaluations, teaching assessments, etc.) so that the full scope of the faculty member's performance and professional contributions could be evaluated. The policy makes it explicit that in such consideration the committee would not be deciding whether to "retenure" the individual, because the achievement of tenure represents a permanent and significant shifting to the institution of the burden of proof to document unsatisfactory performance.

Promotion-and-tenure committees reviewing the case of a faculty member referred on the basis of two consecutive unsatisfactory reviews would have three choices. They could register their disagreement with the department head's negative evaluation, in which case the process would end. If their findings concurred with those of the department head, they could identify the observed deficiencies and stipulate a timetable of one or two years for future reconsideration, along with performance goals to be considered at that time. Working with the affected individual, the committee could outline a professional-development plan intended to re-energize and if necessary refocus the individual's career. As a final option, the committee could recommend that procedures be commenced to consider Dismissal for Cause.

The CFA and the Faculty Senate are keenly aware that faculty members are concerned about this policy. Although many faculty members have expressed their understanding that tenure cannot be used to protect those whose performance fails to meet minimum standards, and indeed that the institution of tenure and the public's support for higher education in general are threatened by actual or perceived abuses, many are also concerned that any new procedures be carefully drawn so that due process and a full and fair consideration of individual cases can be assured.

We have sought to achieve such assurance by establishing procedures that would rest heavily on the participation of informed faculty peers, and that would incorporate existing due-process provisions and safeguards within our current grievance procedures and the formal strictures of Dismissal for Cause.

Any member of the CFA would welcome the chance to discuss the policy further or to receive suggestions. The Faculty Senate members of the CFA are Dave Beagle, Bob Dyck, William Greenberg, Bernard Jortner, Mary Denson Moore, Don Mullins, Sam Riley, and Bob Sumichrast. I would certainly appreciate hearing from any concerned member of the community who would like a copy of the draft or who wishes to make suggestions. I may be contacted by computer at pmetz@vt.edu, or by phone at 1-5663.