PROPOSED TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY RULE ON POST-TENURE REVIEW

Approved by the Texas A&M University Faculty Senate October 14, 1996


  1. Introduction

    Among Texas public universities, Texas A&M University takes pride in having a unique set of missions. Established as a Land Grant institution to serve the educational, research, and public service needs of Texas in the areas of agriculture and engineering, Texas A&M University has since been designated a Sea Grant and a Space Grant institution, and its areas of scholarship have been greatly expanded. It is guided by the multiple synergistic missions of teaching, research, and public service.

    The quality of a university's teaching, research, and public service can be no greater than the quality of mind and expertise that the faculty brings to those missions. Indeed, in the faculty lies the talent, commitment, wisdom, knowledge and intellectual courage required to push forward the boundaries of knowledge, make important discoveries, bring them to classroom and laboratory, and apply them to the benefit of society. Consequently it is in the best interest of the university to create an environment in which these academic pursuits can flourish, and to invest in faculty development activities that enhance the success of a faculty vitally engaged in teaching, research, and service.

    The faculty of Texas A&M University has always measured its performance against a high standard of excellence, which was established and is maintained by hiring the best new doctoral graduates or established professionals, and by conducting annual reviews of faculty performance. The rigor of the hiring and review process, the demands of quality teaching and student advising, the necessity and value of research, and the obligations of service to the public are clearly understood within the university community, but they may not be clear to members of the larger community whose interests we serve and whose trust we wish to maintain. Therefore the faculty takes this opportunity to further explain tenure and the tenuring process, to clarify the activities and time demands of the faculty, and to propose the post-tenure review policy that follows.

    The Board of Regents of the university, acting in its oversight capacity, states that it is seeking through a post-tenure review policy to assure the continued productivity of tenured faculty. Many faculty members think this policy is unnecessary because present policies require annual performance reviews for all professors, which include student evaluations of teaching, and permit dismissal of a tenured professor for cause. They also believe this university offers excellent educational value, evidenced by its continuing enrollment growth, and by its excellent national reputation. The faculty would like the Board of Regents to recognize that factors affecting morale and productivity, including fair compensation, reasonable work loads, monetary rewards for superior performance, and the trust and collegial support of one's superiors, have diminished in recent years. For example, faculty salaries at Texas A&M University are presently 10% below those at the University of Texas.

    In the academic community, tenure has traditionally meant that a faculty member has demonstrated, over a specified number of years and to the satisfaction of peers, a sufficiently high level of performance in teaching and scholarship to warrant the granting of a permanent position on a university faculty. Tenure has protected academic freedom, the right of faculty members to pursue original research or study ideas that are new, unpopular or misunderstood. Such freedom of thought can only benefit society. Tenure has developed over hundreds of years, and forms the foundation of the modern university in Western society. Its value in encouraging new generations of scholars and sustaining the quest for knowledge should not be taken lightly.

    The typical path to tenure begins with a lengthy, demanding, and expensive education. The typical recipient of a doctoral degree, required by universities for most teaching positions, has spent between nine and twelve years in university study. Many have spent additional years working in their chosen fields, so the typical newly hired faculty member is often between thirty and forty years of age.

    The selection process for faculty positions at Texas A&M University is highly competitive. Chosen from perhaps hundreds of applicants, the new faculty member enters the tenure track, a seven year probationary process. During the next six years he/she must teach full course loads, receive favorable evaluations of teaching from peers and students, have research published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, or produce equivalent peer-reviewed creative work. Progress is reviewed annually by peers and department heads. In the sixth year, overall performance is reviewed by faculty peers, external reviewers from other universities or industry, department heads, deans, and ultimately by the Provost and President, who may recommend to the Board of Regents that tenure be granted. The typical tenured faculty member has by then spent fifteen to eighteen years, and often more, in reaching that status.

    Of those entering the tenure track at Texas A&M University, approximately one third do not last through the probationary period. Of those who do, about one fifth are denied tenure. Thus slightly more than one-half of those hired into tenure track actually earn tenure. The rigor of this process of evaluation ensures that tenured faculty are prepared to remain a highly productive group for the balance of their careers.

    A typical faculty member at a major research university devotes fifty hours per week to teaching, research, and public service, according to numerous studies. Each class hour requires at least two or three hours of preparation. Faculty spend many additional hours grading assignments and exams, holding office hours for individual student advising, and supervising graduate students.

    Professors are expected to conduct research, thus engaging in scholarly and creative work which contributes to currency of knowledge, thereby improving teaching. Research provides new knowledge which advances our society's standards of living, technological development, and culture. Research is a special mission of Texas A&M University faculty, and can easily consume twenty to thirty hours per week, including evenings and weekends.

    Furthermore, for the departments, colleges, and university to function efficiently and serve their constituents, professors fulfill many administrative responsibilities, and may sponsor student organizations, edit journals, hold offices in national and international organizations, and share their expertise through extension activities, many involving students, in communities throughout Texas. These service aspects of the academic life may require a considerable commitment of time. They enhance the local, national, and international reputation of the university.

    Compared with other professions, academic careers involve considerable financial and personal sacrifice. Most academics receive a salary for only nine months of the year, and it is much lower than they would receive in the marketplace for their abilities. Faculty accept lower salaries for their "life of the mind," academic freedom, and the security of tenure. Society has traditionally encouraged that trade-off, and has received great economic benefit from it. Any significant diminution in either freedom or compensation for faculty will cause long-term deterioration of the professoriate and ultimately the university. Worthy faculty may be forced out, and there will be a great dis-incentive for bright young people to enter the academic world.

    Three-fourths of our peer institutions have no post-tenure review. Because we compete with these universities for new faculty, it is essential that a post-tenure review policy at Texas A&M University have positive effects. A process centered on professional development, properly carried out, could have positive effects. The following proposed policy would enable a faculty member who has fallen below performance norms to pursue a peer-coordinated professional development plan and return to expected productivity. The objective is to conserve the investment of Texas A&M University in one of its great strengths, its dedicated faculty.

    This proposed faculty development centered policy will meet the objective of the Board of Regents of assuring the continued productivity of tenured faculty. The faculty proposes it in good faith, conditioned upon the Board of Regents reaffirming the principles that have guided the faculty in making this a truly great university, the foremost among them being academic freedom. Acceptance of the policy and continued commitment to these principles will mark Texas A&M University as a leader in the development and maintenance of the highest standards of education and scholarship.

  2. Post-Tenure Review

    Post-tenure review at Texas A&M University applies to tenured faculty members and is comprised of annual review of performance (PPM 2.3.2.5, Section I., E.) and, in case of unsatisfactory performance as delineated in this policy, the construction of, and subsequent review of, performance in a professional development plan.

    1. Annual Review. As specified in PPM 2.3.2.5, annual reviews of performance are to be conducted for all faculty; must result in a written document of expectations for each faculty member, commensurate with his or her rank and seniority; and provide that evaluations of performance in scholarship, teaching, service and other assigned responsibilities be made in writing. In order for annual review to be an integral part of post-tenure review, it will have the additional characteristics:

      1. In each department, stated criteria for categories of performance to be assessed in annual review will be established by departmental faculty and approved by department head and dean. The categories established will range /from a level deemed most meritorious to one deemed unsatisfactory by departmental standards.

      2. In any annual review of tenured faculty the burden of proof is on the University to show that performance is unsatisfactory.

      3. A report to the dean of unsatisfactory performance as assessed by annual review will be accompanied by a written plan for near-term improvement.

    2. Professional Development Plan

      1. Professional Review. A professional review will be initiated when a tenured faculty member receives three consecutive unsatisfactory annual reviews. The department head will inform the faculty member that he or she is subject to professional review, and of the nature and procedures of the review. A faculty member can be exempted from review upon recommendation of the department head and approval of the dean when substantive mitigating circumstances (e.g. serious illness) exist. The faculty member may be aided by legal counsel or another representative at any stage during the professional review process.

        The purposes of professional review are to: identify and officially acknowledge substantial or chronic deficits in performance; develop a specific professional development plan by which to remedy deficiencies; and monitor progress toward achievement of the professional development plan.

        The professional review will be conducted by an ad hoc review committee (hereafter referred to as the review committee), unless the faculty member requests that it be conducted by the department head. The three member ad hoc faculty review committee will be appointed by the dean, in consultation with the department head and faculty member to be reviewed. When appropriate, the committee membership may include faculty from other departments, colleges, or universities.

        The faculty member to be reviewed will prepare a review dossier by providing all documents, materials, and statements he or she deems relevant and necessary for the review within one month of notification of professional review. All materials submitted by the faculty member are to be included in the dossier. Although review dossiers will differ, the dossier will include at minimum a current curriculum vitae, a teaching portfolio, and a statement on current research, scholarship or creative work.

        The department head will add to the dossier any further materials he or she deems necessary or relevant. The faculty member has the right to review and respond in writing to any materials added by the department head with the written response included in the dossier. In addition, the faculty member has the right to add any materials at any time during the review process.

        The professional review will be made in a timely fashion (normally less than three months after the faculty member under review submits the initial dossier). The professional review will result in one of three possible outcomes: (1) no deficiencies identified. The faculty member, department head and dean are so informed in writing, and the outcome of the prior annual review is superseded by the ad hoc committee report; (2) some deficiencies are identified but are determined not to be substantial or chronic. The review committee specifically elaborates the deficiencies in writing and a copy is provided to the faculty member, the department head, and the dean; (3) substantial or chronic deficiencies are identified. The review committee specifically elaborates the deficiencies in writing and a copy is provided to the faculty member, department head, and dean. The faculty member, review committee, and department head shall then work together to draw up a professional development plan acceptable to the dean.

      2. The Professional Development Plan. The professional development plan is an agreement indicating how specific deficiencies in a faculty member's performance (as measured against stated departmental criteria developed under 2.A.1 of this policy) will be remedied. The plan will grow out of a collaboration between the faculty member, the review committee, the department head, and the dean, and should reflect the mutual aspirations of the faculty member, the department, and the college. The plan will be formulated with the assistance of and in consultation with the faculty member. It is the faculty member's obligation to assist in the development of a meaningful and effective plan and to make a good faith effort to implement the plan adopted.

        Although each professional development plan is tailored to individual circumstances, the plan will: (1) identify specific deficiencies to be addressed; (2) define specific goals or outcomes necessary to remedy the deficiencies, (3) outline the activities to be undertaken to achieve the necessary outcomes; (4) set timelines for accomplishing the activities and achieving intermediate and ultimate outcomes; (5) indicate the criteria for assessment in annual reviews of progress in the plan; (6) identify institutional resources to be committed in support of the plan.

      3. Assessment. The faculty member and department head will meet annually to review the faculty member's progress toward remedying deficiencies. A progress report will be forwarded to the review committee and to the dean. Further evaluation of the faculty member's performance within the regular faculty performance evaluation process (e.g. annual reviews) may draw upon the faculty member's progress in achieving the goals set out in the professional development plan.

      4. Completion of the Plan. When the objectives of the plan have been fully met, or in any case, no later than three years after the start of the development plan, the department head shall make a final report to the faculty member and dean. The successful completion of the development plan is the positive outcome to which all faculty and administrators involved in the process must be committed. The re-engagement of faculty talents and energies reflects a success for the entire University community.

        If, after consulting with the review committee, the department head and dean agree that the faculty member has failed to meet the goals of the professional development plan, dismissal proceedings may be initiated under applicable policies governing tenure, academic freedom, and academic responsibility. Failure to complete a post-tenure review professional development plan is deemed to occur when (1) the professional development plan's goals were not met by the faculty member, and (2) the deficiencies in the completion of the plan are of sufficient magnitude to separately constitute good cause for dismissal under applicable tenure policies.

  3. Appeal

    If at any point during the procedure the faculty member believes the provisions of this rule are being unfairly applied, a grievance can be filed under the provisions of PPM 2.3.2.6, "Faculty Grievance Procedures Not Concerning Questions of Tenure, Dismissal or Constitutional Rights."

    If the faculty member wishes to contest the professional review committee's finding of substantial or chronic deficiencies, the faculty member may appeal the finding to the dean, whose decision on such an appeal is final. If the faculty member, department head, and review committee fail to agree on a professional development plan acceptable to the dean, the plan will be determined through mediation by the University Tenure Mediation Committee.

  4. Voluntary Post-Tenure Review

    A tenured faculty member desirous of the counsel of a professional review committee in evaluating his or her career may request such counsel by making a request to the department head. Documentation of the results of such a review, patterned after the details outlined in Section II.B. of this rule, are not to be used in any other university evaluation except by explicit consent of the faculty member.