Tenure and rewards report to go to senate committee, faculty

March 31, 2000

Nick Marinello

In its March 13 meeting, the University Senate voted to send a recently released report on faculty evaluation and reward systems to its Committee on Faculty Tenure, Freedom and Responsibility (FTFR), as well as to the deans of all schools and colleges, for further review. The vote followed a presentation by Geoffrey Harpham, who chaired the ad hoc committee that compiled the report during the last 15 months [see story in March 15 issue of Inside Tulane].

The committee was called together by President Scott Cowen and former Provost Martha Gilliland. Harpham, professor and chair of the English department, opened his comments by saying that "the parts of the report that ought to be controversial concern tenure."

He added that the committee has written specific criteria for attaining tenure including external letters of recommendation and a rewording of the description of the positions of associate and full professors. Harpham went on to tell the senate that the committee recommended against a mandatory post-tenure review, but added that a voluntary, constructive review may be beneficial to faculty in certain cases.

"Each school should take a careful look at this," he said. "We recommend that each unit devise ways to make available the opportunity for feedback." Harpham also said the committee looked closely at issues related to workload flexibility. "The more senior you get the more variable you get," he quipped, but added in a more serious vein that the committee "became aware you could not have a system of work load distributions that was run by chairs. Chairs do not have that authority."

Beyond that, Harpham noted that a two-class-per-semester teaching load is "commensurate with a research university. You should be able to do your teaching and everything else expected of you." Regarding faculty incentives and rewards, Harpham said, "Good work in terms of research and teaching should be rewarded with access to the full professor rank. Other rewards should be made available for people who are doing other [kinds of] excellent work."

The most active debate following the presentation occurred when the senate took up the question of how to handle the report. After some discussion, a motion was made to send the report to the FTFR committee. The committee will look into the report's content related to promotion and tenure issues. At the same time, the deans of each school and college will bring the full report to their faculties for discussion. The senate requested that both groups return their recommendations to the senate in a "timely manner."

"We will deal with the report expeditiously," said Ray Diamond, chair of FTFR, following the senate meeting. Diamond said the role of his committee is not to approve or veto items in the report but, rather, to be an adviser to the senate. "There are certain recommendations made in this report that will mean changes to the faculty handbook over which FTFR has an influence," he said. "We will report what we think are the implications and perhaps recommend changes in accordance with the handbook."

In an unrelated matter, Diamond, a professor of law, was elected vice chair of the University Senate. He will begin his appointment July 1. "People have rendered their congratulations and condolences," he joked.

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