Tenure standards change

Last month, President Ann Weaver Hart announced changes that were made to the standards and guidelines for the review of tenure promotion for university professors. For Dr. Geoffrey Herrera, however, any recommendations on that report

Last month, President Ann Weaver Hart announced changes that were made to the standards and guidelines for the review of tenure promotion for university professors.

For Dr. Geoffrey Herrera, however, any recommendations on that report were made too late.

As a fulltime assistant professor in the political science department since 1999, Herrera, who came up for tenure in the 2004 to 2005 school year, was denied tenure because of a guideline that was written into the rules after his review was considered.

Herrera said he is not happy with the way his decision was handled.

“If the rules had been applied fairly, I would have tenure,” Herrera said. Acquiring tenure is one of the keystones of the career of a university professor. It stipulates that professors cannot be dismissed without cause, and comes with regular pay increases throughout the professor’s career at the university. This job security allows professors to focus on research and scholarship on potentially unpopular subjects.

Tenure is based on three criteria:
teaching, research and university service. Research generally assumes a professor has written at least one book and several articles, while university service involves acting on committees, advising roles or similar actions within the university.

Tenure is granted based, “primar ily on outstanding performance and continuing
promise of outstanding performance as a faculty member,” according to the guidelines written for tenure approval within the collective bargaining agreement between Temple’s faculty and the university. The guidelines stipulate that a candidate seeking tenure is to have their first five years worth of work reviewed no later than their sixth year.

Research and teaching are given prominence
over service. Scores of outstanding performance is required in two of the three categories, with much heavier weight given to the former two.

A faculty member then must pass through a rigorous approval process, including four levels of vote by other faculty. First, the other tenured faculty members in the professor’s department vote, then the chair of the department, then the committee from the college that the department is in, and finally a vote by the dean of the college.

If those votes are approved, then a University Tenure and Promotion Advisory Committee and the provost then send their recommendations to the president. At the time Herrera’s tenure was up for review, the University Tenure Committee only offered its opinion, not an official recommendation, when all previous votes were unanimous for approval. In Herrera’s case – as was confirmed by another professor in the political science department – Herrera was unanimously approved for tenure by every level. These votes of approval were then sent to then-President David Adamany, who had the final vote in a recommendation that is sent to the Board of Trustees for final approval.

Since the Board of Trustees is mostly uninvolved in the review process, the Board almost always accepts the president’s vote.

“It isn’t a final word per se, since the Board of Trustees makes the decision, but it is true to say that the president’s recommendation does carry a lot of weight,” Adamany said.

In fact, Adamany said he could not recall a time during his term as president that the Board of Trustees ever went against his recommendation.

Despite Herrera’s unanimous approval by the faculty and the committees leading to the president, Adamany did not grant Herrera tenure.

Dr. Joseph Schwartz, who was chair of the political science department for several years while Herrera was a professor, said he could not recall a president going against the recommendations of the faculty in a case with such strong support.

According to the collective bargaining agreement, in a case like this, the president and/or Board of Trustees can only reject tenure based on, “compelling reasons, stated in detail to those committees and administrators who made the recommendation.”

According to Herrera, the reason he was not given tenure was because the book he had written was still in the process of being printed and reviewed, although a university press had accepted it. Herrera’s complaint is that this reason for rejection was not only not in the guidelines at the time, but was a practice that is common among tenure-track professors that receive tenure. According to Schwartz, it generally takes three years to fully review, revise and publish a book, and then have it reviewed by scholars in its respective field. To have a book printed and reviewed for tenure, a teacher would likely have to have his or her work finished by their second year.

Many tenure-track faculty, Herrera contends, do not yet have their books printed and reviewed. In fact, he states that this is the common practice for professors coming up for tenure review, and had not previously been a cause for denial.

Schwartz agreed.”There are plenty of people who had not had their book physically out that have gotten tenure,” Schwartz said.

Adamany said he did not feel the same way.

“There was a mixed record on how this was done,” Adamany said. “I feel that the practice did vary from place to place.”

The administration’s reasoning for requiring that books by tenure-track professors be printed and reviewed was, said Adamany, to ensure the quality of work by a candidate.

“The publication of a book does not simply tell if the scholarly work is outstanding. Paley Library is full of books that nobody reads because publishers made mistakes on the importance of the book,” Adamany said.

Herrera said that this practice is not a standard that is used either here, or around the country for tenure review.

“It makes Temple one of the hardest universities to get tenure in the country,” Herrera said.

Herrera appealed to the Faculty Senate Personnel Committee, which agreed to appeal his tenure. The Senate found in favor of Herrera’s case, and sent its findings to Adamany and the Board of Trustees.

Herrera was again denied.

The new guidelines relevant to Herrera’s case were formally written into the Presidential Guidelines for Review of Tenure and Promotion in April 2006, said Dr. William Cutler, a history professor and the president of Temple Association of University Professionals.

At the time, the guidelines stated, “Books still ‘in press’ pose a particular challenge for deliberations on promotion and tenure … such book manuscripts, standing by themselves, can rarely be given much weight in consideration of a candidate for tenure and/or promotion.

“According to Cutler, the language used in the new guidelines was “overly stringent. Inflexible. Rigid.”

The faculty as a whole was very concerned about the stipulations in the tenure guidelines [related to Herrera’s case],” he said.

Dr. Jane Evans, professor of art history
and the president of the Faculty Senate, echoed Cutler.

“I have some very strong reservations about some of the changes made by President Adamany, in particular that guideline,” Evans said.

Adamany said he understands Cutler’s concerns, but he simply disagrees. “We are not responsible to the union members,” Adamany said.

“We are responsible to the students and to the tax payers. What he [Cutler] thinks is stringent, we think is fair.” Tenure, Schwartz said, by its very nature is a subjective process.

“Tenure is not done simply by adding up and down the line. This is not a precise science.”

“Individual faculty members are unique, so you have to make rules that are accountable for that,” said Herrera.

Herrera’s main concern is that the guideline was applied to him before it was written.

“Adamany’s substantive case against me had no merit,” Herrera said. “A judgment borne out by the Faculty Senate Personnel Committee’s report, as well as all my colleagues, deans and external reviewers
supported my case.”

Regardless of whether or not it was fair, Herrera said his failure to gain tenure has dealt him a strong professional blow.

Professors who do not receive tenure are given a one-year terminal contract. In effect, the professor is fired a year after not gaining tenure.

Herrera has yet to find a new position at another university.

To address the concerns of the faculty with tenure guidelines, President Hart appointed
a task force over the summer, led by Interim Provost Richard Englert, to review promotional and tenure guidelines. Hart’s decision to have the tenure rules reviewed points to a possible restructuring of Adamany’s policies.

“It could all change,” Herrera said.

According to Cutler, the report was completed Aug. 31 and then submitted to Hart.

In a recent interview with “The Temple News,” Hart stated that the guidelines were simply streamlined, and that criteria for promotion were not to be changed. The alterations in the language concerning
publications appear to be vastly different from the former guidelines, though. The new section describing the evaluation
of Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity now states, “Books in press can also be considered, especially in tenure decisions. The candidate may demonstrate the potential impact of work in press through evidence such as the standing of the press and reviews by evaluators selected by the press.

“While the change of tenure rules may give the appearance that Temple is moving away from Adamany’s philosophies, he said he is fine with that.”There’s a new president, and she’ll make her own decisions,” Adamany said.

“She should do what she thinks is right.”

Nolan Rosenkrans can be reached at paxtang@temple.edu.

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