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Group ponders ‘special’ reviews for tenure faculty

BY MORGAN OLSEN | APRIL 14, 2010 7:30 AM

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University of Iowa faculty members are taking a closer look at how tenured professors are evaluated.

Members of the UI Faculty Council gave input on possible revisions to the Post-Tenure Review Policy during their meeting Tuesday.

Under the new policy, a dean of a college could call for a “special peer review” in addition to regular reviews, which usually take place every five years. The move is meant to help address any issues with performance more quickly.

Members of Faculty Council moved to approve the revisions. The Faculty Senate, a larger group, will weigh in on the proposal on April 27.

Psychology Professor Ed Wasserman, a member of the council, said he feels adequate policies and sanctions are already in place and he didn’t understand the need for a new policy.

“The concern is that there’s little consistency across colleges,” psychology Professor Michael O’Hara replied. “The [American Association of University Professors] asked that we consider making these things more consistent, because it wasn’t working well across the board.”

Tenured faculty may be reviewed more often if they “demonstrate sustained inadequate performance in some combination of teaching, scholarship, and/or service.”

If a peer committee finds that a tenured faculty member is not performing adequately, it would develop a plan of improvement for that person to follow. The committee would make recommendations to the dean, who would submit the final improvement plan.

“In this case, if there’s a very negative peer review, this would give the person a chance to improve rather than allowing the situation to continue,” said journalism Professor Julie Andsager, the head of the Faculty Policies and Compensation Committee. It would also prevent a dean from making a hasty termination, she said.

The changes would also require each college to develop a formal plan for regular reviews and apply one standard review policy to all tenured faculty.

Each college would be responsible for developing a formal peer committee for reviewing faculty on its own.

But Wasserman said he found this problematic because allowing colleges to select a committee may allow too much variation in the process, which is meant to be consistent across campus.

“It’s very hard to draft policies that don’t allow for collegiate variations, because there is so much variety on campus,” countered law Professor Sheldon Kurtz. “I’m not concerned about having variance as long as there’s compliance with the basic rules.”

UI Faculty Senate President David Drake reminded the council of the importance of passing a policy soon.

“Faculty Senate has to be proactive,” he said. “We have to develop a process that comes from faculty and not wait for it to be imposed on us by someone else.”

Faculty senators at Iowa State University debated similar topics last week while making revisions to their faculty handbook.

The ISU Senate voted down an amendment that would allow a committee to create a statement on how the loss of a program and its tenured faculty would affect the university before officials made any final decisions on that program.

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