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Change to tenure up for public comment

BY JOSEPH LICHTERMAN
Daily News Editor
Published February 20, 2011

University Provost Philip Hanlon’s proposal to lengthen the tenure probationary period for faculty is one step closer to becoming University policy.

In an e-mail acquired by The Michigan Daily, Hanlon wrote to faculty members on Friday that he will bring the proposal to extend the tenure probationary period from eight to 10 years forward today for public comment — a necessary step for any change in the University’s Board of Regents’ Bylaws.

After two weeks of public comment, the proposed bylaw change could be brought before the regents for a final vote. According to the e-mail, Hanlon hopes to bring the proposal before the regents for a vote this spring.

The proposed change would alter Regent Bylaw 5.09 and would allow any school or college within the University a maximum of 10 years to grant tenure to faculty members. Decisions to alter the tenure probationary period would still be up to the governing faculty in any given school or college.

All schools and colleges within the University currently have tenure probationary periods between six and eight years. Only the Medical School, Ross School of Business, School of Education, School of Dentistry and Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning use the full eight years.

In the e-mail to faculty members, Hanlon wrote that a number of issues caused the University and Office of the Provost to consider lengthening the tenure probationary period from the current eight-year limit established by the regents in 1944.

Specifically, Hanlon mentioned the evolution of science, engineering and community-based research, which all require tremendous amounts of time and resources to undertake. He added that familial structures have changed— often making it difficult for faculty members on the tenure track to balance research, teaching and family responsibilities.

Though all faculty members are affected by the changing nature of research, Hanlon wrote that clinical faculty in the Medical School are recommending a change to the policy.

“In those departments (in the Medical School), these factors create stress that has been recounted to me by numerous faculty, as well as the academic leadership of the School,” Hanlon wrote. “The time pressures in the Medical School are further evidenced by the requests that come to me for faculty to switch from the tenure track to the clinical track.”

At the regents' monthly meeting last Thursday, five Medical School faculty members spoke in favor of the proposal. Each individual cited various health crises and research setbacks to illustrate the need for an extended tenure probationary period.

While the clinical faculty in the Medical School support the proposal, members of the Senate Assembly — the faculty’s governing body — have publicly voiced their opposition to the measure.

At its January meeting, Senate Assembly passed two resolutions stating its disapproval of the tenure proposal.

One resolution reaffirmed support for a 2006 Senate Assembly resolution that expressed concern with any changes that would be made to Regents’ Bylaw 5.09. The other resolution stated that only tenured or tenure-track faculty should be able to make decisions regarding tenure, not the faculty as a whole.

“Only tenure-track faculty should be eligible to make final decisions (regarding tenure),” Ed Rothman, chair of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs, said at the meeting. “And the reason for this is because, in the Medical School in particular, we tenured and tenure-track faculty are a minority.”

The University Senate was scheduled to meet today to discuss the proposed change to the tenure process, but that meeting has been postponed until March 21. Instead, SACUA will meet this afternoon and will discuss the tenure probationary period, according to the assembly’s weekly agenda.


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