PMYR Announcements

University of Massachusetts

A Letter to the Faculty

February 1999

Dear Faculty Colleague:

Enclosed you will find the Periodic Multi-Year Review Policy that, depending on your vote, MSP will bring as a bargaining proposal to negotiations with the administration this spring. Bargaining was due to begin in early February. However, the MSP Executive Board strongly felt that we should not begin formal negotiations without a full vote of the faculty on the enclosed proposal.

Before voting, we urge you to attend an all-faculty general assembly meeting on Friday, February 19 from 4-6 p.m. in Campus Center 168C.

This meeting will provide an opportunity for a full and free discussion of the policy and the consequences of this important vote. Department reps were briefed on the policy at meetings in February and should also be able to answer questions about the policy itself. You may also contact the MSP office directly if you have specific questions.

Brief Background and Political Context:

The political context that motivated the administration's desire to have a post-tenure review policy has not changed. James Carlin, Board of Higher Education Chairman, is calling for the abolition of tenure at the State Colleges and dismissal of faculty based on two "unsatisfactory" annual performance reviews. That he is very interested in the university's post-tenure review policy was made evident by his January 29 letter to the Campus Chronicle. The governor who appointed Carlin is still in office and has made "education reform" his priority. The legislature could impose its own version of post-tenure review on the faculty at any time, and recent legislation proposed by Representative Harold Lane in the statehouse indicates the desire on the part of some legislators to bypass the education unions on issues over which we currently have control. Our own trustees are among the growing constituency pushing educational institutions to become more publicly "accountable" for dollars spent. In fact, most professionals have faced major changes in their employment situation over the last decade; our research shows that post-tenure review has become a fact of life in many colleges and universities nationwide.

Fortunately, our administration has shown little interest in the kind of draconian policy that Carlin would like to see. Rather, they have voiced interest in a review process that focuses on faculty development. Such a policy, as we understood from negotiations, would encompass more than a single year, making their own accounting of faculty productivity to external constituencies more effective. It could also provide another administrative opportunity to support particular faculty initiatives in line with their own strategic planning process.

Last spring, the President's office brought post-tenure review to the table. Our position remained firm: we could not even consider a post-tenure review policy without more time to study the issue and make decisions based on broader faculty discussion and input. They also remained firm: without a post-tenure review agreement, we could not expect any raises. The compromise we negotiated and ratified stipulates that half of our raises (7.6%) depend on agreeing upon and implementing PMYR in a timely fashion. If no agreement is made by June 30, 1999, the money encumbered by our contract will disappear.

The attached policy was developed (after research and consultation with faculty members in department meetings across campus) by the union's PMYR committee and has been reviewed by the MSP Executive Board. The committee did an impressive job of educating themselves and the faculty on these issues, and in designing a policy they feel addresses the issues and concerns they heard from faculty members. Although all post-tenure review policies offer additional opportunities for administrative review and oversight, this policy attempts to fully protect tenure and academic freedom and to insulate the PMYR process from any discipline by the administration

PMYR Features:

  • 7 Materials generated by PMYR cannot be used by administration in any disciplinary process
  • 7 Periodic review for all faculty rather than a triggered review that would target problem cases
  • 7 Safeguards for academic freedom built into process
  • 7 Professional development funds not limited to those needing "remediation"
  • 7 AFRs and a 1,000-2,500 word statement by faculty member are primary PMYR documents
  • 7 Involves a lesser level of scrutiny and definition than major personnel actions
  • 7 Maximizes peer involvement with all-faculty review committee for appeals
  • 7 Whitmore involved only to monitor process and procedures
  • 7 Periodic review first occurs seven years after tenure or timely promotion to full professor
  • 7 PMYR review can be postponed, cancelled (or moved up) for reason by faculty member

There are, of course, certain risks involved in negotiating any kind of post-tenure review agreement with the administration, just as there are substantial risks in not agreeing to a policy at this time. Post-tenure review policies are intended to bring faculty "problems" to the attention of the administration and may do so in cases that could more easily be overlooked without such a policy. Although discipline cannot occur within this PMYR process, it can still occur outside of the process in ways that our contract currently allows. This policy offers an instrument for faculty members to address performance concerns in a proactive and collegial manner, and may pre-empt more serious processes from being invoked. Because faculty members may not always agree with their department colleagues about the nature or seriousness of any problem, much less how it might be remedied, an appeals mechanism has been devised that involves faculty members outside of the department.

Despite the risks involved, faculty members should also be aware that refusing to bargain on this issue now will not exempt them getting a PMYR proposal in the future. The political context assures us that this issue is not going to disappear any time soon. Moreover, the money attached to agreeing to PMYR in the current contract will not necessarily return in the next bargaining cycle. Nor can we expect to organize much political sympathy with legislators or the public over this issue. MSP Executive Board believes that our participation in the development of a serious post-tenure review policy has assured one far more protective of faculty interests than we could have expected without it. If the faculty decides to go forward with a policy, there will also be a ratification vote on the final policy before the end of the semester.

Please attend the February 19th General Assembly and then VOTE, following the enclosed instructions, by 5 p.m. on March 3rd.


Jenny S. Spencer
President, MSP

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Copyright 1999

University of Massachusetts

On-line Document Created February 11, 1999

Last Updated: February 11, 1999