The following report, approved in June 1999 by the Association's Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, was adopted that month by the Council and endorsed by the 1999 Annual Meeting. It is a briefer version of a report that was published in the September-October 1998 issue of Academe
The Association believes that periodic formal institutional evaluation of each postprobationary faculty member would bring scant benefit, would incur unacceptable costs, not only in money and time but also in dampening of creativity and of collegial relationships, and would threaten academic freedom.
The Association emphasizes that no procedure for evaluation of faculty should be used to weaken or undermine the principles of academic freedom and tenure. The Association cautions particularly against allowing any general system of evaluation to be used as grounds for dismissal or other disciplinary sanctions. The imposition of such sanctions is governed by other established procedures, enunciated in the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure and the 1958 Statement on Procedural Standards in Faculty Dismissal Proceedings, that provide the necessary safeguards of academic due process.
More than a decade later, new forms of post-tenure review are fast becoming a reality: a significant number of legislatures, governing boards, and university administrators are making such reviews mandatory, others are in various stages of consideration. For this reason it has become necessary to reaffirm the principles of the 1983 statement, but also to provide standards which can be used to assess the review process when it is being considered or implemented. This report accordingly offers practical recommendations for faculty at institutions where post-tenure review is being considered or put into effect.
The principles guiding this document are these: post-tenure review ought to be aimed not at accountability, but at faculty development. Post-tenure review must be developed and carried out by faculty. Post-tenure review must not be a reevaluation of tenure, nor may it be used to shift the burden of proof from an institution's administration (to show cause for dismissal) to the individual faculty member (to show cause why he or she should be retained). Post-tenure review must be conducted according to standards that protect academic freedom and the quality of education.
Definition of Terms
Because post-tenure review is used to mean many things, it is important to define our understanding of the term. Lurking within the phrase are often two misconceptions: that tenured faculty are not already recurrently subject to a variety of forms of evaluation of their work, and that the presumption of merit that attaches to tenure should be periodically cast aside so that the faculty member must bear the burden of justifying retention. Neither assumption is true. Although it would perhaps be best to utilize a term other than post-tenure review, most alternative expressions (such as periodic evaluation of tenured faculty ) do not clearly enough dispel the misconceptions, and the more familiar term has become so widely adopted in academic parlance that it would only create additional confusion were it not used here.
Post-tenure review is a system of periodic evaluation that goes beyond the many traditional forms of continuous evaluation utilized in most colleges and universities. These traditional forms of evaluation vary in their formality and comprehensiveness. They include annual reports for purposes of determining salary and promotion, reviews for the awarding of grants and sabbaticals, and reviews for appointment to school and university committees, graduate faculties, interdisciplinary programs, and professorial chairs and societies. More narrowly focused reviews include course-by-course student teaching evaluations, peer review and wider public scrutiny of scholarly presentations and publications, and both administrative and collegial observation of service activities. Faculty members are also reviewed in the course of the program reviews required for regional or specialized accreditation and certification of undergraduate and graduate programs.
What post-tenure review typically adds to these longstanding practices is a
formalized additional layer of review which, if it is not simply redundant,
may differ in a number of respects: the frequency and comprehensiveness of the
review, the degree of involvement by faculty peers, the use of self-evaluations,
the articulation of performance objectives, the extent of constructive "feedback,"
the application of innovative standards and principles, and the magnitude of
potential sanctions. At its most draconian, post-tenure review aims to reopen
the question of tenure; at its most benign, it formalizes and systematizes longstanding
practices. In this report, we use the term post-tenure review to refer to the
variety of practices that superimpose a more comprehensive and systematic structure
on existing processes of evaluation of tenured faculty.
II. Post-Tenure Review and Academic Freedom: A General Caution
Post-tenure review should not be undertaken for the purpose of dismissal. Other formal disciplinary procedures exist for that purpose. If they do not, they should be developed separately, following generally accepted procedures.1/
Even a carefully designed system of post-tenure review may go awry in a number of ways of serious concern to the Association. Many, though not all, proponents of post-tenure review purportedly seek to supplement preexisting ways of reviewing the performance of tenured faculty with a system of managerial accountability that could ensure faculty productivity, redirect faculty priorities, and facilitate dismissal of faculty members whose performance is deemed unsatis- factory. Despite assurances by proponents that they do not so intend, the substitution of managerial accountability for professional responsibility characteristic of this more intrusive form of post-tenure review alters academic practices in ways that inherently diminish academic freedom.
The objectionable change is not that tenured faculty would be expected to undergo periodic evaluation. As noted here, they generally do--and they should. Nor is there any claim that tenure must be regarded as an indefinite entitlement. Tenured faculty are already subject to dismissal for incompetence, malfeasance, or failure to perform their duties, as well as on grounds of bona fide financial exigency or program termination. Nor is the issue, as many faculty imagine, simply who controls the evaluation. Faculty members as well as administrators can and do err.
Rather, the most objectionable feature of many systems of post-tenure review is that they ease the prevailing standards for dismissal and diminish the efficacy of those procedures that ensure that sanctions are not imposed for reasons violative of academic freedom. Some proponents of post-tenure review, motivated by a desire to facilitate the dismissal of tenured faculty, seek to substitute less protective procedures and criteria at the time of post-tenure review. But demanding procedures and standards are precisely what prevent dismissal for reasons violative of academic freedom.
If the standard of dismissal is shifted from "incompetence" to "unsatisfactory performance," as in some current proposals, then tenured faculty must recurrently "satisfy" administrative officers rather than the basic standards of their profession. In addition, some forms of post-tenure review shift the burden of proof in a dismissal hearing from the institution to the tenured faculty member by allowing the institution to make its case simply by proffering the more casually developed evaluation reports from earlier years. Effectively the same concerns arise when the stipulated channel for challenging substantively or procedurally unfair judgments in the course of post-tenure review is through a grievance procedure in which the burden of proving improper action rests with the faculty member.
Academic freedom is not adequately protected in any milieu in which most faculty members bear the burden of demonstrating a claim that their dismissal is for reasons violative of their academic freedom. The heightened protection of the tenured faculty is not a privilege, but a responsibility earned by the demonstration of professional competence in an extended probationary period, leading to a tenured position with its "rebuttable presumption of professional excellence." 2/ It chills academic freedom when faculty members are subjected to revolving contracts or recurrent challenge after they have demonstrated their professional competence.
When post-tenure review substitutes review procedures for adversarial hearing procedures, or diverse reappointment standards for dismissal standards, it creates conditions in which a host of plausible grounds for dismissal may cloak a violation of academic freedom. Innovative research may be dismissed as unproven, demanding teaching as discouraging, and independence of mind as a lack of collegiality. The lengthy demonstration of competence that precedes the award of tenure is required precisely so that faculty are not recurrently at risk and are afforded the professional autonomy and integrity essential to academic quality.
We recognize that some tenured faculty members may, nonetheless, fail to fulfill their professional obligations through incompetence, malfeasance, or simple nonperformance of their duties. Where this appears to exist, "targeted" review and evaluation should certainly be considered, in order to provide the developmental guidance and support that can assist the faculty member to overcome those difficulties. Should, however, it be concluded that such developmental assistance is (or is likely to be) unavailing, the remedy lies not in a comprehensive review of the entire faculty, nor in sacrificing the procedural protections of the tenured faculty member, but in an orderly application of longstanding procedures such as those in the Association's Recommended Institutional Regulations (Regulations 5-8) for the imposition of sanctions up to and including dismissal.
In other cases, faculty members may voluntarily agree to redirect their work or to accept early retirement incentives as a consequence, for example, of a decision to redirect departmental priorities. But the use of sanctions pursuant to individual reviews to induce resignation of programmatically less "desirable" faculty members or to redirect otherwise competent faculty endeavors may well have deleterious consequences for academic freedom. The prohibition on the use of major sanctions to redirect or reinvigorate faculty performance without a formal finding of inadequacy does not mean that administrators and colleagues have no less demanding recourse to bring about improvement. Although academic acculturation will ordinarily have provided a sufficient incentive, the monetary rewards or penalties consequent on salary, promotion, and grant reviews can and do encourage accommodation to institutional standards and professional values.
Even on campuses where there is not thought to be a problem with so-called "deadwood" or incompetent faculty members, many proponents of post-tenure review, as well as those who adopt it in the hope of forestalling more comprehensive and blatant attacks on tenure, sometimes envision such review as a means for achieving larger management objectives such as "down- sizing," "restructuring," or "re-engineering." Individual faculty reviews should, however, focus on the quality of the faculty member's work and not on such larger considerations of programmatic direction. Downsizing may be properly accomplished through long-term strategic planning and, where academically appropriate, formal program discontinuance (with tenured faculty subject to termination of appointment only if reasonable efforts to retrain and reassign them to other suitable positions are unsuccessful).
It might be thought that the untoward impact on academic freedom and tenure may thus be eliminated by implementing a system of post-tenure review that has no explicit provision for disciplinary sanctions. Even here, however, where the reviews are solely for developmental ends, there is a natural expectation that, if evidence of deficiency is found, sanctions of varying degrees of subtlety and severity will indeed follow absent prompt improvement. Hence, even the most benign review may carry a threat, require protections, and inappropriately constrain faculty performance. This point warrants further elaboration.
A central dimension of academic freedom and tenure is the exercise of professional judgment in such matters as the selection of research projects, teaching methods, student evaluations, and course curricula, as well as the choice of colleagues. Those who have followed recent attacks on faculty workloads know that the issue rapidly shifted from the allegation that faculty did not work enough (which it turned out they plainly did) to the allegation that faculty did not do the right sort of work. Some proponents of post-tenure review will thus not be content with the identification of the few "slackers" already known to their colleagues by other means, nor even with the imposition of a requirement of faculty cooperation and institutional loyalty. They also want faculty members to give back some portion of their ability to define their own work and standards of performance. For example, increased emphasis on students' evaluations of teaching may lead to the avoidance of curricular experimentation or discourage the use of more demanding course materials and more rigorous standards. Periodic review that is intended not only to ensure a level of faculty performance (defined by others than faculty) but also to shape that performance accordingly, and regardless of tenure, is a most serious threat to academic freedom.
Another consequence of the misapplication of the managerial model to higher education is the ignoring of another important dimension of academic freedom and tenure: time, the time required to develop and complete serious professional undertakings. Shortening the time horizon of faculty, so as to accord with periodic reviews, will increase productivity only artificially, if at all. More frequent and formal reviews may lead faculty members to pick safe and quick, but less potentially valuable, research projects to minimize the risk of failure or delayed achievement.
By way of summary, then, of the Association's principal conclusions, well-governed universities already provide a variety of forms of periodic evaluation of tenured faculty that encourage both responsible performance and academic integrity. Those forms of post-tenure review which diminish the protections of tenure also unambiguously diminish academic freedom, not because they reduce job security but because they weaken essential procedural safeguards. The only acceptable route to the dismissal of incompetent faculty is through carefully crafted and meticulously implemented procedures that place the burden of proof on the institution and that ensure due process. Moreover, even those forms of post-tenure review which do not threaten tenure may diminish academic freedom when they establish a climate that discourages controversy or risk-taking, induces self-censorship, and in general interferes with the conditions that make innovative teaching and scholarship possible. Such a climate, although frequently a product of intervention by trustees or legislators, may instead regrettably flow on occasion from unduly intrusive monitoring by one's faculty peers.
Comprehensive post-tenure review is thus a costly and risky innovation, which may fail either to satisfy ill-informed critics on the one hand or to protect professional integrity on the other. If managerially imposed, it may be a poor substitute for the complex procedures colleges and universities have gradually crafted to balance professional responsibility and autonomy. On the other hand, if designed and implemented by the faculty in a form that properly safeguards academic freedom and tenure and the principle of peer review, and if funded at a meaningful level, it may offer a way of evaluating tenured faculty which supports professional development as well as professional responsibility. To that end, we offer the following guidelines and standards.
It is the obligation of the administration and governing board to observe
the principle, enunciated in the Statement on Government
of Colleges and Universities, that the faculty exercises primary
responsibility for faculty status and thus the faculty is the appropriate
body to take a leadership role in designing additional procedures for the
evaluation of faculty peers. Faculty representatives in the development
of those procedures should be selected by the faculty according to procedures
determined by the faculty. 3/
1/ These procedures are set forth in the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure the 1958 Statement on Procedural Standards in Faculty Dismissal Proceedings, and the Association's Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure.Back to text
2/ See William Van Alstyne, "Tenure: A Summary, Explanation, and 'Defense,'" AAUP Bulletin, Autumn 1971, pp. 329-351, and Matthew W. Finkin, "The Assault on Faculty Independence," Academe, July-August 1997, pp. 16-21.Back to text
3/Here, and in other Guidelines and Standards set forth below, the procedures, in addition to conforming with established AAUP-supported standards, should also conform to the applicable provisions of any collective bargaining agreement. Back to text
4/ Again, the applicable policy statements are the 1940 Statement of Principles, the 1958 Statement on Procedural Standards, and the Recommended Institutional Regulations.Back to text
5/ See Regulation 15, Recommended Institutional Regulations.Back to text
6/ See Regulations 5-7, Recommended Institutional Regulations. Back to text
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