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Background on Post-Tenure Review



Licata and Morreale on Post Tenure Review: Policies, Practices, Precautions

This section summarizes a portion of a paper entitled "Post-Tenure Review: Policies, Practices, Precautions", Inquiry #12. New Pathways: Faculty Careers and Employment for the 21st Century, (American Association of Higher Education, Washington, D.C., 1996) by Christine M. Licata and Joseph C. Morreale. The ad-hoc joint subcommittee on post-tenure review considers this to be an excellent compilation of the history, working definitions, practices and issues, guidelines and procedures, and strategies for post tenure review.


An ad hoc University Committee on Faculty Affairs/University Committee on Faculty Tenure subcommittee [Ad hoc subcommittee members are: Howard Teitelbaum, Sue Carter, Diana Rosenstein, John Herrick, Susan Selke, Robbie Steward. At the request of the subcommittee, Dr. Robert F. Banks, Assistant Provost/Assistant Vice President for Academic Human Resources, prepared this summary and compilation of policy documents.] worked over the summer of 1997 to develop a body of knowledge to inform continued discussion of post tenure review in academic governance during the 1997-98 academic year.

One product is this document which provides: a) a summary of issues relating to post tenure review and b) summaries of post tenure review policies in place at universities broadly similar to Michigan State University. The intent is to be factual and informational, although any document which summarizes selectively - such as this one- can be challenged on judgements of inclusion or omission.


The literature on this topic is voluminous, but the subcommittee believes a useful statement of issues can be provided by summarizing in outline form the contents of a recent American Association of Higher Education publication entitled Post Tenure Review: Policies, Practices and Precautions prepared in 1996 by Christine M. Licata and Joseph C. Morreale [Christine M. Licata and Joseph C. Morreale, Post Tenure Review: Policies, Practices and Precautions, Inquiry #12, New Pathways: Faculty Careers and Employment for the 21st Century, American Association of Higher Education, Washington, D.C., 1996. Other topics addressed, but not summarized here to conserve space, are commentary on the benefits and costs of post tenure review, as well as the costs of doing nothing and on strategies and precautions for developing a program of post tenure review. In part, the latter is addressed in the included commentary on various procedural components of policy.] Due to the length of the commentary section of this monograph (41 pages), some issues have been excluded and some topics are not developed fully here in order to conserve space. This brief summary does focus on key issues, which the ad hoc committee believes are helpful in supplying background information for deliberations on post tenure review, as well as providing a context against which to review other university policies.

Following are key issues related to post tenure review; citations (LM) reference the report by Licata and Morreale.

1. DEFINITION OF POST TENURE REVIEW AND RELATED CONCEPTS. LM note that today post tenure review at most universities goes beyond the traditional annual faculty performance review. It usually means "a systematic, comprehensive process...aimed specifically at assessing performance and/or nurturing faculty growth and development." (LM p1) The processes can be initiated periodically for all tenured faculty, certain tenured faculty through a triggering mechanism or by individual faculty volunteering for review for personal or professional reasons.

Post tenure review can have two different purposes. One purpose is summative resulting in a review that "yields accurate and reliable information about past performance that is then used to make a personnel decision" (LM p4). Performance levels are determined and outcomes of the review are identified including rewards and recognition, faculty development, remediation, and potentially, disciplinary action. A second purpose is formative which "suggests a review process that is developmental in nature" (LM p5). The outcome in such reviews is a professional development plan with appropriate support to advance individual growth and institutional mission.

LM comment: "while the philosophy of most post-tenure review policies drafted today is formative, almost all have summative aspects. Some policies are very specific about the actions to occur if the faculty member does not address the deficiencies identified in the review; others are vague." (LM p5) Based on a review of policies (see below) from universities most like MSU, almost all include formative and summative aspects. This is also true of Provost Simon's March 11, 1997 post tenure review proposal.


Post tenure review policies have a long history in American higher education. However, the last decade has seen extensive discussion of tenure reform, as well as consideration and implementation of post tenure review policies. LM cite the following recent evidence:

·· "one survey of 680 public and private institutions found that 61 percent of respondents had a post tenure review policy in place and another 9 percent had a policy under development....An AAHE study of faculty employment disclosed that 69% of 280 responding institutions were making some sort of change to tenure. The most common modification (29%) was to implement post tenure review procedures" (LM p2). In addition, as of 1996, policy makers in seven states were considering tenure reform and post tenure review is in the discussion or implementation stage in state institutions in twenty eight states (LM p3). Finally, there is some evidence (see policy summary section) of recent discussion or implementation of post tenure review policies in large public graduate research institutions, including three Committee on Institutional Cooperation (Big 10) universities; two additional CIC members, Michigan State University and Pennsylvania State University, are in the policy consideration stage.

·· LM note (pp 1, 3, 7-9) several factors generating this interest in post tenure review policies. The importance of these factors vary by institution and in most cases the factors have had influence in combination and are driven externally (legislatures, boards of regents, trustees, etc.) or internally from within institutions. In no particular priority order the factors identified are:

··· Concern about the public accountability of universities
··· Secure improvement in faculty performance
··· Encourage faculty development over a career span
··· Improve program quality and the learning environment of students
··· Strategic planning emphasizing quality in educational outcomes
··· Achieve staffing flexibility
··· Budgetary constraints
··· Elimination of mandatory retirement
··· Protection of the tenure system through a regularized process to address poor faculty performance.


LM (at pp 7-26) provide a very useful summary of types of post tenure review procedures, policy development guidelines and procedural framework concepts. This summary is derived from their review of more than 100 policies and interviews with campus officials. This is a summary of key points; individuals desiring more detail and explanation are referred to the complete study.


Ideal types are described below. While some universities have policies/procedures as described below, others have developed policies/procedures which include a mix of characteristics.

1. ANNUAL REVIEW Use of the annual review process to assess faculty performance and determine recognition or remediation needs. A value of this approach is that it relies on a traditional, well understood university practice. Limitations include an absence of prospective aspect in the review, the annual time frame is too short to be effective in providing feedback on long term career development and, in some instances, a lack of peer review.

2. SUMMATIVE (PERIODIC/CONSEQUENTIAL) All tenured faculty members are reviewed comprehensively in a prescribed time cycle, e.g. every five years. The review is conducted by peers, administrators or both with the result being a professional assessment along with, as necessary, a recommended professional growth and improvement plan. The plan establishes goals and time lines taking into account individual goals as well as the mission and priorities of the academic unit. Institutional support is provided to implement the plan. Progress is assessed and, if unsatisfactory, another review is mandated after several years with the possibility of disciplinary action. Individual faculty members have access to an appeal process regarding the review. Some plans identify faculty members who merit special recognition, as well as those needing improvement. Benefits include broad-scale attention to faculty development; costs include a large expenditure of effort to provide feedback as the large majority of faculty members perform well without prompting.

3. SUMMATIVE (TRIGGERED/CONSEQUENTIAL) Most of the procedural characteristics of type two above, except recognition of outstanding performance, are included in this approach, although in principle both dimensions of poor and outstanding performance could be addressed. In most cases a sequence of unsatisfactory annual reviews triggers an in-depth review as described in type two above. If deficiencies continue, based on a failure to meet expectations of the initial professional development plan, disciplinary action, including dismissal may be implemented or an additional review may be conducted based on a restatement of performance expectations. Benefits include focusing effort on the small number of faculty needing to improve performance while costs are an over-emphasis on the summative versus the formative review purpose, making the review process appear punitive.

4. FORMATIVE (DEPARTMENTAL) This approach focuses on the establishment of a professional development plan emphasizing both the academic needs of the university and the career interests of the individual tenured faculty member. Based on a review, a self improvement plan is developed with the chairperson, director or dean. A copy of the review and plan are placed in the faculty member's file. In some cases, individual faculty reviews are accompanied by academic unit external reviews or self studies which help identify institutional needs.

5. FORMATIVE (INDIVIDUAL) This approach entails a periodic review of tenured faculty aimed at specific performance areas and long term individual career directions. Characteristics include: individual assessment, not judgement about competence, is the baseline; a development plan is formulated shaped by peer recommendations and follow up; institutional support is available and no personnel actions occur. The process is separated formally from disciplinary procedures. Some institutions have professional development committees which help administer these plans. Special salary adjustments and other support are outcomes of this process in some colleges and universities.

Based on a review of policies and experience, LM (pp 16-18) describe a set of principles which they believe articulate important values and provide a context for the development of post tenure review policies/procedures. The eight principles identified are:


Also based on their review of policies and experience, LM (pp 18-28) note procedural issues/topics that universities should consider in developing post tenure review policies. The following nine issues/topics can be used as an institutional check list for this purpose:

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On-line Documents Created: March 27, 1997
Updated: September 25, 1997

URL: http://www.msu.edu/dig/tenure/licata.html