On-line Document Created November 18, 1998

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To: Faculty and Administration PMYR committees
From: John Kingston
Re: Visit from Wendy Roworth
Date: 10 November 1998

I.   Wendy Roworth held two meetings with us, one with the
     faculty subcommittee for policy and liaison and the
     administration committee and the other a public meeting
     attended by faculty.  The discussion at both meetings is
     summarized here.

II.  Present at the faculty-administration meeting were: Boyer,
     Cunningham, Fletcher, Gordon, Hallock, Herrington, Jahoda,
     Kingston, Laurie, Malkin, Pearson, Spencer, Washington,
     Woodcock.

III. Roworth is Professor of Art History and Women's Studies at
     the University of Rhode Island.  She is also one of the
     authors of the AAUP's recent report on post-tenure review.

IV.  The committee meeting.

     A.   The history and content of the AAUP report.

          1.   In 1983, the AAUP put out a report which stated
               that post-tenure review would provide scant
               benefit, incur unacceptable costs, and threaten
               academic freedom.  The report also stated that
               post-tenure review should never to grounds for
               dismissal or other sanctions against faculty
               members.
          2.   The current report arose from a recognition that
               this stance was too strong and needed to be
               updated to respond to current events and climate.
               It was also stimulated by:

               a.   Recent attacks on tenure (the AAUP has
                    compiled a large number of documents that can
                    be used to defend tenure itself),
               b.   Evidence that business models were being
                    inappropriately applied to universities and
                    colleges,
               c.   Alarm at AAHE reports and activities,
               d.   Lack of understanding of tenure:
                    (1)  Of the benefits it provides to the
                         universities and the public,
                    (2)  By faculty, some of whom think tenure is
                         job security or an absolute protection
                         from dismissal.
               e.   Erosion of tenure through the replacement of
                    tenure-track lines by temporary and part-time
                    appointments,
               f.   Legislative mandates aimed at getting rid of
                    deadwood or coping with the elimination of
                    mandatory retirement.

          3.   Preparing the report began by considering two
               questions:

               a.   What are the possible benefits in post-tenure
                    review?  The principal answer may be that
                    post-tenure review is a means of preserving
                    tenure.
               b.   What are the possible dangers?   The dangers
                    appear to be greatest at campuses without
                    collective bargaining agreements.

          4.   Issues.

               a.   Accountability.  Who's in charge of the
                    process?  Demands come from administrations,
                    boards, or legislatures, who are frustrated
                    with faculty's apparent unwillingness to
                    change.
               b.   Retirement is no longer mandatory at a
                    particular age.  This is apparently not a
                    problem, except perhaps at some small,
                    private, elite institutions.
               c.   Is it worth the effort PTR requires just to
                    find the small number of deadwood?  Isn't
                    dealing with these people already the
                    responsibility of administrators and their
                    peers, and don't the means exist already for
                    doing so?
               d.   Some faculty are eager to use PTR as a means
                    of getting rid of a hated colleague.
               e.   Isn't it the case that no one has ever been
                    forced to give up a tenured position?  How
                    would PTR change that?
               f.   The words "summative" and "formative" may not
                    have the black-white meanings they first
                    appear to have.

                    (1)  "Summative" appears to refer to
                         retrospective reviews, which may lead to
                         discipline or sanctions, while
                         "formative" appears to refer to
                         prospective reviews that may lead to
                         faculty development.
                    (2)  However, if a faculty member sets goals
                         for development in the form of a plan
                         and, despite conscientious efforts,
                         fails to meet them, then that failure
                         could be used as grounds for negative
                         evaluation.

     B.   The relevance of being from URI.

          1.   URI has had post-tenure review for 26 years, since
               their first collective bargaining contract.
          2.   Faculty are reviewed annually before tenure,
               biennially as associate professors, and
               quadrennially as full professors.
          3.   The review consists of a cumulative written
               evaluation of the faculty member's activity by
               peers, chair, and dean.  The review considers the
               relationship of the faculty member's activity to
               the department's, college's, and university's
               goals.  The faculty member has the right to
               respond.
          4.   The criterion of a successful review is
               "conscientious discharge of duties," not the
               criteria for promotion.
          5.   Promotion and merit reviews are separate.
          6.   Questions (and some answers):

               a.   What kind of meaningful feedback does one
                    get?  Apparently very little.
               b.   What are the benefits?
                    (1)  Faculty find it useful to review what
                         they've done over the past four years.
                    (2)  Peers get a good sense of what their
                         colleagues have been doing, and they
                         develop a sense of mutual
                         responsibility.
                    (3)  The cumulative nature of the reviews
                         provides a history that can be used
                         effectively to defend a faculty member,
                         as well as to establish that there is a
                         genuine deficiency.
               c.   Are there any consequences?  Only feedback
                    from the chair and dean.  Problems are dealt
                    with informally.  No plans nor mandates for
                    change.
               d.   Are there any resources for faculty
                    development tied to the review?  Apparently
                    not.
               e.   Have any cases gone very far toward
                    establishing that a faculty member has failed
                    to perform assigned duties or is incompetent?
                    No.
               f.   In a nutshell, there are neither carrots nor
                    sticks in the URI review.

     C.   General discussion (this is just a list of the issues
          raised).

          1.   There's a mismatch in the AAUP statement between
               the quality of the argument about why one doesn't
               need PTR and that spelling out why faculties
               nonetheless have to consider it.
          2.   Do institutions generally have a hard or an easy
               time meshing PTR with existing methods of
               evaluation?  Is PTR a radical or an incremental
               change to existing methods?  Does PTR make it
               easier for administrators to override performance
               criteria set by departments or faculty?
          3.   Goal setting or plans may only be appropriate when
               remediation is needed.  Otherwise, they may chill
               academic freedom by enforcing particular methods
               of teaching, lines of research, or avenues of
               outreach.  Furthermore, failing to come through on
               a plan can be used against the faculty member,
               even when he or she is not responsible for the
               failure.
          4.   How much of the resources set aside for PTR is
               used for remediation?  Shouldn't resources instead
               be devoted to productive purposes, e.g. rewarding
               productive faculty, investments that benefit the
               entire community, e.g. the library, etc.?
               Although there are often other resources for
               faculty development, those set aside for
               remediation are ordinarily paltry.
          5.   [I break here from my practice of not identifying
               a source, because it's important to know which
               "side" the following came from.] What can be
               achieved with PTR? A dean's answer:

               a.   Distinguish the disaffected from the dead and
                    re-engage the former.
               b.   The way to do so is to redefine their
                    responsibilities so that they may be
                    successful enough in carrying them out to be
                    eligible for merit again.
               c.   Deficiencies identified in terms of "failure
                    to perform assigned duties" language.
                    Specific suggestions should be made by chair
                    and dean about how to remedy a deficiency.
               d.   Shift burden to the individual to show they
                    meet performance criteria and off chair's
                    shoulders.
               e.   For faculty who are still performing at the
                    level they were when promoted (probably a
                    substantial majority), a perfunctory review
                    is enough.
               f.   Question: Don't existing mechanisms of
                    evaluation provide a means of doing all this?

V.   The public meeting (there's some redundancy with the notes
     above).

     A.   What features should define PTR?

          1.   Preserve academic freedom, by limiting PTR to
               evaluating individuals' performance.
          2.   Neither a subterfuge for program review nor a
               fishing expedition.
          3.   Not retenuring.
          4.   Burden of proof stays with the institution.  And
               the starting assumption should be that a faculty
               member does meet his or her responsibilities.
          5.   Written performance criteria.
          6.   Basic criterion is "conscientious discharge of
               duties," not standards for promotion.
          7.   PTR needs to define what counts as "effectiveness"
               or "productivity," i.e. it needs to define its
               goals. It must specify with equal explicitness
               what remediation amounts to.  And it must provide
               the resources needed to achieve effectiveness,
               productivity, or remediation.
          8.   By describing someone as "deficient" in a
               particular area, does PTR make it easier to take
               the next step and declare them "incompetent" or
               guilty of misconduct?  PTR must draw a bright line
               between deficient and incompetent or guilty of
               misconduct.
          9.   Deficiency should be distinguished with equal care
               from a faculty member's failure to perform some
               duty because the institution has failed to provide
               the necessary resources.
          10.  Finally, deficiency should be distinguished from
               pursuing research or hewing to performance
               criteria different from one's colleagues or at
               odds with the department's goals.  Need to balance
               an emphasis on collegiality with one on individual
               freedom.

     B.   Changes in responsibilities as a result of PTR:

          1.   Institution needs to devote resources to helping
               faculty change their professional direction.
          2.   Differentiated responsibilities could create a
               two-tiered faculty, ultimately a tenured, research
               faculty and a non-tenure-track teaching faculty.
          3.   Why should taking on more teaching be seen as a
               punishment or admission of failure?  Don't we want
               to reward excellent teaching?
          4.   If the number of tenured faculty continues to
               drop, why bother with an expensive review of the
               few that are left?

     C.   Appropriateness.

          1.   Is PTR an inappropriate extension of a corporate
               or business model to an institution it's
               inappropriate for?  Do universities work in a way
               that their employees' activity can be assessed in
               this way?  Is PTR part of the same effort to
               criticize public employees that has led to teacher
               testing?
          2.   May the elaborate PTR procedures implemented in
               some places soon collapse under their own weight?
               (Even at URI, deans complain of not having enough
               time to go over the fairly minimal reviews done
               there.)
          3.   Should PTR policies therefore be built with sunset
               clauses, or with explicit criteria and a time
               table for deciding whether they're working?
               Should we expect to renegotiate PTR in each
               contract and even negotiate its elimination?

     D.   Questions.

          1.   How can PTR be prevented from becoming a means of
               getting rid of faculty to save or reallocate
               resources?
          2.   How can PTR be prevented from binding individual
               evaluations too tightly to program planning?
          3.   What role will evaluations of teaching play in
               PTR?

     E.   What can we accomplish?

          1.   Catalog all the ways we're already reviewed.
          2.   Try only to do the minimum now, because:
               a.   There's too little time to work out a more
                    elaborate policy, and
               b.   We need to keep control over the criteria for
                    evaluation.


On-line Document Created November 18, 1998

Back to the PMYR Resource Page