LAWRENCE, Kan. — The Kansas Board of Regents will consider requiring the six state universities to put in place procedures for conducting periodic performance reviews for tenured faculty members.
Board of Regents Vice Chairman Fred Logan said faculty would be part of planning the process for “post-tenure” reviews and he envisions them being conducted by the faculty members’ peers.
“I think that post-tenure review when it’s done by faculty and by university leaders, it’s a very affirming process for tenured professors,” Logan said. “It is a way to really improve what they’re doing.”
Logan said the regents could consider the policy at their December meeting but he doesn’t expect it to be implemented until at least next year, The Lawrence Journal-World reported that Andrew Torrance, a law professor who is Faculty Senate president at the University of Kansas, said he believes most faculty would support the proposal if it is handled fairly and is not strictly punitive.
“Sometimes faculty may get off track, and we think this could be an opportunity to get faculty back on track,” Torrance said.
Faculty members who earn tenure generally are protected from dismissal except for adequate cause, unless a program is discontinued or a financial emergency occurs.
Torrance said it’s important to maintain tenure protections because they insulate faculty from outside influences on their research.
“Tenure actually backstops the objective search for the way the world really is,” Torrance said, “and it’s important to know that if you drop an apple, gravity pulls it down. It doesn’t send it back up.”
Logan said he has no interest in weakening tenure protections and he did not want the regents to impose a policy without faculty input.
Associate special education professor Sandra Gautt, a former Kansas administrator, said it’s a myth that tenure gives lifelong employment to undeserving faculty. At the University of Kansas, tenured faculty must undergo an annual evaluation process that is more rigorous than reviews faced by typical private-sector employees, she said.
Mary Lee Hummert, Kansas’ vice provost for faculty support, said the university would ask faculty governance leaders for input on the post-tenure review policy and a special faculty committee will create a plan.
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