Phi Beta Cons

The Specter of Post-Tenure Review

Around the country there are some stirrings about making tenured professors more accountable. However, this may be just be one of those periodic waves of conscience that quickly dissipate.

As Jesse Saffron discusses today, the latest effort is at the University of North Carolina, where a new policy resembles one adopted by the University of Texas at Austin a few years ago. The key to toughening the policy seems to be bringing deans and provosts into the evaluation process, not just faculty.

One signal that the policy may have teeth is that the faculty senates on all 16 constituent campuses of the University of North Carolina voted against it. (Apparently, their vote was advisory only.)

But there are reasons to be dubious, too. To quote Saffron:

  • Daniel Hamermesh, an economics professor at UT-Austin, told Inside Higher Ed that his school’s review process is “a complete waste of time” and amounts to busywork. He said the school’s administrators are “deluged” by annual reviews and only devote serious attention to a few professors each year. 
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education analyzed post-tenure review policies in 2002 and revealed that faculty firings resulting from post-tenure reviews were extremely rare.  
  • And in 2001, only four tenured faculty out of 2,711 in the Arizona university system were given overall unsatisfactory ratings. 

But perhaps there’s hope.

Jane S. ShawJane S. Shaw retired as president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in 2015. Before joining the Pope Center in 2006, Shaw spent 22 years in ...

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