The road to tenure and promotion at Washington State University is often winding, frustrating and uncertain. The Faculty Senate for many years has discussed and debated how that process could be improved. Reality is, the same thing can be said of most universities nationwide.
The difference is, at the request of Provost Robert Bates, WSU faculty and administrators joined forces in a Tenure and Promotion Task Force from March to December 2003 to hammer out some resolutions and improvements to the process. Now, that proposal is up for formal consideration by the Faculty Senate, and it is posted online (at http://provost.wsu.edu) so faculty universitywide can review it and provide input.
The task force, led by Warwick Bayly, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, included Greg Hooks, Department of Sociology; Ursula Mazur, Chemistry and Materials Science; Tracy Skaer, College of Pharmacy; Ken Butterfield, Management and Decision Sciences; Greg Kessler, School of Architecture and Construction Management; Leonard Orr, English, WSU TriCities; Ginny Steel, Libraries; Judy Mitchell, College of Education; Margaret Bruya, College of Nursing; Barry Swanson, Food Science and Human Nutrition; Fran McSweeney, Provost’s Office.
In addition to looking at new recommendations, this task force also relied upon recommendations provided by a similar task force held in 1999 under then Provost Gretchen Bataille.
Following is a brief outline of the recommendations being made by the Tenure and Promotion Task Force.
1. Develop a manual on all aspects of faculty performance review. This would include information on:
• preparation of tenure and promotion files
• common misconceptions about tenure and promotion
• the tenure and promotion process timeline
• withdrawing from consideration
• writing the context statement
• standards for early promotion and tenure
• evaluating split appointments
2. Initiate mandatory mentoring. Each new faculty member shall have a mentor or mentor/advisory committee. Mentoring will continue until the full professor level.
3. Develop mandatory college advisory committees. Each college would appoint or elect a tenure and promotion advisory committee that will consider applications for tenure and/or promotion, and also third-year reviews.
4. Appoint a provost-level advisory committee. Although the committee could not reach consensus on this point, it did recommend further consideration of such a committee.
5. Develop a universitywide standardized annual review form.
6. Merge the annual and pretenure review into one review.
7. Improve and clarify letters of initial appointment, as well as guidelines for tenure and promotion.
8. Reach general agreement on how to define “service” and its role in the tenure and promotion process.
9. Develop a detailed timeline for processing tenure and promotion cases.
10. Develop guidelines and checklists — one for the individual faculty member, a second for the faculty member’s mentor or mentoring committee, and a third for the department chair.
11. Clarify the guidelines for tenure and promotion to all ranks, particularly to that of full professor.
12. Appoint a committee to clarify issues related to tenure and promotion at the urban campuses.
“We believe the recommended changes will help make the process more fair, uniform, simple and transparent,” said McSweeney, vice provost for faculty affairs. “We’re trying to make this process consistent not only across the Pullman campus, but across the whole university.
“The system is working pretty well right now, with very few contested tenure denials, but it we know it can work better and can be improved to reduce the stress on faculty.”
“This is not a done deal,” said McSweeney, “that’s why we are soliciting input … asking people to consider how these changes would affect tenure and promotion for themselves and their college.”
When asked what he perceives as the most significant changes in the proposal, Swanson said:
• giving more equivalent weight in tenure review to three factors — research (scholarly activities and publication), instruction and service.
• the combining and coordination of the annual review and tenure review documentation to eliminate a duplication of efforts.
Swanson, who is also the executive secretary of the Faculty Senate, said he believes, “There has been a feeling on campus … that instruction and services have not been evaluated on an equal basis with research.
“For example, there often are excellent teachers who have done well in instruction but not necessarily so well in research, so they lack the publishing, grants and promotion documentation that others may have. Consequently, some feel like they haven’t been reviewed as positively as those who focus on research.
“One of the recommendations, or at least one of the discussions surrounding it, is that we devise an evaluation process such that these three components are treated more equally.”