The Michigan Daily - Thursday, October 28, 1993 - 5
Secretive evaluations leave some profs. without tenure -and in the dark
the whole pr(
they fell thro
Tenure is an extremely important and se-
rious process that can make or break faculty
careers. Many University instructors vie for
the lucrative promotion - but some members
of the University community question the
fairness of the procedure used to determine
who does and does not get tenure.
"The decisions about tenuring faculty are
the most important decisions that a college
makes," said John Chamberlain, associate
dean for academic appointments in LSA.
After working at the University for about
six years, an assistant professor is evaluated
in a long-term, thorough process and is either
promoted to associate professor, given a one-
year terminal appointment, or, in rare cases,
transferred to a position off the tenure track.
The tenure track is the series of positions
that faculty members who
are eligible for tenure hold.
Tenure-track positions in-
clude instructor, assistant,
:edngS associate and full profes-
sors. However, the most
ocess, IS common starting point is
secret. assistant professor.
a person "As a candidate, you see
your case progress through
out why these various stages. Until
ugh and you're all the way through
should it, it's fairly nerve-wrack-
ing," said Vincent Price,
re. who was recently promoted
from assistant to associate
iter Debler professor in Communica-
tion. When Price learned of
vechanical his promotion, he said he
ngineering was "relieved, but very dis-
appointed that my col-
leagues didn't enjoy the
same fate. ... That was difficult."
Many students and faculty members were
surprised and upset when certain assistant
professors were not granted tenure last year.
The candidates have both been on the Univer-
sity tenure track for about six years, and have
contributed in research, teaching and service.
three criteria used in evaluating candidates -
are substantial and does not agree with the
University's decision to deny him tenure.
"It wasn't a thorough review. That kind of
thing should be carefully and thoroughly docu-
mented. They simply weren't.
"The University essentially asks for rec-
ommendations. The expectation is that rec-
ommendations will be based on a thorough
review of capabilities, and the only formal
way to correct departures from procedure is
through an official appeal," he added.
A majority of the tenured faculty in the
mechanical engineering department signed a
petition on his behalf, he said. In addition,
several of Brereton's colleagues outside the
University who are familiar with his research
accomplishments wrote letters protesting his
"It's certainly possible to orchestrate (the
tenure evaluation) to achieve almost any deci-
sion you want, depending on who you choose
to be on the review committee," Brereton
said. "The process is definitely imperfect."
Students agreed, questioning how such an
admirable teacher could fail to achieve pro-
"He's a great professor," said Starrman.
"He was one of those people that his office
was always open if you ever needed to talk to
him about class, about getting a recommenda-
tion letter. He was always there for the stu-
Brereton averaged an end-of-semester stu-
dent evaluation rating of a rare 4.75 out of 5.
He serves as the faculty adviser for the Ameri-
can Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).
ASME President Karen McClure, an En-
gineering senior, said, "He always makes an
effort to make sure the students' needs are
Assistant Prof. Brereton received the Col-
lege of Engineering Excellence in Teaching
Award in 1992. He was denied tenure in 1993.
His appeal is currently being evaluated by the
University's Provost. If the appeal is success-
ful, Brereton will be allowed the opportunity
to be evaluated for promotion again.
Senior Associate Dean White defended
the tenure process.
"Personally, I think (tenure evaluation) is
done in a very fair and rational way, and I
think the collective judgment and wisdom of
a variety of different people who get involved
with the tenure promotion decisions help to
ensure the high quality of the process," he
"Any time someone doesn't get tenure ...
the person who didn't get what they wanted
may view that as a problem," said Colleen
Dolan-Greene, former assistant vice presi-
dent for academic affairs-personnel. "It's natu-
ral (for those not recommended) to assume
that it's not a fair process."
White added, "I think the collective judg-
ment and wisdom of a variety of different
people who get involved with the tenure pro-
motion decisions helps to ensure the high
quality of the process."
Another notable tenure case is that of
Richard Campbell, a Communication assis-
tant professor whose denial surprised many
students and faculty.
His promotion was not recommended last
year by the college executive committee
(CEC), a group of elected faculty in most
colleges that, among other things, assists the
dean by evaluating tenure candidates.
Campbell received the University's Fac-
ulty Recognition Award in Oct. 1992 in ap-
preciation of his teaching, scholarship and
service contributions. He has authored sev-
eral publications, including "60 Minutes and
the News: a Mythology for Middle America."
And he belongs to several campus study groups
and has served on many University commit-
tees and as mentor for many student groups.
Communication Lecturer Don Kubit, a
colleague of Campbell, said, "My feeling on
this is that the tenure system is archaic and ...
(tenure evaluations) are also a lot of tirne
American: Hispanic Native
123 Asian Heritage: American:
4.5% American: 39 1.4% 6 0.2%
Who's on the Tenure Track
. ! -l
Two out of three University instructional staff members are on the tenure track. A tenure promotion
brings much sought-after prestige and security. The following figures are taken from University
statistical profiles and faculty reports.
Who's on the Tenure Track by positlon
Who's not on the
Tenure Track by
-ull Protessors: 1,301 47% Associate Assistant Professors:
Professors: 647 761 28%
Instructors: 43 2%
Who's on the Tenure Track by racial background
Non-Minority: 2414 87.7%
are also a Io
who have v
One of the most recent examples is the
case of Assistant Prof. Giles Brereton in the
mechanical engineering department.
"Last year ... he didn't
get tenure, and the rumors
that were going around were
...that being a good teacher
system pretty much signified that
and you weren't going to get
"nd tenured," said Jennifer
luations) Starrman, an Engineering
t of time senior and the president of
people the University Engineering
ery little Starrman and several
with other students said they be-
. They're lieve the tenure process is
S Without biased against staff who are
excellent teachers and popu-
)out the lar with students.
onal John Senger, a graduate
m. student in Engineering and
external vice president of
the Engineering Council,
Don Kubit agreed. "If the (student
evaluations) are too high,
)n lecturer that means the professor is
doing too good a job. That
means students really like
him too much. That's usu-
judged by people who have very little contact
with students. ... They're making calls with-
out thinking about the educational system."
Graduate and undergraduate students, as
well as Campbell's colleagues within and
outside of the University, wrote several let-
ters and made phone calls on his behalf.
"I've been to a number of academic con-
ferences with him," said Chris Martin, a gradu-
ate student in Communication who served as
Campbell's teaching assistant for two years.
"Professors from all across the country have
very positive things to say about Dick
"He's really wonderful at having lots of
personal contact with students.... I just found
him to be an incredibly well-liked teacher for
Richard Allen, associate professor of Com-
munication, agreed. "I thought his qualities
were adequate ... because he was such an
excellent teacher. ... He's also a prolific
scholar. In short, the quantity of his work was
impressive and the quality of his work is well-
received not only in circles within the Univer-
sity, but throughout the country," he added.
Campbell was granted a new tenure evalu-
ation to take place this academic year. The
"official" reason for the rehearing is that new
information was brought forward.
Campbell declined to comment.
Why candidates are denied tenure is un-
known - sometimes even to the faculty be-
ing evaluated themselves.
Candidates receive a letter informing them
whether or not they have been promoted; no
written explanation for the decision is in-
However, candidates have the option of
discussing the case with their departments.
But some professors who have been de-
nied tenure complained they never really
learned why. They said either the committee
was not specific in its explanation, or differ-
ent committee members gave them different
"Those proceedings, the whole process, is
really quite secret," said Walter Debler, a
tenured professor in mechanical engineering.
"Sometimes a person never finds out why
they fell through and what they should im-
Assistant Vice President Dolan-Greene
added, "We always encourage the department
chairs to have frank discussions with their
faculty members all throughout their career
about what's happening."
Additionally, neither the CEC nor indi-
vidual departments keep records indicating
why the instructor has been denied tenure.
Thus, there is no way to determine the fairness
of the process.
Prof. Glenn Knoll in the College of Engi-
neering and senior member of the CEC, said,
"We do not attempt to produce a document
that's an evaluation of the candidate. ... That's
always a very difficult call. It doesn't hinge on
just a few reasons. ... You can't very easily
distill it down to just a few sentences."
The Affirmative Action Program Office
reviews cases of female and minority candi-
dates who are not rec-
ommended. The let-
ters explaining the
are usually not spe-
cific, said Sue
Rasmussen, affirma- done in a'
tive action planning rational1
officer. Collective ju
with the whole pro- wisdom of
cess is the cases of the different pe
people who are not involved
ally end at the level decisions h
they are not recom- the high q
mended. Most of the pro
time, the non-recom-
mendation cannot be
r e v i e w e d
University poli- Senior,
cies are not unique; Colleg
the process for evalu-
ating tenure candi-
dates is similar to
other systems. "All universities are always
working to improve ... their tenure promotion
process," said Dolan-Greene.
White continues to advocate the system.
He claims that being granted tenure re-
quires research and publication because it is
important that a professor "generate ,°new
knowledge, stay on the cutting edge of the
world in terms of what's out there to teach
students, and then in the classroom do a good
job of disseminating that information.
"We want to make sure that our faculty are
very current in their particular areas of exper-
tise to ensure that our students are being well-
taught," he said.
very fair and
way ... the
f a variety of
eople who get
d with the
ielp to ensure
uality of the
- Chelsea White
;e of Engineering
ally not good because that means he is spend-
ing too much time with students."
But Chelsea White, the senior associate
dean of the College of Engineering, said be-
ing a popular teacher does not directly cause
tenure denial. A lack in research or service,
however, is a common justification.
"The University, the College (of Engi-
neering) in particular, is in the business of
generating and disseminating knowledge ...
and the generation of new and important
knowledge is also very important," he said.
Brereton said he believes his qualifica-
tions in teaching, research and service - the
This is the way the tenure evaluation process
Whitaker then reviews the
candidate's file and makes his ov
wn Board of Regents
-11 AzQnrintP nrnfncenrc ...