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January 04, 2012 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2012-01-04

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IM - - -iy Jnury4 2012//Th taem

Wednesday, January 4, 2012 // The Statement

Stashu Kybartas:
Why can't films get you

Peter Hammer:
Prejudice on the

The University's Board of Regents approved
a revision to its bylaws last April, which allows
schools and colleges to extend the upper limit
of their tenure probationary periods to lOyears.
The regents left the decision up to schools as
to whether they wanted to change their clock
periods, and as of now, none of them have cho-
sen to implement the extension.
Christina Whitman, the University's vice
provost for academic and faculty affairs, said
someone rarely goes through the whole five to
seven year process without obtaining tenure.
"It doesn't mean that every assistant profes-
sor gets tenure by any means," Whitman said.
"But we get very few people who go all the way
through the process and don't get tenure at the
LSA departments: the

Running the tenure track
By Mary Hannahan

Who is the Lamberto Cesari Collegiate Professor of
Mathematics? What sets him apart from a recently hired
assistant professor in the Department of Germanic Lan-
guages and Literature?
While such distinctions may seem meaningless to
University students, they denote a complex process of
faculty standing at the University.
Tenure is a concept most often associated with aca-
demia, allowing a professor a lifelong appointment
within the University and a guaranteed salary in many
schools and colleges.
According to Mathematics Prof. Daniel Burns, presi-
dent of the University's chapter of the American Associa-
tion of University Professors, tenure is about being able
to hold unpopular or controversial views without the fear
of losing your job.
During the McCarthy era in the 1950s, professors
around the country were fired for the views they held,
both public and private. According to Gina Poe, an asso-
ciate professor in the Medical School, tenure is meant to
prevent similar events from happening.
"Tenure is a wonderful thing," Poe said. "In an aca-
demic environment, we need to be free to express our
A former Vice Chair of the Senate Advisory Commit-
tee on University Affairs, the leading faculty governing
body, Poe is familiar with the University's tenure pro-
cess. SACUA has the power to recommend dismissal of a
faculty member to the Board of Regents.
Poe said it's incredibly difficult to fire a tenured pro-
fessor. Only grave breaches of ethical conduct, like sexu-
al harassment or stealing money from the University, are
offenses warranting dismissal.
But the process of actually landing tenure is no walk
in the park either.
The tenure process consists of three stages: assistant
professorship, associate professorship and full professor-
ship. A professor only becomes tenured when he or she
gets promoted to associate professor.
Faculty start the tenure track as an assistant professor,

a position that almost always requires a Ph.D.
According to information compiled by The Michigan
Daily, assistant professors currently constitute 19 per-
cent of faculty in LSA.
Many individuals teach classes for the first time after
they become assistant professors, though many others
have had prior experience working as graduate student
During the tenure probationary period, a time when
faculty have not yet obtained permanent employment,
assistant professors teach, research and complete other
administrative duties - all the while proving they're
qualified to obtain tenure. Poe calls the tenure probation-
ary period a time of uncertainty when tenure hopefuls
"stew in hot water."
Tenure expectations differ between schools, colleges
and even departments.
Poe said an assistant professor in the Medical School,
for example, would be expected to teach classes, start a
research lab, obtain at least one major grant from a fed-
eral research institute to fund the research and publish
articles in accredited journals. An assistant professor in
the LSA English department might be expected to teach
one to two classes, conduct research, publish articles and
write a book.
Assistant professors start with a three-year contract.
At the end of the third year, they undergo a review to
assess if the work they've done is up to departmental
"It sort of gives them three years to fish or cut bait,"
Poe said. "If they're totally failing after three years, they
get a poor third year review, and they see the writing on
the wall."
What happens then?
"Their contract is not renewed, and they're out."
But Poe said most assistant professors at the Univer-
sity pass the review and have their contracts renewed.
Each school in the University currently sets its tenure
probationary period at a maximum of eight years. The
Medical School uses eight years, so an assistant professor
would undergo a tenure review his or her seventh year.
LSA has its tenure clock window set at seven years, so he
or she would be reviewed in the sixth year.

When an assistant professor aims for tenure,
he or she will have to go through a final stage of
review before becoming an associate.
The long form review starts at the depart-
mental level, where a committee of tenured
faculty members examines the candidate's
credentials and performance while taking into
consideration internal and external letters of
evaluation. The committee then makes a ten-
ure recommendation to the dean of the school.
Following the recommendation, the dean
adds a letter to the assistant professor's case-
book, which also includes a teaching statement,
research statement, curriculum vitae, course
evaluations and external letters from "arm's
length" reviewers - colleagues from peer insti-
tutions who don't have strong personal ties to
the person under review.
tenure spread
0% 32.8% 37.5%
6% .96% 26.7% Sce42
0% 15,38%0 48.08%°l
1% 14,63% 17.07%
9% 36.84% 4737%
0% 16.33% 55.10%
6% 4.65% 62.79% Scre
% 24.24% 39.39%
9% 38.10% 16.67%;4
0% 15.28% 51.39%
5% 21,88% 43.75%
8% 1489% 53.19%
2% 123% 50.7%
% 20.80% 28.80%
)% 45.00% 25.00% 7
5%' 28,42% 50.53%
. % 34.78% 52,17%c ,s
)% 50.00% 33.33%f
;% 31.82% 50.00 % 50
0% 9.02% 42.62% o
)%/ 33,33% 33.33% 0 40
7%r 16&67% 35371% 0
% 33.33% 36,36% 0 30 -
3% 5L.00%"0 1;6.67%
w3%' 19,35 % 51. 6 1% 20
4% 8.70% 63.77%c
13% 16.39% 55.74% 11
9% 11.94% 60.45%

After the dean's letter, the assistant profes-
sor's casebook is sent to the provost, where two
additional expert reviewers, including Whit-
man, start evaluating them.
About 200 casebooks are reviewed each year
over a period of approximately two months.
Finally, the provost makes a recommen-
dation to the University's Board of Regents,
which typically makes the final tenure deci-
sions at their May meeting. The final stage of
the tenure process can take many months.
"It's not like you're free from pressures,"
Whitman said of the post-tenure period. "You
just have different pressures."
Associate professors are working toward

* 4
' 1


" " "
' 1P' 1

their next major promotion: full professorship.
The next promotion usually arrives with their
second major academic accomplishment, like
publishing a book.
LSA professors have a guaranteed salar
while tenure-track and tenured professors in
the Medical School are responsible for half
of their salaries, which come from research
grants. Grants are used to fund their research,
their salaries and the salaries of researchers in
their lab.
A guaranteed salary could cause a lack o4
motivation among professors who've already
obtained tenure.
But Poe said this wasn't usually the case,
since a combination of peer and self-applied
pressure motivates professors to continue
See TENURE, Page 6C

Professors out of total faculty: a sample

en Arts &



What are the top 50% of departments with
the highest proportion of professors?

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