Board of Trustees-proposed Changes to EPPR Policy
Recently, some proposed changes to the EPPR policy were presented for consideration at the next UT Board of Trustees meeting. These changes proved controversial, as they added, initially, a provision for the Board to trigger a tenure review for any faculty member at any time for any reason. After objections were raised, the language was changed to provide for tenure review for any faculty in an “under-performing program” and to require a “comprehensive peer review every six years” for all tenured faculty. These changes also proved controversial.
In response to the controversy, President DiPietro sent out an email to the university, which also appeared as an editorial in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, affirming his support for tenure. Some of the comments in that message did not convey the experience of the faculty who were asked to review the plan.
In response, Faculty Senate President Beauvais Lyons sent an email to faculty with more detail about the abbreviated feedback process that the University Faculty Council was faced with, as well as the Senate’s efforts to canvass the faculty for their opinions.
The issue at UT has been covered by Inside Higher Education, featuring interviews with current Senate president Beauvais Lyons, past Senate president Bruce Maclennan, and AAUP chapter president Monica Black:
One comment seen in public about tenured faculty is the idea that when a person receives tenure, they lose motivation and fail to put forth effort in scholarship, teaching, and service. Not only are tenured faculty reviewed every year, but when considering the issue of “deadwood,” it is important to understand that tenured faculty are already a heavily vetted and selective group, as the following infographic shows:
SEQUENCE OF PROPOSED POLICY CHANGES ON EXPANDED EPPR
Draft: February 5, 2017 (discussed at February 7, 2018 University Faculty Council Meeting)
“The Board of Trustees reserves the right to direct the administration to conduct an Enhanced Post-Tenure Performance Review of some or all tenured faculty of a campus, college, school, department, or division at any given time or at periodic intervals, as the Board in its discretion deems warranted.”
Draft: February 10, 2018
“The Board of Trustees reserves the right to direct the administration to conduct an Enhanced Post-Tenure Performance Review of all tenured faculty of a campus, college, school, department, or division at any given time or at periodic intervals, as the Board in its discretion deems warranted. Post-Tenure Performance Reviews should be staggered so that not all tenured faculty at a campus are being reviewed at the same time.”
Draft: February 17, 2018
“The Board of Trustees recognizes and affirms the importance of tenure in protecting academic freedom and thus promoting the University’s principle mission of discovery and dissemination of truth through teaching, research, and service. The Board also recognizes its fiduciary responsibility to students, parents, and all citizens of Tennessee to ensure that faculty members effectively serve the needs of students and the University throughout their careers. Therefore, in addition to the three circumstances listed above that will trigger an Enhanced Post-Tenure Performance Review of a tenured faculty member, the Board, pursuant to a duly adopted resolution, may require the President to establish procedures under which a comprehensive peer review shall be conducted of all faculty members, both tenured and non-tenured, in an academic program that has been identified as under-performing through an academic program review process. In addition, the President shall establish, with Board approval, procedures for every tenured faculty member at a campus to receive a comprehensive peer review no less often than every six years. The procedures for this periodic review shall provide for appropriate staggering of reviews to avoid excessive administrative burden at any given time.”
Senate Faculty Survey on EPPR Policy Changes
After the new policy language was added, the Senate commissioned a survey of faculty for responses to the changes. Almost 80% of faculty opposed the new policy. More specifics, including representative comments are available in this report:
Here is the proposed policy that the EPPR task force sent forward:
In August 2016, President DiPietro formed a task force charged with reviewing the post-tenure review process in the University of Tennessee system (the Cumulative Performance Review, or CPR, process). The faculty senates of the four academic divisions of UT (UTC, UTM, UTHSC, UTK+UTIA+UTSI) were involved in this process through their representatives on the University of Tennessee Faculty Council (UFC). The UFC made recommendations on the constitution of the task force and monitored its progress. The 11-member task force had two members (one faculty, one administrator) from each of the four UT divisions. It was chaired by Toby Boulet, an Associate Professor in Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering, who was previously president of our Faculty Senate, chair of the senate Appeals Committee, and a faculty member of the Board of Trustees.
The task force completed its work and produced a draft EPPR/CPR policy. This document stated the essence of the policy, but not the final wording, which will be developed by UT General Counsel.
Although this is Board policy and not subject to faculty vote, we collected comments and suggestions for improvement on the draft policy through the end of April. The task force considered these comments and suggestions when they wrote the final policy, which was presented to President DiPietro as a recommendation. Final approval rests with the Board of Trustees.