SEPTEMBER 16, 1996
University of Colorado
Special Committee on Tenure and Post Tenure Review
- Today, the tenure system and related faculty issues are
under scrutiny, both from within the higher educational establishment and
from external constituencies. In Colorado, the General Assembly has requested
the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) to evaluate the appropriate
faculty roles at public colleges and universities, and to examine specifically
four broad issues: appropriateness of tenure, post-tenure review and faculty
productivity, the balance between full-time and part-time faculty, and
the balance between research and teaching.
- The University of Colorado wishes to assist CCHE in its
task and is taking this opportunity to examine the issues of tenure and
faculty productivity within the four-campus system. President Buechner
has convened a Special Committee on Tenure and Post-Tenure Review (members
listed in Attachment 1). This Preliminary Report offers the Committee's's
initial responses to the issues raised by the General Assembly. Its purpose
is to identify matters for consideration rather than make recommendations,
and to indicate policy directions the Committee will pursue in the next
months. (Attachment 2 provides definitions of common terms encountered
in a discussion of tenure. Attachment 3 contains relevant sections of the
Laws of the Regents regarding tenure and evaluation of faculty.) Future
reports will analyze these issues more fully and offer specific recommendations.
- I. Is tenure appropriate for the University of Colorado?
- At the University of Colorado, tenure is defined to mean
continuous appointment, subject to termination for cause. It is not granted
automatically or on the basis of seniority. In accordance with the Laws
of the Regents, tenure is granted to faculty, after a rigorous probationary
period, on the basis of "meritorious performance" in teaching,
research, and service and "demonstrated excellence" in teaching
or research (see Attachment 2). This definition guides our answer: Yes,
tenure is appropriate for the University.
- This answer is not unconsidered or automatic. It reflects
the Committee's view of how to develop a faculty that best serves the State
of Colorado, the University, and its students - a community of superior
scholars and teachers who offer outstanding education to future generations,
participate in the discovery of new knowledge, and provide a great variety
of services within the academic community and to society at large. Both
President Buechner and the Committee believe tenure is essential to recruit
and retain such a faculty. Without tenure, excellence in teaching, research,
and service would be threatened. If Colorado abandoned tenure, some faculty
would go to institutions that retain tenure and quality here would decline.
- There are several aspects of tenure that support the
university's mission in education, research, and service, and also contribute
to the state's economic development:
- Tenure guarantees a climate of free inquiry, in which
faculty and students study and learn the lessons of the past, understand
the present state of knowledge, and pursue new paths of inquiry without
having to adapt to current intellectual preferences or fashions. Tenure
promotes learning and research related to controversial subjects and protects
teachers from inappropriate retribution. The resulting formulation of new
knowledge and ideas improves people's lives and benefits the citizens of
Colorado and the nation.
- Tenure allows faculty to take a long-term approach to
teaching, research, and service rather than pursue short-term goals, as
most other institutions must. Society benefits from the creative space
that tenure provides faculty. But this time to experiment and be creative
is a privilege that demands accountability. Tenured faculty must show that
they are productive as teachers, researchers, and providers of service
to the community. The university must hold faculty accountable in order
to maintain public trust.
- Tenure is a critical factor in attracting and keeping
excellent faculty. Many faculty could work in the private sector and earn
higher salaries. Tenure is a compensating factor that helps to encourage
some talented teachers to accept the lower salaries offered by universities.
Without tenure, faculty might turn to collective bargaining and unionization,
as is presently taking place in Minnesota.
- Tenure protects faculty, and indirectly students, from
academic and administrative actions based on factors other than performance,
such as political pressure and personal prejudice. A free society depends
upon the development and expression of ideas, even politically or culturally
unpopular ideas. The university, with the tenure system, has been and remains
a bulwark of independent thought.
- Tenure provides for the orderly induction of individual
faculty into the community of mature scholars, based upon a rigorous evaluation
of past accomplishment and future promise in teaching and research as measured
by objective criteria and experts from outside CU. Excellence, rather than
mere adequacy, is required.
- On the other hand, we recognize that the tenure system
can be improved. The Committee considered whether the existing criteria
for tenure are appropriate for our institutional needs.
- The criteria seem right: to achieve tenure, the candidate
must demonstrate merit in three areas--teaching, research*, and service--and
excellence in either teaching or research. But sometimes in practice research
has outweighed other considerations. This tendency to value research activity
so highly has a history. Since the end of World War II, the federal government
has granted millions of dollars for basic and applied research to public
and private research universities.
*For arts and humanities faculty, research includes creative work, such
as painting, sculpture, dance, poetry, etc.
- These grant dollars (more than $250 million annually
and more than 25% of CU's total annual revenues) supplement the general
fund and tuition revenues and pay for laboratories, graduate student stipends,
and faculty salaries. Thus, it is not surprising that the culture of higher
education has come to prize research accomplishments above teaching. Many
faculty are active in community and university service, although service
has been taken for granted and generally not valued as highly as either
research or teaching.
- The Committee will explore various approaches to making
the tenure process produce an appropriate balance of teaching, research
and service by:
- Retaining the existing criteria, but taking steps to
ensure uniform compliance.
- Adjusting the criteria to give added emphasis to teaching
and to ensuring that service is valued appropriately.
II. What about post-tenure review and faculty productivity?
- The overwhelming majority of faculty, after achieving
tenure, continue the successful careers predicted by their pre-tenure accomplishments
Occasionally,however, some faculty become less productive after they receive
tenure. Post-tenure review is the university's process for evaluating the
ongoing productivity of its tenured faculty that has been conducted at
CU since 1983. In practice, this process has not always produced the desired
result because: (1) it lacks the developmental funds needed to assist faculty
anxious to improve or retool--ever more necessary as the pace of change
accelerates in most fields; and (2) it lacks the sanctions (from salary
cuts to dismissal) needed to make it really effective.
- An important method for assuring productivity is the
university's differentiated workload policy that permits faculty responsibilities
for teaching, research, and service to vary from person to person within
a department and from year to year. Under this policy, some faculty have
more teaching responsibilities; others have more research responsibilities;
still others may have unusually high service commitments. Such variations
are inevitable and quite appropriate among departments, within a department,
and even over the career of a professor. No complex organization has all
its employees doing exactly the same thing. The Committee is concerned,
however, that the differentiated workload policy is not being applied as
well as it might to meet university needs or to capitalize on faculty strengths,
especially during post-tenure review.
- The Committee believes these issues may be addressed
by restructuring the post-tenure review process. The university needs to
consider the consequences if we were to:
- Retain the existing system, but recommend more thorough
post-tenure reviews and provide ongoing funding for faculty development
when desire and effort remain but opportunity for productivity has been
absent, and impose reasonable sanctions for faculty lacking the desire
and effort to remain productive.
- Retain tenure but expect faculty to develop specific
performance plans for each post-tenure review period, specifying duties
and setting performance expectations against which productivity would be
evaluated. Consistent failure to perform up to expectation could be defined
as grounds for dismissal.
- Because the university desires to keep the public's confidence
that it is properly handling the responsibilities and privileges of tenure,
all reasonable policy alternatives will be carefully evaluated.
- III. What is an appropriate balance between part-time
and full-time faculty?
- There is probably no single "correct" answer
for all departments and all institutions. The Committee recognizes that
the regular tenured and tenure-track faculty (most of whom are full time)
are the core of the institution. Their expertise, commitment, and values
define and preserve the university. Full-time faculty provide continuity
of instruction and ongoing outreach to the community, take responsibility
for updating the curriculum, and advise students throughout their university
experiences. But temporary faculty, whether full-time or part-time, are
also an important component, and they too make valuable contributions.
Each campus makes use of such faculty in varying degrees and for different
reasons, among which are: (1)involving community experts and practitioners
and their "real world" experience in teaching our students; (2)
bringing to the University knowledge, skills, and points of view which
complement and augment those of the full-time faculty; (3) meeting increased
student demand for particular courses while retaining small group instruction
within the context of budget constraints; and (4) developing teaching skills
of advanced graduate students (a vital part of their training to be future
- Economic pressures push universities to expand their
part-time and temporary faculty perhaps beyond the point that is wise for
the institution or useful to its students. In addition, temporary faculty,
who are hired year after year, have become second-class citizens in the
University. Anticipated enrollment increases will only worsen this situation.
The Committee recommends that each campus review its balance of full-time
and part-time faculty in light of both its own role and mission and its
- IV. What is the right balance between research and
- At the research university, teaching and research are
not conflicting activities. They are both essential and complementary elements
of student learning. Faculty members use their own discoveries and those
of their colleagues in teaching students in classrooms, seminars, and laboratories.
Students need to learn how to do research in preparation for their careers.
While learning from active research faculty, students are exposed to the
exciting environment of discovery and may even, as advanced undergraduates
or graduate students, participate in making discoveries. This is experiential
learning at its finest. A research university education challenges students,
helps them understand that knowledge is constantly evolving, provides them
with a sense of the future direction of their major discipline, and helps
them achieve state-of-the-art skills.
- While the research mission sets the research university
apart from other institutions of higher education, the research university
is an educational institution and thus, good teaching always remains a
fundamental goal. No activity or other university priority should undercut
that goal. Teaching excellence means outstanding instruction, including
innovative teaching techniques, fair methods of evaluation and feedback,
timely advising, curricular support, and incorporation of new knowledge.
Teaching excellence also means providing adequate access to courses and
a physical and psychological environment appropriate to learning. Faculty
and administration must ensure that these needs are met.
- In order to achieve the optimal balance of teaching and
research, the Committee will examine the following:
- new ways of connecting faculty research with student
learning, already called for in President Buechner's initiative, "the
total learning environment;"*
- current workload policies and practices on the different
- the rewards system and its relationship to each campus's
role and mission.
The contents of this report are based upon discussion and
written communications that have resulted from:
- a general call for comments from the University community
- informal conversations with faculty and administration
- several meetings of the Committee
*President Buechner has established the goal of making the University of
Colorado a total learning environment. The initiative has four themes: supporting
innovations in learning, including both undergraduate and graduate education;
being more responsive to students and other constituents; using technology
to improve teaching, learning, research, and management; and enhancing the
University's human, capital, financial and organizational infrastructure.