Emory Report

Feb. 15, 1999

 Volume 51, No. 20

Tenure takes center stage in upcoming Emory academic discussions, in governance meetings

With a March Faculty Town Hall meeting devoted to it and several campus groups placing its debate high on their agendas, tenure is a hot topic at Emory, just as it is and colleges and universities nationwide, and figures to get warmer as spring approaches.

In preparation for the town hall March 15, Provost Rebecca Chopp is sending a letter to all faculty urging them to attend and outlining some of the crucial topics in the tenure discussion. Issues such as the tenure clock, family leave policies, equity issues, quantity versus quality of work, relation of tenure to compensation and the role of post-tenure reviews will be raised at the meeting, Chopp said, and groups such as Faculty Council and the President's Commission on the Status of Women have been discussing these matters in recent meetings.

At the town hall Chopp and President Bill Chace will participate in a panel discussion, and Chace will outline the University-level process for granting tenure. Also present will be a member of the group that counsels Chace and Chopp in deliberating over which tenure nominations to submit for final approval to the Board of Trustees.

Formed three years ago, the President's Advisory Committee (PAC) is made up of nine faculty members from across the University. Its purpose as a whole is to provide broad-based advice on tenure decisions, while individual committee members lend expertise and insight into their particular schools or colleges. All PAC members, Chace said, are "people with established reputations as fine scholar/teachers and as wise, thoughtful and experienced members of the professoriate."

PAC members include Wayne Alexander in cardiology; Rich Freer in the law school; Luke Johnson in the theology school; George Jones in biology; Harvey Klehr in political science; Deborah Lipstadt in religion; Reynaldo Martorell in international health; June Scott in microbiology/immunology; and Jagdish Sheth in the business school. The term of service on the committee, Chace said, is three years.

When asked if the committee has proved valuable, Chace replied, "Immensely so. They have helped to clarify our procedures, they have suggested ways to make the process uniform across the various academic units of the University, and they have constantly been in mind of the high standards we must always maintain."

"They've helped us both have an eye to a University standard of excellence while being sensitive to the specific cultures and requirements of each school and discipline," Chopp said. "Having all those eyes, in a sense, and careful readers of the [tenure application] documents has allowed us to have some extended conversations about why a person fits, what the faculty or dean are trying to do with a department, what the candidate brings to the position and other issues."

Though the PAC has been meeting for more than two years, the provost's office is now formalizing the materials to be sent to it for review of a tenure nomination. The package includes such traditional items as a curriculum vitae and letter of support from the dean, but also other materials, like a teaching portfolio and statement of service, that reflect the evolving nature of what factors are considered in granting tenure.

March's town hall meeting and other ongoing discussions are sure to highlight other factors. "Some of the questions have to do with the changing nature of faculty work and faculty lifestyles," Chopp said. "For me the issues surrounding tenure must necessarily be related to issues of faculty development--how we promote conditions for excellence in our faculty, as well as how we evaluate the quality of faculty and their work."

Chace said the Emory community, while debating tenure, should keep in mind that it "has been a great asset to American education, that freedom of academic speech is at the core of the American university and its successes, and that we should be aware of the pressures, economic and cultural, that now are transforming tenure as we have known it for more than eight decades in this country."

Finally, Chopp said she didn't know what tenure will look like in a decade at Emory but that she doesn't expect radical change. "In a research university like this, we are going to talk about 'should we, could we?' and what would it mean to adapt the present tenure policies," she said.

--Michael Terrazas

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