University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Senate

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March 30, 1998



Senate Council ad hoc Tenure Issues Committee


XTI.98.01 First Report of the Senate Council ad hoc Tenure Issues Committee

Summary of Post-tenure Review Options and Call for Comments

Post-tenure review is an important issue. It has been widely debated nationally, plans have been adopted at numerous institutions, and the question has been pressed to the fore here at UIUC. The following is part of the UIUC Senateís effort to deal with the issue in a thoughtful, systematic and analytical manner. This report will provide important background to the issue, describe the various purposes of post-tenure review, outline five policy choices for our campus, and invite analysis and comment regarding these choices. The goal is to engage the entire academy in deciding a policy option that best assures a University of Illinois of the highest quality.

I. Background

The Senates of the University of Illinois should develop procedures to deal more systematically with the information generated by the multiple processes of faculty evaluation that occur after the award of tenure.

Thus begins Recommendation #3 in the Report of the University of Illinois Seminar on Tenure, a thought provoking document dealing comprehensively with a broad array of issues related to academic tenure. Subsequently, the University Senates Conference prepared a draft post-tenure review process for consideration by the respective Senates and endorsed the broad principle of post-tenure review in that context. In October the UIUC Senate Council appointed an ad hoc Tenure Issues Committee and charged it to review the draft post-tenure review procedure, consider any further reports developed by that committee, and make recommendations to Council for Senate action.

In this preliminary report, the first response of the Tenure Issues Committee to its charge, we explore the assumptions underlying the arguments for the adoption of a systematic policy requiring the periodic review of tenured faculty (or "post-tenure review") and survey several policy options for accommodating one or more of these concerns. Although we will evaluate the implications of these various approaches, at this point we will make no firm recommendation. Our purpose now is to present the issues for the consideration and comment of the University of Illinois community. We urge our colleagues, unit executive officers, and deans to reflect on these issues, discuss them, and report their considered judgments to us. Only after that thoughtful reflection has occurred and that comment is received can we proceed to take up the question of what precise policy, if any, should be recommended.

II. Tenure and The Underlying Purposes of "Post-Tenure Review"

After exhaustive consideration, our predecessor bodies endorsed the importance of academic tenure, especially in maintaining the quality of the University of Illinois. There is no need to rehearse that here. We are summoned instead to attend to arguable deficiencies in the system of tenure, as currently administered, and to the potential for rectifying them by the addition of a set of evaluative procedures subsequent to the award of tenure.

We stress at the outset that the University of Illinois does administer a variety of faculty evaluation systems. The Report of the Seminar on Tenure pointed out that tenured faculty are continually evaluated: both annually, for merit salary increments, and periodically, as they stand for promotion to full professor or apply for any of a variety of research leaves or released time for research, teaching and other awards, development grants, and the like. But these evaluation devices tend to focus on rewards; and, in the court of public opinion, a source of criticism to which the University ought properly respond, tenured professors are often viewed as less "accountable" than they should be.

The Report of the Tenure Seminar contemplated four purposes for which an additional system of post-tenure review might be added: (1) to identify and remove incompetent faculty; (2) to identify and rejuvenate under-performing faculty; (3) to identify and reward faculty whose merit has not adequately been recognized; and (4) to assure that the academic units are properly performing all these functions.

Purpose (1) -- removal of incompetent faculty -- proceeds from the assumption that current procedures fail to identify and effect removal from the academy of those who have fallen below a minimum level of acceptable performance; and, perhaps, that some faculty respond more satisfactorily to the threat of sanction than to the promise of recognition and reward.

Purpose (2) -- rejuvenation of underperforming faculty -- perceives the problem as not the identification of the incompetent, negligent, or miscreant, but rather the enervated or the indolent. I.e. not those who have fallen below a minimum level of acceptable performance, but those who have failed to live up to the expectations of professional excellence they demonstrated at the time tenure was accorded. This concern proceeds on the assumption that the University would be better advised to expend its energies and funds on remedial efforts, rather than accept that such instances are relatively rare and tolerable.

Purpose (3) -- reward of under-recognized faculty -- assumes that existing annual evaluation processes have failed to reward those who should have been rewarded, perhaps because their singular achievements gradually developed over a long period of time or occurred at a time of financial stringency (and were later ignored), or because of personal bias, professional jealousy, or other defect in the annual merit-salary evaluation procedure.

Purpose (4) -- correction of inadequate faculty review mechanisms within departments -- assumes that if the academic units are conducting their regular evaluative procedures properly (with rigor, even-handedness and fairness) all of the above (removal, rejuvenation, and recognition) would be attended to. It argues, then, that the focus should shift from a periodic inspection of particular people to a periodic inspection of how the academic units have performed their post-tenure faculty review functions.

Note that there is considerable tension between these purposes when it comes to fashioning rules to attend to a particular purpose. If one is devising a system to weed out the incompetent, the demands of accuracy and fairness drive toward considerable procedural rigor -- class visitations, outside readers of published work, and the like. But if the purpose is to identify and reward faculty, far less procedural rigor is required. On the other hand, the lighter the touch in terms of procedural rigor, the less reliable any such system should be for initiating sanctions and the less fair it would seem in identifying persons who need involuntary remediation.

Also, there may be tension between some of these purposes, when implemented, and the very concept of academic tenure at a great university. The more the "post-tenure review" becomes tenure-like in procedural rigor, the more it is likely to develop into a system of periodic renewal which is viewed by many as inconsistent with the concept of tenure. Moreover, if the institution can readily correct its tenure "mistakes" later on, in a subsequent review, the decision to award tenure at the outset is likely to be less rigorous. That, too, would be incompatible with the present day concept of tenure at great universities.

III. Post-Tenure Review Policy Choices

The best policy choice for the UIUC Campus depends upon the particular purposes intended to be addressed by post-tenure review, and the actual deficiencies in our tenure system as administered. The Tenure Issues Committee finds that five basic policy choices are present:

(1) to adopt a "faculty-focused system for summative use" -- a policy geared to the discharge of any incompetent faculty (or, perhaps, imposition of lesser sanctions);

(2) to adopt a "faculty-focused system for formative use" -- a policy geared largely to identifying persons needing rehabilitative efforts, but which also may rectify instances where merit has been inadequately recognized;

(3) to adopt a "faculty-focused system for mixed remediation and sanctioning" -- a policy that mixes both remediation with the possible imposition of a sanction;

(4) to adopt a "department-focused system" -- a policy geared to the periodic review of how well each department is conducting its annual evaluations of faculty; or

(5) to rely on existing procedures rather than adopting any of the policy options previously described.

Note that the "faculty-focused" policies would periodically review each tenured faculty member, while the "unit-focused" policy would periodically review each department. These five basic policy choices are discussed in greater detail below.

A. Faculty-focused System for Summative Use (Sanctioning Use)

Some institutions have adopted policies providing for the summative use of periodic post-tenure evaluation under which all tenured faculty are reviewed annually, either on a scale or as "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory (see MSU-prepared summary of such policies) ," in various categories of professional activity. These policies then may provide adverse consequences for the accumulation of negative ratings. In one such system, for example, three "unsatisfactory" ratings in succession trigger an institutional response up to and including dismissal, in which case the receipt of the successive ratings is taken to be per se "cause" to dismiss. Others are similarly intended, but tend to merge it with the exhaustion of rehabilitative effort. The policy under consideration at Michigan State University, for example, proposes that three annual evaluations of "less than satisfactory" by a unit executive officer in any five year period trigger a "post-tenure review" for the affected faculty member.

The review is conducted by a faculty panel (the manner of selection of which is not identified) and is tenure-like save that it is limited to the previous three-to-five year period and is not based upon the faculty memberís entire record. This "post-tenure review" anticipates the adoption of a three year "plan for improvement," which is further to be monitored. Subsequent administrative determination of non-compliance triggers a Special Peer Review, which may recommend remedial actions up to and including dismissal. It should be noted that the Michigan State policy actually mingles the idea of remediation with the ultimate of a sanctioning system, but it seems to be weighed more heavily on the latter.

Neither the Tenure Seminar nor the Senates Conference Tenure Principles Committee endorsed a primarily summative-use approach which, in its harshest form, can deny any meaningful hearing regarding "cause" to dismiss. We outline it here only to give the community the fullest account of the kinds of proposals being discussed elsewhere.

B. Faculty-focused System for Formative Use (Remediation and Development Use)

Some policies periodically review all tenured faculty with the exclusive intention of helping the faculty member develop professionally or remedy shortcomings in research, creative work, teaching, or service. In a summary of various types of post-tenure review policies, the formative use approach has been described as entailing a periodic review of tenured faculty aimed at specific performance areas and long term individual career directions. The baseline is individual assessment, not judgement about competence. A development plan is formulated, institutional support is available, and no personnel actions occur. The process is separated formally from disciplinary procedures. Some institutions have professional development committees which help administer these plans. Special salary adjustments and other support are outcomes of this process in some colleges and universities. The post-tenure review policy at the University of Iowa has been categorized as a formative use approach.

C. Faculty-focused System of Mixed Remediation and Sanctioning Use

Wisconsin is one university with a post-tenure review system that can be categorized as mixed remediation and sanctioning. The draft prepared by our predecessor Tenure Principles Committee is also a mixed system, but one geared, more Iowa-like, toward an individualized program of development. It requires adoption by the academic unit of a reasonably explicit set of expectations for the future performance of tenured faculty, and sets down procedural guidelines for the annual review of faculty for merit salary increments.

It then adds a system of periodic evaluation of all tenured faculty (at seven-year intervals) by a review committee of the unitís tenured faculty (not then up for review) relying upon the annual reports submitted over the course of that period accompanied by commentary from the individuals concerned. The reports of these evaluations provide the basis for remedial efforts to be undertaken by agreement between the unit executive officer and the affected individuals, failing which the possibility of initiating sanctions under the Universityís existing disciplinary policy is held open.

The Senates Conference/Tenure Principles Committee draft proposal for post-tenure review does not involve a fresh, tenure-like evaluation, but instead rests upon the annual evaluations conducted by the academic units. The process envisioned, like others similarly structured, can only work if regular annual evaluations have been conducted in a rigorous, even-handed and fair manner. However, it has been argued that if they have not been conducted in that way, further reliance on them only compounds their flaws. I.e. if the departments have been evaluating the complement of tenured faculty in a rigorous, even-handed and fair manner on an annual basis, unit executive officers (and faculty advisory committees) should know precisely the level of achievement and performance of every tenured faculty member. If these systems have been functioning well, there may be no need to do more; and if they have not been functioning well, additional review that rests upon their fruits is unlikely to do much better.

D. Unit-focused Evaluation System for Post-tenure Review

Our fourth policy choice would focus institutional concern on how well the academic units have carried out their currently-assigned evaluative obligations, rather than upon particular faculty -- hence the descriptor "unit-focused" rather than "faculty-focused." This approach would also require the academic units to articulate the standards of accomplishment and performance expected of tenured faculty in reasonable detail; but it would then contemplate a periodic evaluation by a peer group of how the department has evaluated its tenured faculty over a set period of time. It would be called upon to examine much the same material contemplated in the draft of the Tenure Principles Committee; but the focus of the evaluation would not be on each individual, but on the department: Has it adopted a workable set of expectations? Have these been adequately communicated? Have they been applied even-handedly?

Has the department adequately addressed the possibilities of faculty sanction, remediation, and reward if these issues have surfaced during the departmental administration of faculty review responsibilities? The report would be submitted to the appropriate administrative officer and responsibility would rest there to correct any identified deficiencies. The deficiencies might include reference to (a) situations where the department has not effectively dealt with persons consistently identified as falling below a level of acceptable performance, as well as (b) situations where persons have not adequately been recognized for their contributions.

An example may help to contrast the "unit-focused" policy choice with the "faculty-focused" policy choices. Assume that Department X has forty-five tenured faculty and that a post-tenure review is contemplated in five-year intervals after tenure is accorded. Under the unit-based approach, a peer group would conduct one evaluation every five years of how well the Department has administered its annual post-tenure evaluations. Under any of the faculty-based approaches, and because reviews of individuals must out of necessity be staggered, peer groups would be required to average nine faculty member evaluations every year to ensure that all forty-five are reviewed in a five year period.

E. Reliance on Existing Procedures (The Theoretical Benefits of a New System Do Not Outweigh the Real Costs)

Some universities have considered the issues canvassed above and seem to have concluded that the arguable benefits of an addition layer of formal post-tenure review are not worth the burdens. For example, the University of Michigan would be in this category (although it, too, is currently reviewing its system of annual faculty performance appraisal). This conclusion proceeds from the judgment that university faculty do not teach more engagingly, are not more creative, and are unlikely to produce more arresting insights into the natural, physical, moral or aesthetic world by the threat of discharge; nor are the Universityís limited resources better devoted to helping improve an average, but acceptably-performing faculty member. I.e., the limited funds would be better allocated to more pressing and productive uses, rather than being used to help the acceptable faculty member to improve marginally.

A further assumption is that the qualitative control imposed by tenure decisions has worked well to assure that virtually no incompetent faculty are selected at the particular university, and anyone whose performance might fall below that standard can readily be identifiable through existing procedures. The benefit-cost argument supporting this approach can be articulated as follows: While some faculty have surely become indolent, no one has suggested that their number -- in absolute or relative terms -- is so large as to justify the imposition of a periodic reevaluation system upon the faculty as a whole which, however intended, may in some instances of application be subject to manipulation, and in all instances imposes an incommensurate administrative burden.

IV. A Call for Thoughtful Reaction

As we stated at the outset, the purpose of this preliminary report is to secure the reflection, discussion, and thoughtful response of administration, faculty, and students: To what extent, on the basis of your experience, do any of the deficiencies to which these proposals are directed ring true here at the University of Illinois? Do you see a need for one or another of the kinds of policies outlined? If so, how do you anticipate they would play-out in practice? What, if any, benefits do you perceive? What, if any, detriments? Overall, which of these options (or any we have not identified) would best serve the maintenance of a University of the highest quality? Please direct your comments to the chair of the Tenure Issues Committee ( not later than May 1, 1998.

Respectfully submitted by the ad hoc Tenure Issues Committee,

Geneva Belford
Renee Clift
Elizabeth Delacruz
Matt Finkin
Fred Giertz
Michael Grossman
Ward Henson
Keith Hjelmstad
Carl Jones
Edward Shoben
Ron Sousa
Don Uchtmann, Chair