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On April 14, faculty members and administrators gathered to discuss a set of proposed changes to the University's policies governing tenure. At this meeting, four undergraduates were kicked out because they attended without permission, The Herald reported. It is unfortunate that these students did not have the opportunity to voice their concerns and learn more about the proposals under consideration. We too are worried that students' interests are not being taken into account as the University updates its process for granting tenure.

The recent meeting focused mainly on a report issued in March by the ad hoc Committee to Review Tenure and Faculty Development. The committee's recommendations touched on many aspects of the tenure review process, including the timeline and the roles of relevant administrative bodies. The report also highlighted the importance of teaching as one of several criteria in determining a faculty member's suitability for tenure.

"As teachers, candidates should have a strong record of effectiveness in the classroom and evidence of commitment to mentoring students," the committee wrote. We liked the committee's vision of Brown as a "university-college" that "prizes both graduate and undergraduate education and strives for excellence in teaching as well as research."

Yet, none of the committee's specific proposals pertain directly to ensuring that newly tenured professors are up to par as teachers and as advisers. Last semester, when the discussion about tenure was just beginning, we argued that departments should take a more proactive role in soliciting student feedback. Now, we want to offer another suggestion: Tenure candidates should have to get letters of support from a handful of former students and advisees.

The tenure review process already relies on input from many sources, and we see no reason to exclude students. Our suggestion would allow tenure candidates to demonstrate that they have made a positive impact on some students while avoiding the problems associated with anonymous feedback forms. We imagine that in most cases, the student testimonials will be positive and serve to further document Brown's excellence.

Of course, teaching is one of several criteria to be considered. The professor's research and scholarly work are of primary importance to a university that strives to be among the best in the world. Nonetheless, some tenure candidates will have been at Brown for as long as eight years. If a candidate cannot call on just a few former students for support, then it should raise a red flag.

The committee clearly appreciates the notion of a "university-college" and the importance of preserving a faculty that is dedicated to undergraduate education. Indeed, this ideal is central to Brown's identity as an institution. As the process moves forward, we just want to see a concrete improvement that codifies respect for students' interests and input.

Editorials are written by The Herald's editorial page board. Send comments to editorials@browndailyherald.com.


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