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At its meeting in May, the Corporation approved a tenure motion that would allow the provost to comment on the list of nominees and make his own nominations. The approved change in tenure procedure followed a recommendation by the faculty that the Tenure, Promotions and Appointments Committee give the provost an opportunity to comment on the Nominations Committee's list of proposed TPAC nominees and to make his or her own proposals of additional names, announced President Ruth Simmons in a Corporation summary e-mail in May.

The approval stemmed from a review by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges on Brown's tenure process. The NEASC review team found that Brown gives tenure to a higher percentage of its junior faculty  than its peer institutions. The team also criticized the tenure rate for those appointed as tenure-track assistant professors.

"We are a very well-run and established university, but they found some issues with us," said Cynthia Garcia Coll, chair of the Faculty Executive Committee and professor of education, psychology and pediatrics. "One issue was we have a very high tenure rate," she said. The change will make the tenure process more concrete, she said.

A March 2010 report by Brown's Committee of Tenure and Faculty Development Policies, formed last fall in response to criticisms by NEASC, showed that the cohort tenure rate — the proportion of tenure-track assistant professors who eventually receive tenure — has been above 70 percent at the University since 1991. The report also highlighted a 2006 study that revealed Brown's cohort tenure rate was well above its peer institutions'.

Though some faculty members have suggested that Brown's high tenure rate is "a reflection of the fact that we do an excellent job of hiring promising young scholars and mentoring them effectively through the probationary period," the high rate "can nevertheless have potentially deleterious effects," according to the report.

 In a May 4 faculty meeting, faculty members discussed the tenure review recommendations and voted on a motion involving new language for the method for election of tenured faculty.

The previous method to elect tenured faculty involved grouping tenure candidates into as many categories as vacancies to ensure equal representation for the different departments, according to the meeting's minutes.

The amended motion, which was further changed at the meeting, stipulated changing the language of the method of election to clarify the tenure process, according to the faculty minutes.

Some faculty members think that departments do not necessarily get enough information about tenure candidates "compared to our peers, and thus are less able to make rigorous and well-informed judgments," Sheila Blumstein, professor of cognitive and linguistic sciences and a member of the Committee of Tenure and Faculty Development Policies, wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

For example, Blumstein wrote, Brown requires "fewer letters from outside referees than do any of our peers," adding that there was some concern there would be a decrease in faculty autonomy if the provost was too involved in the selection process.

"It is essential that we can get a thoughtful set of letters from a range of faculty not at Brown about the academic reputation and potential for future productivity of the candidate, and we do a careful evaluation of the teaching ability of the faculty member," Blumstein wrote.

But the ad hoc tenure review committee felt "granting of tenure is one of the most important  decisions a university can make, and the decision is a shared responsibility of the faculty and the administration," she wrote.

After considerable debate among the faculty, the motion was amended to also include that each year a ballot will be prepared with two faculty members per vacant position, who will be chosen by the Committee on Nominations in consultation with the provost after seeking nomination from the voting faculty, according to the minutes.

The amended motion also stated that candidates "should be representative of the divisions of knowledge in the University and diversity in the Faculty," according to the minutes.

Professor of Sociology Ann Dill, who proposed an amendment to the original motion at the May 4 faculty meeting, said Brown is in the "middle pack of peer institutions" concerning tenure. "It's debatable. If it is higher, it could be argued that we're doing a good job at recruiting people," Dill said.

There was a lot of lobbying at the meeting, Dill added.

Garcia Coll said she believes the faculty satisfaction is split concerning the issue of tenure.

"Some parts of the process are not working, and we want to make sure these are fixed. It was a very heated discussion," she said.

With the Corporation's efforts to ensure Brown's promotion and tenure process upholds standards of excellence, the administration's relationship with faculty members has been widely discussed among the University's governing committees.

"What I think (the Corporation) can do to support faculty is to encourage measures which encourage productivity in research and excellence in teaching and good citizenship in services," Dill said. "It's very clear that you have to look at departments and programs as a whole and the different ways in which individuals contribute to the excellence of the university rather than expecting that everyone reaches a certain bar."

 Despite the varied reactions to the change in the tenure process, Garcia Coll stressed that the core of any university is its faculty.

"We are catalysts of everything — courses, research, theses, mentoring — and so you need to keep the faculty engaged in the processes of the university. That's how you keep the university alive," Garcia Coll said.

The faculty will vote on the next motion based on the NEASC recommendations at the next faculty meeting in early October.


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