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Faculty discuss criteria for full professorship

Revising promotion standards for professors is the last step in U. tenure procedure overhaul

When promoting associate professors to full professors, the University must consider teaching, research and service, faculty members said at a faculty forum held Tuesday afternoon.

The Faculty Executive Committee sponsored the forum to allow faculty members to discuss a proposal from the ad hoc Committee on Promotion that would revise the criteria for promoting associate professors. The proposed changes represent one of the last steps in the overhaul of University tenure procedures that began in the fall of 2009. About 20 faculty members attended the forum.

The proposal suggests scholarship and research weigh “foremost” in determining whether associate professors are promoted.

Seth Rockman, associate professor of history and a member of the committee, said the committee received feedback from social sciences faculty members who “were concerned about the high research bar” and advocated different promotion standards for those seeking initial tenure versus those seeking promotion.

Rockman said he would not support de-emphasizing research when considering promotions.

One faculty member said criteria for promotion should recognize great teachers “who may not have quite the publication record” of others in the field. The proposal defines scholarly distinction to include “significant publications,” “continued success in acquiring external grant funding” and “appointment or election to leadership positions in national and international academic organizations.”

James Allen, professor of Egyptology and a committee member, noted that  promotion is currently based on the “10/5 rule,” which allows faculty members who have been associate professors for 10 years to stand for promotion every five years. The proposal would end that rule.

Allen said associate professors felt the 10/5 rule hampered their promotion prospects.  Under the proposal, once a faculty member had been an associate professor for seven years, the department chair would include an assessment of the faculty member in the annual report to the Dean of the Faculty.

Professor of Sociology David Lindstrom praised the proposal, calling it “clear and unambiguous” in specifying how to balance research, teaching and service when evaluating candidates for promotion.

Under the proposal, each department would have different criteria for promoting associate professors to full professors.

“No one size fits all,” Allen said. Each department has different standards and will balance “scholarly standing, teaching and service” differently, he said.

The committee looked at promotion criteria at other peer institutions when drafting the proposal. Duke University requires excellence in two of three categories — research, teaching and service, said Reid Cooper, professor of geological studies and a member of the committee.

“It reminds me of that Meat Loaf song,

‘Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,’ said Professor of Religious Studies and FEC member Harold Roth. “We didn’t feel, as the FEC, that we should go in that direction.”

The proposal will be voted on over a series of motions at either the April or May faculty meeting, FEC Chair and Professor of Philosophy Mary Louise Gill wrote in an email to The Herald.


-Additional reporting by Rachel Margolis


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