10 instructors under review for tenure, evaluation process

April 25, 2017

Jasmine Nelson

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     The opportunity for students to provide their input on Faculty Course Questionnaires happens at the end of each semester.

     A professor’s application for tenure includes these FCQs, which asks students to rate their professors based on factors such as how challenging the course is and how well the professor encourages interest on the course subject.

     Right now, 10 instructors are under review to be granted tenure, according to Susan Watson, associate director of Human Resources.

     The application for tenure includes multiple evaluations, summaries of grants, publications and original works such as articles, photographs and books. The application for tenure and the professor’s history in the profession are reviewed and evaluated by several people, including the department chair, the dean of the college, the vice chancellor’s review committee and the chancellor.

     After a decision is made, the executive vice chancellor for academic affairs (EVCAA) discusses strengths and weaknesses with the applicant along with the decision made on his or her status of tenure.

     To be granted tenure, instructors are evaluated on their teaching, research, scholarship or creative work, service to the profession and demonstrated excellence in teaching or research, scholarship or creative work.

     Student comments on FCQs are also taken into consideration when granting professors tenure.

     Terrance Boult, a computer science professor and the El Pomar Endowed Chair of Innovation and Security, published a poem about his disdain for the process of tenure in universities after he was denied tenure at Columbia University.

     “In my view, (tenure) is a bad thing. Tenure largely protects people who are no longer being productive, and while there’s some level of protection for free speech, I think our free speech, in the United States at least, is so well protected that tenure doesn’t matter here,” he said.

     Boult believes that faculty members would be more productive if tenure did not exist. He added that he does not have evidence to support that belief.

     Human Resources do not know how the faculty promotions will affect the campus until May or June, Watson said.

     “All of them are going for tenure with promotion, so there would be a fiscal impact,” she said.

     “Typically, a person gets a promotion with the tenure, and we get merit increases on July 1, so that process has not been completed either. We won’t know that right away; that depends on the state legislature.”

     According to Boult, the practice of appointing tenure to professors emerged in the middle ages to protect free speech rights, which were not protected under the law at the time.

     “Tenure makes it very hard to get rid of faculty for almost any reason. But the original reason was because there was a belief that your sponsors might push you to say certain things and do certain things that you may not believe in.”

     Abbey Hepner, visual arts instructor, said that some people do probably want tenure for better job security, but that there are benefits of being on the non-tenure track.

     “There are advantages if you don’t want to do more service stuff or administrative stuff, then your focus is kind of on teaching if you’re outside of that tenure track, and that can be beneficial for some people,” she said.

     But she would gladly accept a tenure-track position if UCCS offered one for photography, one of the classes she teaches now, she said.

     Even though Hepner will not be reviewed as vigorously as candidates for tenure, FCQ’s are still factored into her annual evaluations and could potentially affect the renewal of her teaching contract at the university.

     “There’s maybe a bit of a gender concern too,” she said.

     “Because females are much less likely to get (tenure). There is some bias within student FCQs and things like that where they will take a female teacher and say, ‘They’re not as knowledgeable’ or ‘They don’t maybe project themselves as aggressively, so the male teacher is smarter.’ Or the same thing with minorities.”

     UCCS’ accreditation depends upon the number of tenured professors, according to Terry Schwartz, executive vice chancellor.

     “What they look at is the composition of the faculty as a whole—how many are tenured and tenure-track, how many are non-tenure track and in those different categories,” she said.

     The required number of tenured and tenure-track professors also varies by college, according to Watson.

     “An example would be the College of Business, where their accrediting body has quite a lot of criteria for what the faculty make-up has to look like,” Watson said.