December 3, 2022
Ithaca, NY | 36°F


Revamped tenure system goes beyond the classroom

During the economically challenging times that institutions of higher education face, tenure is a situational aspect of employment that no longer gives faculty a free ride throughout their careers.

The development of post-tenure reviews to assess performance in the classroom and relation to students has taken place during the past decade. The American Association of University Professors created a program, used by a majority of institutions, that put more emphasis on course-by-course student teaching evaluations, reviews from peers and presentations at academic conferences. Implemented in 1999, the new plan was aimed at forcing professors to do outside research to enhance their own learning and produce publications that expanded on their respective subjects.

But tenure has also become very situational under the new system. Some universities have put limits on the percentage of faculty or number of faculty within a single department who can hold tenure at one time.

A system that built on the AAUP criteria was recently put in place in the University of Texas higher education system by Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, who sought to justify the allocation of funds to education programs throughout the state. Cigarroa created an online dashboard that centralized review systems from students, parents and legislators. The interactive, online database provided details of requirements measured in reviews of the productivity and efficiency of each state school as well as individual departments at the schools.

Faculty beginning their teaching careers in academia are catching on to the notion of tenure as an earned privilege that must be maintained rather than an absolute form of contractual security. The Chronicle of Higher Education released a statistic which said only two percent of tenured faculty members in the University of Texas system received unsatisfactory ratings, the lowest on the rubric, under the new system.

It seems the only certainties of the tenure system is that it will change amid the budget cuts in higher education and educators will have to adapt.