Tenure approval process drags for Medical School

An updated form for promotion and tenure standards has been pending approval for nearly a year and half.

Kathryn Elliott

In the University of Minnesota Medical School, each of the 26 departments has its own guidelines on how to test if an applicant is worthy of tenure.

But due to confusion about the guidelines, some departments have used a tighter set of rules than the past âÄî without the UniversityâÄôs provostâÄôs office approval.

Almost two years ago, all 26 departments revised the tenure guidelines. The new guidelines were approved by the Medical School and forwarded to the ProvostâÄôs Office to be reviewed in August 2010.

Fifteen months later, theyâÄôre still waiting for the documents, known as 7.12 statements, to come back with the final stamp of approval from Arlene Carney, vice provost for faculty and academic affairs who handles promotion and tenure.

The statements describe criteria for making tenure, like how many publications and what kinds of grants are needed, or how much teaching factors in âÄî things that vary between departments.

In the meantime, faculty members are confused about which standards are in effect.

No one has been denied tenure because of the ambiguity on what criteria to use, said James Carey, interim associate dean of faculty affairs for the school. But his department, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, accidentally used the standards that hadnâÄôt been approved, assuming they had been. Fortunately the candidate passed muster, he said.

This fall, Carey met with Vice President for Health Sciences and Dean of the Medical School Aaron Friedman to ask about the delay. Carey said that Friedman told him unofficially that he thought it was unlikely the review would be finished this semester because Provost Tom Sullivan is leaving the University Dec. 31.

âÄúThatâÄôs Jim CareyâÄôs view of it, not mine,âÄù Friedman told the Minnesota Daily.

âÄúMy own view is that I know this is something Provost Sullivan wanted to try to get finished by the time he left.âÄù

Friedman said heâÄôs been aware of the status of the promotion and tenure forms since this summer, but said it wasnâÄôt presented as a problem until the faculty approached him this fall. He asked them to draft a formal letter of concern, which he delivered to the provost after the faculty gave it to him in mid-October.

There has been no response, but Friedman said it will come. Carney is âÄúfully awareâÄù the approval process has taken a long time, Friedman said.

Carney was unavailable for comment, but in a February meeting with the AHCâÄôs Faculty Consultative Committee, she said she reads every file from the Academic Health Center and has to cross-check every detail of the statements with the UniversityâÄôs tenure policy.

ItâÄôs possible the hold-up can be attributed to staffing, policy and reporting changes, Friedman said, as well as the need for precise wording. Tenure code statements from all 130 academic departments at the University were submitted for approval at various times.

Also, the Board of Regents announced a 7.12 policy alteration during the process that Sullivan had to bring back to the departments, he said.

The issue is not just about papers sitting idle in the provostâÄôs fffice, Friedman said. ThereâÄôs a back and forth.

Meeting minutes of an advisory body for the Medical School in October recorded the sentiments of that council.

âÄúThe lack of action on the part of the provostâÄôs office is irresponsible, unprofessional, unfair âĦ and it creates ambiguity for new faculty.âÄù

Microbiology professor Patrick Cleary, a member of the Medical SchoolâÄôs faculty advisory council, said people are âÄúflabbergastedâÄù and think itâÄôs âÄúa little ridiculousâÄù that the process isnâÄôt finalized. It has caused confusion about how to evaluate the faculty members who came in after the departments did their revisions but before they were finalized.

âÄúI think the Medical SchoolâÄôs faculty is correct in saying it shouldnâÄôt take this long and the provostâÄôs office is correct in saying, âÄòWeâÄôve got a lot of these to do,âÄôâÄùFriedman said.