U adds ‘family friendly’ tenure policy

The new policy offers more clarity for faculty with family happenings.

by Graison Hensley Chapman

The Faculty Senate made changes to a policy that postpones tenure votes for faculty sidelined by personal or family medical issues at its meeting late last week.
Describing the policy as a way to âÄústop the tenure clock,âÄù plant biology professor Kathryn VandenBosch said each of the circumstances allows faculty to extend for a year the normally six-year âÄúprobationary periodâÄù before tenure is granted or rejected.
VandenBosch, who chairs the Faculty Consultative Committee, said the disruption of medical complications for any reason can have a âÄúbig effectâÄù on productivity for professors competing for promotions.
At its May 2010 meeting, the University of MinnesotaâÄôs Board of Regents, which ultimately confirms the granting of tenure, considered 184 cases of promotion for members system-wide.
While the vote Thursday made no changes to the spirit of the policy, VandenBosch said the clarification will strengthen it.
âÄúLack of clarity has caused mistakes in application of the tenure code,âÄù as well as disparities in how things are handled in different departments, she said.
Law professor and Faculty Senator Carol Chomsky said the revision process was prompted by Vice Provost Arlene Carney, who manages issues of faculty and academic affairs, in response to those disparities.
Chomsky said faculty input during the process, which began last academic year, expressed general satisfaction with the policy. But she said members agreed with Carney that it was too ambiguous.
âÄúMost policies can use some clarification,âÄù she said.
VandenBosch said the effort spent on the revisions was important given the broad reach it has over the careers of all faculty.
âÄúThe tenure code is basically our employment contract, so everyone takes it very, very seriously,âÄù she said.
Ambiguity in the language concerning the voting process for tenure was also changed.
Previously, senior members of a department were allowed to vote separately on the promotion of a professor from assistant to associate and on whether that professor would receive tenure.
That was never the intent of the policy, VandenBosch said.
This will prevent split recommendations to the departmentâÄôs college, she said, which has happened on occasion.