On the cusp of change

The revised tenure code proposes new standards of excellence for University faculty.

The University’s Faculty Senate is preparing to vote on revisions to the University Tenure Code, the policy at the core of faculty life at the University. If the revision passes at the Faculty Senate meeting on Thursday, it will be a change that is among the most important in recent University history.

The tenure code governs the promotion and tenure of the University’s faculty, setting the criteria by which we evaluate ourselves and are held accountable.

These criteria represent the University’s articulated standards for faculty excellence and will be the benchmarks by which the faculty strive to achieve the stated goal of becoming one of the top public research universities. The revised tenure code contains a clearly articulated commitment to excellence and criteria for achieving it; it will be a significant step forward and a cornerstone of our institution’s vision for transformational change.

The revised version of the code that will be voted on Thursday represents the vision and work of numerous faculty committees, with the input of many of our colleagues from across the University. Because we had the privilege of co-chairing the Faculty Culture Task Force as part of the president’s strategic positioning effort, we have participated in the code’s evolution.

Our task force met weekly from August 2005 through May 2006 and sought input from faculty, professional and administrative staff, students and administrators by holding more than 50 meetings and focus groups on all four campuses, as well as a system-wide survey of faculty.

We produced an initial revision of key sections of the tenure code in our May 2006 report, which became the starting point for the discussions that have taken place this year within the faculty governance process. This process has refined and strengthened the proposed revision, producing the document that the Faculty Senate will consider.

We applaud our colleagues on the Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee and in the Senate for their leadership as we stand on the brink of change.

The proposed tenure code provides clarity regarding University-wide expectations for tenure.

It provides new guidelines for promotion from associate to full professor.

It establishes a rigorous and fair standard that will enhance the quality of our institution’s education and research missions.

Utilized alongside existing processes of review and the principles of Academic Freedom, the revised tenure code will help enhance the University of Minnesota’s national and international stature.

Now is the time, through this strategic planning action, to move the University forward.

We strongly urge the Faculty Senate to adopt the revised tenure resolution.

Jeffrey Kahn, Ph.D., MPH, is a professor at and director of the Center for Bioethics. Kirt Wilson, Ph.D., is an associate professor and the director of graduate studies at the department of communication studies.

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