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September 17, 2015

University-wide rules sought for evaluation of all tenured faculty

The University Senate is recommending that the Office of the Provost develop University-wide guidelines for evaluating tenured faculty performance, and define processes for appeals and for remediation of unsatisfactory performance.

Faculty Assembly approved the recommendations, made by the Senate ad hoc committee that was tasked with reviewing the University’s current guidelines for evaluating tenured faculty and associated salary decisions.

The ad hoc committee was formed in April 2014 in response to medical school evaluation practices that some faculty decried as a threat to tenure and academic freedom.

The concerns were prompted by reports of 20-percent salary reductions for some tenured medical school faculty who failed to meet performance standards that included securing a major portion of their salary through externally funded research. (See May 1, 2014, University Times.)

Arthur Levine, senior vice chancellor for Health Sciences and dean of the School of Medicine, in 2013 set a school-wide goal of meeting 75 percent of nonclinical faculty salaries through external funding (see June 13, 2013, University Times) and developed new faculty performance evaluation forms that enumerated the expected percentage and amount of salary to be secured through external research funding.

In a Sept. 3 report to Faculty Assembly, Barry Gold, co-chair of the ad hoc committee, summarized: “There needs to be some uniformity across the University in terms of salary reduction, although we assume that each school will have certain criteria based on that particular school’s function.

“There need to be remediation procedures in place so salary reduction is not the first thing that happens but hopefully the last. There needs to be an appeal process put into place that gives the faculty member a real genuine appeal procedure.”

Gold said the committee, with the aid of Provost Patricia E. Beeson, met individually with deans from seven schools, including the School of Medicine, to inquire about salary reductions for tenured faculty and whether any guidelines or regulations existed.

“There are no guidelines at the University for salary reduction of tenured faculty,” Gold said. “If you read through all the documents at the University, you cannot find anything that deals with reduction of salary. You find all types of things about promotion, tenure, salary raises but nothing about reductions. I think that we all agree that there’s a deficit there,” he said.

In addition, the committee found that salary reduction for tenured faculty “is extremely rare at the University except for the School of Medicine,” said Gold.

“In some major schools there have never been salary reductions. In some schools, there were two over the last 15 years or so,” Gold said, adding that those cuts appeared to be warranted following multiple years of unsatisfactory evaluations, or the refusal to teach courses.

“In the School of Medicine, the story is quite different. The number of tenured faculty that are having their salaries cut, or that have had their salaries cut is significantly higher …  31 out of a total of 440 that have had their salary cut in the past five years,” he said, adding that the total doesn’t include any cuts that may have taken effect since the July 1 start of the current fiscal year.

“Some people have had their salaries cut in consecutive years at 20 percent per year — so, a significant reduction,” he said.

“In the School of Medicine, there’s basically one criteria for salary reduction, and that has to do with how much salary (in external support) an investigator brings in,” said Gold.

“The problem with that is that promotion and tenure is based on scholarship, teaching and service, and yet the reduction of salary is based on percent of dollars of your salary that you bring in in a given year.

“There seems to be a real disconnect between the University’s policies on how we recognize our faculty for the things they do and how we, at least in the School of Medicine, how we penalize faculty for not being able to bring in a certain percentage of their salary.”

Gold noted that the performance requirement is not connected to a faculty member’s ability to secure research grants, but to bringing in a targeted percentage of his or her salary in external support. “You could be funded, but not have the required amount, publishing good papers in good journals, and contributing in teaching as well as service, and get your salary cut.”

The issue of fairness

In addition, Gold said, the requirement is not being applied uniformly in the School of Medicine.

“If I say everyone has to high jump 10 feet and no one can do it, but now I go and pick out individuals and say, ‘I’m going to cut your salary because you can’t high jump 10 feet,’ we’ve essentially undermined the tenure process,” Gold said.

“Whether that 75 percent is a realistic goal that a significant percentage of the School of Medicine faculty can meet — and I doubt it — therefore every individual now is under the threat of having his salary cut in somewhat of a random manner and at a random rate. Some people are getting 20 percent cuts, some 15, some 10. There’s no rhyme or reason to it as far as we can tell.”

Ad hoc committee co-chair Maria Kovacs added, “We still feel that if the University or the administration feels that if this is a way of disciplining faculty who don’t behave…at least we can assure that what is being done is done fairly,” said Kovacs, adding that the committee had concerns about how reductions were being applied.

“People are being picked out for salary reductions for reasons we don’t understand,” she said.

Kovacs added: “There ought to be certain policies in place that protect faculty and more importantly that make the policy transparent. There is no transparency right now; there is no opportunity for grievance. …

“What we are suggesting is that the provost constitute a committee that can come up with University-wide broad guidelines — and we believe it can be done. We don’t want to micromanage the schools.”

Remedying performance issues

The ad hoc committee recommended defining a specific time frame in which faculty could correct performance issues.

Said Kovacs, “In some schools, a person would have to mess up for 15-18 years before somebody decided to cut his salary, while in another school, just two years.”

She added: “We found that there is a lack of opportunity for remedying the fact that you have not been as productive as you should be. And we think this might be a particular problem in the School of Medicine because there are not that many options for remediation.

“A solution for this has to come from the Provost’s office because it’s a University-wide problem.”

Grievance procedures

The ad hoc committee also found the grievance procedure to be skewed. Gold said, “Either the chair or the dean of a particular school can initiate a salary reduction, and yet those are the people that are involved in the grievance process.

“It obviously makes no sense to have a dean be the final arbiter of the grievance process when that’s the individual that actually initiated the salary reduction.

“There should be a grievance procedure that’s based on peer review, similar to what we do in the tenure and academic freedom committee.”

Said Kovacs: “There ought to be certain policies in place that protect faculty and more importantly that make the policy transparent. There is no transparency right now; there is no opportunity for grievance.”

The report can be viewed under the documents tab at


In other business:

• Senate President Frank Wilson said the ad hoc committee on non-tenure-stream faculty issues is scheduled to present its final report and recommendations at the Oct. 6 Faculty Assembly meeting.

The ad hoc committee’s final meeting is set for Sept. 30.

• The next University Senate plenary session is set for March 30. The topic will be academic freedom.

• Irene Frieze, Senate vice president, reported that an Institutional Review Board (IRB) liaison committee for social and behavioral research is being reconstituted amid changes in IRB office staffing.

The committee, which Frieze chairs, was formed in 2004 to address concerns of faculty who conduct social and behavioral science research but had become inactive in recent years.

Faculty interested in serving on the committee, or those with concerns about the IRB or research review, should contact Frieze at

—Kimberly K. Barlow     

Filed under: Feature,Volume 48 Issue 2

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