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March 16, 1995

Existing faculty review policy must be used uniformly, provost says

Rather than create a system requiring periodic job performance reviews of tenured faculty, it appears the administration will enforce an existing Pitt policy that calls for annual reviews of all faculty.

Provost James Maher said this week, "We already have an annual review system in place, and it represents an effective post-tenure review. What we have to do is make sure it is being used uniformly across the University." Maher said he is looking at how individual units comply with the system, and will report his findings this month to the University Senate and to the Board of Trustees' academic affairs and libraries committee.

Faculty Assembly voted unanimously March 14 to approve a resolution calling for enforcement of the existing review process, with some modifications, in lieu of a new system specifically for post-tenure reviews. Senate Council will consider the resolution at its March 20 meeting.

Senate President James Holland said the proposed modifications to the existing policy incorporate changes recommended by the Deans Council — although Holland emphasized that he doesn't plan to make a habit of clearing Senate proposals with the deans.

Holland said the impetus to consider a new system for post-tenure reviews, to be held perhaps every five years, came from Pitt's senior administration and the Board of Trustees. "The chancellor came to us (Senate leaders) and asked us to look into this. My understanding is that some of the trustees were hot on this idea," Holland said.

Mandatory post-tenure reviews are a growing — and at some schools, highly controversial — trend nationwide. Many trustees and legislators believe the reviews are necessary to hold tenured professors accountable for their teaching and research at a time when universities can no longer legally impose mandatory faculty retirement ages. Faculty tend to resent the reviews and see them as a threat to academic freedom.

University Senate leaders say Pitt's existing faculty review system is inconsistently enforced. While some schools, departments and regional campuses follow the policy to the letter, they say, others ignore it.

According to Pitt's Faculty Handbook, each faculty member is supposed to meet annually with his or her supervisor for a thorough performance review at the time salary raises are being determined. Supervisors are expected to provide a written evaluation of each faculty member and discuss the review with the faculty member. If the review is negative, supervisors and faculty are supposed to agree on plans of corrective action.

Among the materials to be used in the reviews are student and peer evaluations of teaching. Also, the faculty member "is expected to prepare data for the evaluative process by periodically supplying the chairperson, dean or campus president with materials to go into a dossier on his or her teaching, scholarly accomplishment, and public service," the handbook states.

According to the handbook, supervisors are supposed to consider "evidence of intellectual vitality in scholarship and high degree of effectiveness in teaching. In the evaluation process, it is the responsibility of the chairpersons, deans and senior faculty to:

* Interpret the University's standards and procedures in terms of departmental or school objectives.

* Explain these interpretations and objectives explicitly to the faculty member.

* Assist the faculty member in formulating plans for his or her progress toward mutually desirable professional objectives.

* Provide encouragement and advice concerning the resources needed for the pursuit of these objectives.

* Review the faculty mem-ber's progress at least annually, and discuss with the faculty member his or her strengths and weaknesses in teaching, in scholarly activity, and in furthering other components of the department's or school's objectives.

* Provide recognition for progress and quality in performance in these areas by means of appropriate recommendations and in other tangible ways." Under the proposal endorsed by Faculty Assembly and the Deans Council, there would be two major additions to the existing policy:

* Faculty could initiate special reviews to help them redirect their careers toward new professional interests.

* Faculty members who receive three consecutive unsatisfactory annual reviews would have to develop, in collaboration with their supervisors, "professional development plans" identifying problems and setting objectives, activities and deadlines for corrective action.

— Bruce Steele

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