Tenure clock adjustment process awaits Senate OK


A series of recommendations approved earlier this month by Faculty Assembly that would establish a process for any school to adjust its tenure clock and would create a University-level faculty tenure review committee was expected to come up for final vote at this week’s Senate Council meeting, but got pushed aside for coronavirus updates.

During the Faculty Assembly meeting, the Promotion and Tenure Ad Hoc Committee gave a report on its recommendations for the creation of the Provost’s Advisory Council on Tenure and Promotion, which would examine cases for tenure, tenure-stream and appointment-stream faculty in a campus-wide tenure clock adjustment process.

Provost Ann Cudd originally formed the ad hoc committee in spring 2019 and asked it to examine the value of a potential University-level faculty committee to review promotion and tenure decisions and come up with recommendations on how this committee would operate.

The committee used the School of Medicine’s recent decision to expand its current 10-year clock for faculty with clinical appointments to a 10-year tenure clock for all faculty to help formulate its recommendations, according to the report.

This proposal would allow for all schools and regional campuses to have the option to petition the provost for a new tenure clock. The process would be piloted during the 2020-21 academic year for associate professors moving onto full professors.

During this pilot phase, the Office of the Provost would work with the University Senate’s Tenure and Academic Freedom Committee and the Office of University Counsel to review the University’s policies on appeals of tenure and promotion decisions.

Once the pilot ends, the university-level committee will be formed, according to the report. The committee would begin working on cases during the 2021-22 academic year.

On extending the tenure clock

After weighing the pros and cons of extending the tenure clock, the ad hoc committee outlined its recommendations:

  • The University implements a policy that any school/regional campus may petition the provost to extend its tenure clock.

  • Schools or regional campuses, but not departments or sub-school/campus units, may petition the provost to change their tenure clock.

  • Faculty from each school and regional campus should decide on its own tenure clock extension process. The process should later be explained in a petition to the provost for consideration. Faculty should make these decisions in line with their governance structures and allow all tenure-stream faculty a chance to vote on the proposal.

  • The criteria for a Type A temporary transfer out of the tenure stream should be revised to include planned or unexpected research that will unfold over an unusually long period and allow transfers within the initial contract period in rare conditions.

  • If the provost approves a tenure extension proposal, current tenure-stream faculty should have the option to stay on the tenure clock process that was there when they were hired or to switch.  

  • If the provost approves a tenure extension proposal, the school or regional campus should work with the Office of the Provost to design the sequence of initial and subsequent pre-tenure contracts and the timing of probationary/pre-tenure reviews.

University-level promotion and tenure review committee

The ad hoc committee outlined the following recommendations on establishing a university-level promotion and tenure review committee:

  • The University-level committee will review promotion and tenure cases for tenure-stream, tenured and appointment-stream faculty from all schools and regional campuses. 

  • The committee will be organized into a set of subcommittees. One subcommittee will review tenure and tenures-stream cases for the Pittsburgh campus, excluding the School of Medicine. The second one would review appointment-stream faculty for the Pittsburgh campus, excluding the School of Medicine. The third would review all tenure cases from the regional campuses and a fourth subcommittee would review all School of Medicine promotion and tenure cases.

  • The members of the subcommittees would be called the Provost’s Advisory Council on Tenure and Promotion. 

  • Promotion and tenure cases for tenure-stream, tenured and appointment-stream faculty that have been denied by a dean or campus president will not be reviewed by the University-level promotion and tenure review committee. 

  • Tenured associate professors, tenured full professors, and mid-to-senior level appointment-stream faculty will serve on the University-level review subcommittees.

  • Deans and regional campus presidents will nominate faculty to serve on the University-level review committee. These nominations will be developed based on each academic unit’s procedures. The provost will choose from these nominations and select additional faculty to account for the varied amount of cases among schools and campuses. 

  • Subcommittee members will serve on two-year rolling terms. 

  • The vice provost for faculty affairs will chair the Provost’s Advisory Council on Tenure and Promotion and will be a non-voting member. The vice provost’s role is to oversee the process. (This position is currently held by Laurie Kirsch, who has announced she is stepping down from that role as of June 30.)

The review process

Regarding how the review process should operate, the committee recommended:

  • The University-level review committee can decide a case without consulting representatives of the schools or regional campuses or request the relevant dean or regional campus president (or their representative) to present the case to the appropriate subcommittee. 

  • While deans and regional campus presidents should be available to the University-level review committee, they can appoint a person to present individual cases to the relevant University-level review subcommittee. 

  • The University-level review subcommittees will vote on individual cases and whether they agree with the dean’s or regional campus president’s decision to recommend promotion and/or tenure. The provost will send out results electronically. The review subcommittees won't produce any other reports or documentation. 

The committee also recommended that the workload also be taken into account during this process:

  • Each subcommittee will hold two separate blocks of meeting times in the spring term, in early spring and late spring, to accommodate the deadlines of the schools and regional campuses, particularly in tenure decision cases. The subcommittee reviewing the School of Medicine cases may need different or additional meeting times. 

  • In some cases when a tenure or promotion review can't be accommodated by the University-level review subcommittees, the current process may be used, where multiple vice provosts review the case and send a recommendation to the provost. 

  • To ensure transparency and accountability, each University-level review subcommittee and the vice provosts who have conducted tenure and promotion reviews will submit a report to the Provost’s Advisory Council on Tenure and Promotion. These reports will summarize the number of reviewed cases and the voting results will be sent to the provost summarizing the number of cases reviewed, and, for each case, the results of the vote and recommendation forwarded to the provost. 

Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at dharrell@pitt.edu or 412-383-9905.


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