Notes on Tenure Policy Task Force draft policies

UW AAUP Chapters (Madison, Milwaukee, Whitewater): Response to Tenure Policy Task Force draft policies on faculty layoff and post-tenure review, Dec 23, 2015

  • Post-tenure review: We remain unconvinced that these changes to existing post-tenure review would pass a benefit-cost test, particularly in light of the significant administrative overhead these procedures would entail and the lack of resources for professional development and recognition of merit. We draw attention to three specific issues:
    • 1) the term “reviewing individual” (12b-12f) is worrisome: review should be conducted by a body of faculty peers [see AAUP Minimum Standards for Good Practice If a Formal System of Post-Tenure Review is Established, #3];
    • 2) the faculty’s right to contest a review and correct the record should be through institutional grievance procedures or a secondary review committee [See AAUP Minimum Standards, #8], not through an appeal to the dean (12h);
    • 3) it should be made clear in 12g that “the standard for dismissal or other severe sanction remains that of adequate cause, and the mere fact of successive negative reviews does not in any way diminish the obligation of the institution to show such cause” [AAUP Minimum Standards, #10].  Effective language addressing these three concerns is already present in the recently adopted UW-Madison policies and procedures on post-tenure review (passed on Nov 2), which we suggest be used as a baseline for those adopted by the Regents.
  • Educational considerations: We believe that the draft policy on “Faculty Layoff for Reasons of Program Discontinuance” injects financial considerations into the definition of educational considerations to a worrying extent. If financial considerations are to be used as a factor in program discontinuance decisions, they should be supported by full openness and disclosure of financial documentation, as in cases of financial emergency. References to the relevant financial disclosure requirements from UWS 5 should be inserted into the section on program discontinuance.
  • Faculty in discontinued programs: The section on program discontinuance should include a provision stating that the institution will make every effort to place affected faculty in another suitable position, with the university funding retraining as necessary (see AAUP Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure, section 4(d)(3)).
  • Curtailment, modification, and redirection: The draft policy should contain an explicit injunction against using the Board’s statutory power to terminate or lay off faculty for budget or program decisions resulting in program curtailment, modification, or redirection. For example, paragraph 1 of the “Faculty Layoff for Reasons of Program Discontinuance” could be amended to include the following sentence: “Notwithstanding the authority granted to the Board of Regents under Wis. Stat. 36.22, no faculty member shall be laid off or terminated as the result of program curtailment, modification, or redirection for educational considerations.”
  • Timeline: The four-month timeline for moving from the Faculty Senate’s receipt of a program discontinuance proposal to the faculty committee recommendation (three months) and on to the chancellor’s recommendation (one additional month) is insufficient for serious, research-based decision-making taking into account either educational or financial considerations. The timeline for the faculty committee and chancellor’s recommendations should be increased significantly, e.g. to eight months and one year (i.e. four additional months), respectively, from the Faculty Senate’s receipt of a program discontinuance proposal.
  • Feasible alternatives: In the “Policy” preamble to the faculty layoff document, the word “considered” should be changed to “pursued” in the following sentence, to better reflect AAUP guidelines (AAUP RIR): “Accordingly, faculty layoff will be invoked only in extraordinary circumstances and after all feasible alternatives have been considered.”