A three-member panel Saturday debated at Kansas University the concept of establishing a post-tenure review process at state universities to identify and assist or dismiss unproductive faculty.
Andrea Roberts, an Emporia State University student, and Peter Zoller of Wichita State University and Don Kearle of Pittsburg State University debated the issue at a university governance symposium.
Members of the Kansas Board of Regents have discussed creating a post-tenure review system, in which tenured faculty would be evaluated approximately every five years.
Tenure was designed to give faculty job security and ensure academic freedom. Faculty generally receive tenure after an extensive review of their research, teaching and public service record.
ROBERTS, ESU student body president and chair of the regents' Student Advisory Committee, advocated the creation of a post-tenure review system at the state's six public universities.
She said a professor at one state university recently told students that he didn't bother to change the exams he gave year after year, because "I'm tenured and merely waiting to retire."
A post-tenure system could be used to identify those faculty whose contribution to the university has diminished. The goal would be to invigorate professors' academic lives to the benefit of students, she said.
"By improving the system that we currently have I believe that we can achieve the ends of improving instruction and ultimately improving learning and the ability of students to comprehend material," she said.
ZOLLER, associate vice president for academic affairs at WSU, said frequent criticisms of tenure are that it allows faculty to ignore teaching and protects too many professors who should be fired.
"There is a common perception that faculty are hired and seven years later they receive tenure, lead lives of ease or fall down asleep and are totally refreshed by the time they retire," he said.
On the contrary, Zoller said tenure is a substantial, but reasonable, inducement offered by an organization to a employee. The vast majority of faculty don't abuse the tenure system, he said.
The current system may not be perfect, he said, but people should accept the fact that "it may be worthwhile for universities to accept that a certain amount of deadwood is an unavoidable byproduct."
KERLE, PSU Faculty Senate president, said instituting another level of review won't likely improve the tenure system. The existing annual review process is sufficiently demanding, he said.
The focus shouldn't be on the review process, but on stiffening the resolve of university administrators who identify faculty with productivity problems and refuse to act, he said.
"I don't know . . . that it's going to do much good to institute another system on top of the current one and ask the same administrators to reach the same kind of decisions," he said.