Kansas University's rules for how professors are promoted have been criticized on campus in recent years, being called confusing and poorly organized.
But a recent study from Harvard University's Graduate School of Education lists KU as one of the best workplaces nationwide for junior faculty - in part because of what it describes as KU's "exemplary" tenure process.
"It suggests to me that the others might be even worse," said Cathy Trower, one of the researchers who conducted the study. "It's possible that your standards, while somewhat problematic, were actually more clear than other places."
The survey was conducted in 2005 as part of the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education, a group of 80 schools nationwide that agree to have their junior faculty take part in a survey about the workplace. The survey lists KU as one of six schools that came out tops in the category of "tenure clarity," along with Auburn University, Brown University, East Carolina University, North Carolina State University and Ohio State University.
KU also was listed as one of the top schools in "policy effectiveness," a category that asks faculty to give their opinion of 16 of their school's policies on things including child care, housing assistance, and hiring of spouses.
The news comes as a task force organized by KU's Faculty Senate Executive Committee finalizes a report aimed at improving KU's tenure process. The group was formed at the end of 2005 after complaints that parts of KU's promotion and tenure process were poorly organized and confusing, that there were multiple sets of overlapping standards, and that there were issues related to "communication, transparency and fairness."
"I don't think the task force was created out of any sense that our policy was a disaster," said KU law professor Rick Levy, chairman of the task force. "There were some particular problems that we were addressing - little holes here and there that need to get plugged, or ways in which life has changed since they were originally adopted."