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After a lengthy and spirited discussion, the Kansas University Faculty Senate voted to approve a post-tenure review policy that has been written, discussed and rewritten in the course of the year.
The policy is now pending approval by KU Provost Jeffrey Vitter and Chancellor Bernadette Gray- Little before it becomes a university-wide rule.
The Kansas Board of Regents ordered state universities in 2012 to devise a post-tenure review policy that would "assist faculty members with identifying opportunities that will enable them to reach their full potential for contribution to the university." Such a review would allow departments to evaluate the research and teaching of a tenured professor within the context of the professor's field.
The regents left it to universities to develop their own policies. From there the provost's office outlined key features that a KU post-tenure review policy must contain before turning the process of writing the policy over to the Faculty Senate, which would get a vote of endorsement.
Today the Senate voted between two versions of post-tenure review, one written by the committee formed specifically to design the policy for faculty approval, and an alternate version submitted by Senate member Gerald Mikkelson, a KU professor of Russian and Eastern European studies.
Both proposals allowed departments to set up post-tenure review committees to evaluate the work of faculty members every seven years. Mikkelson's proposal placed limits on the role school and university administrators could play in post-tenure review. It also put the policy and review process itself almost exclusively under faculty control.
The Senate voted in favor of the the committee's proposal over Mikkelson's.
Earlier in the year, the post-tenure review policy committee released an initial draft of post-tenure review. In open forums and Faculty Senate meetings this fall, many faculty members voiced a range of concerns. They said the policy was long, complicated and potentially burdensome to implement for departments. Some also worried about language in the draft that allowed for disciplinary measures against faculty that did not meet departmental expectations, which the regents' charge did not contain.
The committee released a revised draft in October that was shorter and deleted punitive language. But that didn't satisfy Mikkelson and others. Today Mikkelson said even the revised draft "opens a pathway" for school deans, the provost and other administrators to act unilaterally to use post-tenure review as a disciplinary instrument.
Another point of tension has been over the final destination of the policy. Some feared that if the policy were held in the provost's library, rather than the Faculty Senate's rules and regulations, it could be changed without faculty input or approval. In October the Senate voted unanimously on a resolution stating the policy should be in the Senate's rule books, not the provost's.
Mikkelson's proposal would have placed post-tenure review in the Faculty's Senate regulations. With that nixed, the Senate approved a compromise previously negotiated with the provost's office. The compromise keeps the post-tenure review policy with the provost's library, but would require Senate approval of any changes to it, as well as the annual evaluation process, suggested by KU administration.