Opinion: Prof supports post-tenure review

June 26, 2013


For some, post-tenure review is a plus, I would include myself among those.

The annual evaluation process at Kansas University is not perfect. While KU would not be unique in this, influence and fear of influential members play a part in the annual evaluations process. The post-tenure evaluation provides an opportunity, for those without influence, to showcase what he/she accomplished during the last seven years. It is easier to artificially inflate or deflate a member’s contributions in a one-year cycle. It would not be as easy to do the same if we look at the aggregate contributions of a member over seven years.

It is a fact of life that not every member is able to exert the same kind of influence on the evaluation committees as others. Like promotion and tenure committees, post-tenure committees would likely have some members who understand and appreciate the member’s work. This would be a better forum for a member to showcase his/her work.

It would be too pretentious to deny that no tenured member is abusing the tenure system. The question is what percent of the tenured members conform to the perception of some segment of the public that some are having an “easy, cushy time” after tenure? The answer would not be 0 percent. A professor’s position is funded by public dollars, and there is nothing wrong if the public expects some accountability.

I do not find it credible that the post-tenure process would suck up too much research time from the members. Particularly, it would not do so if we do it right. A part of the tenure and promotion process is, indeed, time consuming. This is because the candidates have to write long narratives of teaching philosophy, research and also give a sense of direction of future research.

This is where candidates may have the chance to cloud things. One makes promises regarding future productivity, and everyone knows that there would not be any accountability, after tenure, whether these promises were fulfilled or not. The candidates have to do it because it is expected. The post-tenure review process can be made simpler just by requiring the members to submit what they have accomplished during the last seven years and by depreciating the value of future (sometimes false) promises. Keep it focused, cut and dried, on the last seven years.

There is no reason why KU administration would not make a commitment to attach some financial reward for those who are rated well in the post-tenure review. We are making extremely fundamental changes in our job contract. Some sincere commitment is imperative for the success of the post-tenure review process. The current reward system has not been perfect, to say the least. I will put it bluntly that the system is tainted by a great deal of influence. Administration should show its sincerity by attaching financial benefit (salary raises matching promotion raises) to the post-tenure review process, which would have to be based on real contributions of the members. Expectation of a financial benefit would further motivate many members to do more than what is barely needed to keep the job.

Money can be generated by shifting dollars from other programs, making a case to the Legislature or by a one-time tuition increase. It depends on the priority of the administration. In the recent past, the Legislature granted funds for regents professorships. A credible post-tenure process is as valuable as the regents professorship program.

I look forward to opportunities to showcase my contributions through a post-tenure review process.

— Satya Mandal, is a professor of mathematics at Kansas University.


sciencegeek 4 years, 11 months ago

While there is merit in the post-tenure review idea, the problem comes in the selection of the reviewers. In the current climate, which includes and unprecedented intrusion on academics by the current governor's administration, the valid concern is that the academic review could be tainted by the injection of value judgments, putting a chill on open discussion in classrooms. There has already been a case where a legislator's child objected to a comment made in class which turned into an attack on the instructor.

If the review could be made valid--untainted by politics, based on academic merit, and more than just a whitewash-- it could be of great value. That is a lot of IFs.

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