Posts tagged with Jeff Vitter

Proposed policy would give KU faculty post-tenure reviews every seven years

It's been awhile since we've checked in on the development of post-tenure review for KU faculty, which is set to go into place about one year from now because of a new Kansas Board of Regents policy.

KU's faculty governance leaders have been thinking hard about the concept over the past few months, hoping to have a strong voice in what happens. Faculty hold the concept of tenure very dear, saying it guarantees them the freedom to do research without outside influence, so a change in how tenured professors are evaluated is naturally going to draw some attention. (KU's policy says faculty who've earned tenure can be dismissed only for adequate cause, unless a program is discontinued or there's some sort of extraordinary financial emergency. Faculty will tell you it's a myth that tenure equals guaranteed lifelong employment).

And now we know a bit more about what "post-tenure review" might mean for KU faculty members. At the direction of Provost Jeff Vitter, a committee of faculty from around the Lawrence campus has created a proposed policy for post-tenure review. It may not surprise you to hear that the policy is pretty lengthy and detailed (it was written by a bunch of professors, plus one librarian), but here are a few quick takeaways:

• It would require each faculty member who's earned tenure to undergo a post-tenure review once every seven years, with a few exceptions. That's on the high end of the interval specified by the Board of Regents, which asked for reviews every five to seven years. That means a lot of professors wouldn't go through the process until nearly 20 years into their careers, as faculty must be considered for tenure by their sixth year, and KU expects them to apply to be promoted to full professor from associate professor about five or six years after that (as Vitter notes in this letter here). A promotion like that would reset the clock on post-tenure review.

• The idea of these reviews would be to get a long-range view of where a faculty member's career is headed. Faculty would still undergo annual evaluations as they do now.

• The review would be conducted by other tenured faculty in the person's university unit, then passed through one or two levels of administrators and ultimately to the provost, who would either accept it or call for a "university level" review.

• The policy lists some possible results that could come out of each review. This would include recognition for faculty who've performed better than expected, perhaps in the form of nomination for a promotion or award (other ideas thrown out by faculty, per some meeting minutes, included a salary bump, a reduction in teaching responsibilities for a year or free KU basketball tickets). Another result might be changes or support for a faculty member to either continue to develop or to improve in areas that need improvement, which could include "differential allocation of effort" — that means directing a professor to focus more on teaching or research, rather than focusing equally on both, depending on which one is a strength. Finally, one possible result would be a recommendation for the member to be fired, though it would need to be according to the policies that already exist for that.

Some explanatory comments sum things up by saying "the primary focus of post-tenure review is faculty development." (That is, its main purpose isn't to be correctional.) The whole policy is posted for viewing online here, and the leaders of the effort want other faculty to read it over and offer their thoughts.

Faculty governance leaders say Vitter has given indications he generally approves of the policy, and those faculty also approve, even if they probably wouldn't have created the policy if they hadn't been required to. The aim is for faculty to approve a final policy in fall 2013, to go into place in fall 2014.

This has been your dive into the word-filled deep end of the university policy swimming pool for the week. Time to come up for air. Help me do that by sending me another KU news tip, quick, to

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    KU events this week: Marrow drive, NPR White House correspondent talk, provost lecture on ‘big data’

    Your weekly KU events roundup, on a Monday during which, as I write, sub-freezing temperatures remind us that there's still another week to go before spring break:

    • As we told you last week, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at the KU Credit Union, 3400 W. Sixth St., is a marrow donor drive in honor of 2012 KU grad Laura Hollar, who's battling leukemia.

    • KU Provost Jeff Vitter is also a distinguished professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and he'll show off his computer chops in a lecture Tuesday called "Finding your Way in a Compressed World." The topic sounds intriguing: He'll talk about how humongous piles of information, used ever more these days and often referred to as "big data," can be compressed and searched in a manageable way. (The compressed version of the lecture's title, according to a KU release, is "&W$!h")

    This is his inaugural lecture, a tradition for KU distinguished professors, in his Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor post. The talk will be 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in Alderson Auditorium at the Kansas Union.

    • Tuesday evening brings another date on the Dole Institute of Politics spring semester lineup: "An Evening with Scott Horsley." Horsley is National Public Radio's White House correspondent, and he'll sit down for a chat with Dole Institute Director Bill Lacy that you're permitted — nay, encouraged — to listen to. That's at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Dole Institute.

    KU-based Kansas Public Radio is also a host, as it celebrates its 60th anniversary. KPR has an entertaining Q -and-A with Horsley on its website to get you pumped up, in which he talks about the time he gave the president a piece of his mom's zucchini bread and other tidbits.

    In case you can't make it to the Dole Institute, the KU School of Journalism will also be broadcasting the event live on Knology or KU ResNet channel 31 and AT&T channel 99, as well as streaming it online at this link right here.

    • Also on Tuesday — this is shaping up to be a busy day — the KU Honors Program will serve up another entry in its lecture series on "The Digital Humanities": Kathryn Tomasek. an associate professor of history at Wheaton College in Illinois, will give a talk called "Oh My Dear Father! Uncovering Religious Networks through a Daughter's Journal." She and her students conduct digital research of the history of the college. That's at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in The Commons at Spooner Hall.

    • The KU Natural History Museum has another of its Science on Tap events, uh, on tap: Sharon Billings, an associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, will discuss how plants and soil serve to regulate the climate here on Earth, and how humans are changing that. That's 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Free State Brewing Co., 636 Massachusetts St.

    • And, as you may have seen last week, award-winning author Edwidge Danticat will visit for a lecture 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Woodruff Auditorium at the Kansas Union, as well as an informal Q-and-A session 10 a.m. Thursday at the Hall Center for the Humanities.

    I've surely missed something someone feels is of interest. But on this wild and wonderful world of the Web, you have the power to share news with the entire world with a few taps on your keyboard. By which I mean you can just post any other events this week in the comments below. And send your KU news tips to


    KU provost Vitter back from 12-day China trip

    I've been talking lately with a few KU faculty members who regularly travel overseas about their joy at the news they'll be able to access wireless internet internationally. Provost Jeff Vitter is not among those I've talked to, but I can report he is an international traveler, as well: He returned two weeks ago from a 12-day trip to China.

    Gavin Young, a spokesman for the provost's office, reports that the main purpose of Vitter's trip was to attend (and speak at) the seventh Confucius Institute Conference in Beijing, as well as the KU Confucius Institute Advisory Board Meeting in Wuhan. (KU is among about 80 U.S. institutions with Confucius Institutes, which are cooperative ventures with the Chinese government designed to spread understanding of Chinese culture.)

    Also during his China trip, which lasted Dec. 7-19, Vitter visited several universities to present on the subject of "compressed data structures" (note that two of the three references in that Wikipedia entry are to works by Vitter, who is also a distinguished professor in the electrical engineering and computer science department). He presented at Central China Normal University, Northwest University, Tsinghua University and Xidian University.

    A productive trip, no doubt, but don't feel bad if you've been sitting at home rather than traveling about China; just send a KU news tip to, and you can feel as if you've accomplished something.

    Reply 2 comments from Matt Erickson Lawrence Morgan

    KU looking for alternatives to new job-application system, provost writes

    We touched in October on some trouble with KU's new online job-application system, which launched that month along with a new online human-resources/payroll infrastructure.

    It turns out those problems may have been a bit more than just growing pains. Provost Jeff Vitter wrote in his biweekly eNews dispatch on Wednesday that the administration is looking into alternatives for the new system, which is called the Oracle "talent acquisition management module." He wrote that the module "is not how we want to present KU to prospective faculty and staff," and the "situation has been frustrating."

    More than 10 percent of people who've tried to apply for jobs since the Oracle system went into place weren't able to turn in complete applications, Vitter wrote. Back in October, KU HR director Ola Faucher told me that a number of applicants were apparently submitting their online forms before they had clicked all the way through the multiple pages required, and the office was trying to correct that by posting more detailed instructions.

    Until some long-term solution is put into place, the Provost's Office is taking some steps to make sure that faculty searches, in particular, continue smoothly. Faculty hiring is, of course, a big focus at the moment as the university seeks to fill 64 newly created positions.

    Though changes may be in store for the job-application system, Vitter's letter suggests the new payroll system is here to stay, saying the system is "stabilizing" after a few initial bumps.

    I'll see what more I can find out about what the problems have been, exactly, with the Oracle application system. In the meantime, if you'd like to share your experience with either of these new systems, drop me a line (

    Reply 1 comment from Ku_cynic