April 23, 2008

 

TO:                  Dr. Carmen Wilson, Faculty Senate Chair

                       

FROM:             Dr. Peg Maher, Chair of Faculty Senate Hearing Committee 2007-08

 

RE:                   SUPPORT FOR DEPARTMENT BY-LAW STRUCTURE STANDARDIZATION AND GUIDANCE

 

I am writing in strong support of the Senate By-Law Ad hoc Committee recommendations for department by-law structure standardization.

 

Background for support:  I served on the Hearing Committee for the last 3 years and was Chair of the committee this year.  I was involved in two hearings previous to this year and conducted three hearings with three separate committees this year.  The original committee make-up this year required that three separate committees be formed, due to conflicts of interests, however several committee members served on all three hearings from three different departments.   While adequate guidance for hearing procedures and decisions is provided in UWS, UWL, Faculty Senate by-laws, and Hearing Committee procedures, there are significant variations in department by-laws that make the Hearing Committee’s job very confusing and difficult. 

 

In the deliberations that I was privy to in the past five hearings, we recognized specific problem areas where by-laws revision and standardization across departments would be very helpful for:  1) probationary faculty guidance, 2) faculty responsible for making retention/tenure decisions, 3) reduction of the need for such hearings, and 4) Hearing Committee deliberations. 

 

The problem areas (and some suggested remedies that may include or go beyond some of the Ad-hoc Committee’s recommendations) are as follows:

 

1)      Promotion, renewal and tenure decisions made or recommended by small committees composed of only a subset of the entire tenured faculty of a department.

 

Such policy, of some departments, leads to the perception that a small number of faculty are evaluating the probationary faculty and that the decision of that smaller number may not reflect the will, regarding the person to be renewed and in some cases the future direction of the department, of the entire tenured faculty.  In cases where the whole department votes, but the vote is based on a recommendation from a small number of faculty (PRT committee) it can be argued that the person’s performance has not been independently and adequately reviewed by all who have a vote. 

 

Suggested remedy:  All tenured faculty should have the opportunity and responsibility to independently evaluate and be involved in the discussion and vote to retain colleagues.  This is an appropriate service expectation for all tenured faculty.

 

2)      Unspecified expectations for teaching, research, and service for probationary faculty

 

There are significant variations within and between departments in the objective, and most definitely the subjective, guidance for performance probationary faculty.  In some cases faculty have strong guidance and mentorship, in others they receive mixed messages, and in others, there is little if any mentoring.

 

Suggested remedy:  Clear minimal expectations for teaching, research, and service for probationary faculty should be defined in each department’s by-laws.  For instance, SEI at or above the department mean and/or effective teaching demonstrated in peer evaluation of teaching…1 grant or publication submission per year for scholarly activity…membership on 1 department and 1 college and/or university committee for service.  It should be up to each department to define such expectations, but each department’s by-laws should clearly do so.

 

3)      Unspecified criteria for evaluation of teaching, research, and service for probationary faculty

 

There are significant variations within and between departments with regard to which performance materials will be considered and what constitutes evidence of adequate performance for retention/tenure.

 

Suggested remedy:

With regard to teaching:  Faculty Senate guidelines require that more than just SEI scores be used for evaluation of teaching performance and effectiveness.   At the very least, all departments should provide peer-review of teaching during both semesters of the 1st year of employment and as necessary thereafter if SEIs suggest there are problems with teaching effectiveness.  In addition, all departments should have a clearly defined protocol for timely (see #4 below) communication of both formal and informal student complaints to non-probationary faculty.

 

With regard to scholarly activity:  Each department should define the minimal scholarly productivity expectations with regard to acceptable forms of scholarly activity and avenues for publication/professional recognition thereof.  These criteria should be communicated to faculty clearly before or at the time of hire.  For instance, if a faculty are expected to publish in specific journals, they need to be forewarned (preferably in by-laws approved by, at least, all tenured faculty) about this specific expectation!

 

With regard to service:  Each department should define the minimal service expectations with regard to service to the department and on department, college, and/or university committees.  In addition, if professional service outside the university is an expectation, the level of that service expectation should be defined.  For instance, if a faculty person is expected to serve on 1 department and 1 college or university committee to meet service expectations, that expectation should be clearly defined in by-laws.

 

4)      Lack of adequate or appropriate feedback by faculty colleagues, chairs, and/or administrators about performance in time to allow probationary faculty to improve performance before a non-renewal/non-tenure decision is made.

 

There are significant variations with regard to the timing and form of communication of job performance problems within and between departments.

 

Suggested remedy:   Each department should specify in by-laws the procedures for handling formal and informal student, colleague, and/or administrator complaints about performance in a timely fashion to allow probationary faculty to remedy the job performance issue.  Along with the usual feedback provided in administrative letters indicating retention decisions, other complaints regarding job performance should be handled through the Chair or a designated ombudsman to protect confidentiality to the degree possible.