Tenure committee to release report

The final report of the University’s tenure review committee will be released today to the members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

The committee — which was led by Graduate School Dean Jon Butler and Yale College Dean Peter Salovey — was convened in fall 2005 to evaluate all aspects of the current tenure system, which many junior faculty members have criticized for its lack of transparency about their futures at the University. Butler said the topic deserves attention because Yale is one of the last major research institutions to use a tenure system with no “tenure track.”

“It seemed appropriate to deal with the issue of Yale’s increasing uniqueness in its tenure and promotion system as well as some dissatisfaction and unhappiness, especially from untenured faculty, about our system,” Butler said.

Butler and Salovey said the faculty will receive an e-mail this evening with a link to the final report, which will also be mailed to all of their homes. The recommendations put forth in the document will be discussed over the course of the semester, and the faculty will vote on whether or not to implement the changes suggested by the committee in late spring.

Yale’s tenure system has come under fire in recent years for its lack of a formal tenure track system and for the long timeline leading up to evaluation for promotion.

While tenure track systems at most institutions guarantee that junior faculty will be promoted to senior professorships as long as they meet the standards of scholarship and teaching required by their university, Yale’s current system is based on a system of slots that does not guarantee the possibility of promotion.

Each academic department is allotted a certain number of slots, or Junior Faculty Equivalents, based on its size. A junior position requires one JFE while a senior position requires two, and the combination of junior and senior faculty in that department must always remain at or below the number of available JFEs. When junior faculty members come up for tenure, which usually takes place by their ninth year at the University, the department must have two JFEs available for the promotion.

Junior faculty have expressed concern in the past that this system fails to ensure job security, since the resources required to grant tenure cannot be guaranteed by the Provost’s Office. This may encourage talented junior professors to leave the University prior to their ninth year.

Salovey said any Yale tenure system should “attract and retain the very best faculty imaginable.” While the current system served this purpose when it was first implemented, he said, it became increasingly clear that the system needed to be addressed in light of faculty criticism.

“[The current tenure system] is difficult to explain to individuals we are trying to recruit to Yale,” Salovey said in an e-mail. “Untenured faculty often feel anxious, and the opacity of the present system exacerbates this anxiety … I believe that every member of the committee agreed it was time for a change.”

But French professor Howard Bloch, who served on the tenure review committee, said the review was not an “extraordinary” event, since evaluating the tenure system is something the University does about every decade.

“Such rethinking is a sign of vitality on the part of a humane and forward-looking faculty, and sets a standard for attracting and nourishing the brightest and the best,” Bloch said.

The last tenure review committee, which was chaired by statistics professor John Hartigan, met during the 1995-’96 academic year. The Hartigan committee recommended few major changes to the existing system, and several of its recommendations were never implemented by the faculty.

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