Tenure committee proposes major changes

The tenure review committee recommended significant changes to the current system of tenure and appointments procedures at Yale in a report released today to members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Perhaps most notably, the report proposes detaching resource issues from consideration for promotion, which would make Yale’s system more closely resemble the “tenure tracks” popular at other universities. The report’s other major proposals include eliminating open searches during internal tenure evaluations, slightly shortening the tenure “clock” from 10 to nine years, creating an additional year-long leave for associate professors and improving mentoring programs for junior faculty.

The committee – chaired by Yale College Dean Peter Salovey and Graduate School Dean Jon Butler – was appointed by the Provost’s Office in April 2005 to evaluate all aspects of the current system in light of heavy faculty criticism about the lack of transparency in tenure decisions. Under the current system, Yale is the only American college or university that fails to guarantee resources for a potential tenure promotion at a faculty member’s initial appointment and that conducts open searches when an internal candidate is being considered for tenure.

Members of the committee said, in the past, the perception that tenure is nearly impossible to get at Yale has kept many competitive candidates away from the University.

The recommendations may also facilitate the hiring of women and underrepresented minorities, which has been a priority for the administration for several years, several committee members said.

“By clearly providing resources for the potential tenure of every assistant professor we hire, we can actually be much more clear on the issue of the possibility of tenure and can also concentrate on the issue of quality and achievement in [new] faculty,” Butler said.

Although resources will be potentially available to all junior professors, committee members said, the standards required to obtain tenure will not become less rigorous. Calhoun College Master and history professor Jonathan Holloway said the committee was concerned with junior professors’ general anxiety about their future prospects at Yale. He said this stress may prevent them from completely investing themselves in the University, instead focusing primarily on the research that will win them tenure in the future.

“No matter what we propose, this is not about changing the standards or lowering the standards at all, it’s not going to make tenure any easier to win,” he said.

The committee’s recommendations 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.

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To read the complete report, visit http://www.yale.edu/gateways/fas_tenure_report.pdf

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