Tenure changes accepted

A report recommending significant changes to the University’s system of tenure and appointments was officially accepted yesterday, following unanimous faculty approval and a vote by the Executive Committee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

After an hour-long discussion about the details of the report and the general state of tenure at the University, the 158 faculty members who attended the meeting voted in support of the tenure review committee’s recommendations, which were released in early February. The report was then unanimously passed by the Executive Committee, composed of President Richard Levin, Provost Andrew Hamilton, Yale College Dean Peter Salovey and Graduate School Dean Jon Butler.

Hamilton said the Provost’s Office will now “work to ensure that all of the details and implications” of the new tenure policy are in place for full implementation on July 1, as designated in the report. Deputy Provost Charles Long said the report will be formally presented to the Yale Corporation in coming weeks, and he anticipates their “full support and approval.”

The changes will bring Yale’s system closer to the “tenure tracks” at most other universities by guaranteeing that resources will be available to tenure all junior professors if they meet the University’s standards of research and scholarship. The report also proposed eliminating open searches during internal tenure evaluations, creating an additional yearlong leave for associate professors and slightly shortening the tenure “clock” from 10 to nine years.

Salovey, who co-chaired the tenure review with Butler, said the faculty expressed support for all of these elements in the discussion that took place prior to yesterday’s vote.

The final version of the report — which was voted upon today — also contained an amendment proposed at a faculty discussion last week calling for a new committee composed of deans and faculty to have the final say in junior faculty hiring. Currently, the deans can independently overturn the decision to hire a new junior professor if they find the candidate questionable in some way.

Salovey said implementing the tenure review committee’s recommendations will help the University adjust to the changing nature of the academy.

“The previous [tenure review] … articulated a series of recommendations that successfully addressed the challenges facing Yale in its day, and I hope that this report will be seen similarly with respect to the challenges facing Yale in the 21st century,” he said.

Butler said one of the committee’s goals was to create a system that would nourish junior faculty and help retain promising scholars and teachers.

“The underlying principle of all of this is to sustain Yale’s undergraduate and graduate education in as vigorous and exciting a way as possible, and that’s why we thought it was time to take a serious look at our tenure and appointments system,” Butler said.

As indicated by the unanimous voice vote, faculty members said they are happy that the report has been approved and are eager to see how it will affect the University.

Assistant professor of comparative literature Barry McCrea said the junior faculty in particular is pleased with the new system and are “extremely encouraged” that it passed with such strong support. While it is still too early to understand what the effects of the changes will be — for example, whether a greater number of junior faculty will be tenured in coming years — he said the increased transparency will be beneficial to all current and future faculty members.

“It clarifies our relationship with the University and gives us a kind of career structure that our colleagues at other universities have,” McCrea said. “We now know what system we are operating under. The whole system is not shrouded in mystery.”

Butler and Salovey said the concern raised most frequently during the meeting was whether the proportion of tenured faculty would rise in upcoming years, eventually displacing the junior faculty. Salovey said professors at the meeting said they hope the University will continue to promote the “vitality and creativity and cutting edge work” of the large junior faculty at Yale.

“The committee believes that this concern is addressed by its focus on maintaining our very high standards for tenure and by recognition that new assistant professors can be hired when senior faculty depart or retire,” Salovey said.

Salovey said if the new system goes into effect in July, current junior faculty members will have a designated period of time — perhaps a semester — to decide whether to switch to the new system or remain on the current one.

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