Three professors granted tenure under University’s new appointment system

Posted Saturday Dec. 15 Operating for the first time under the revamped tenure system instituted by the faculty last semester, a committee voted to grant tenure to three professors on Thursday.

Eckart Frahm, an Assyriologist in the department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Frank Slack, a professor in molecular, cellular and developmental biology, and J. Patrick Loria, a faculty member in chemistry, were the first cases the tenure appointments committee considered under the new tenure system.

The new system of tenure and appointments, which the Faculty of Arts and Sciences approved unanimously in April, shortens the tenure clock by one year and ensures that University funds will be available for the promotion of all qualified junior faculty to tenure status. In contrast with the old tenure system, in which every tenure review case included an open search for talent outside the University, the new process focuses on the junior professor being evaluated.

Frahm said his promotion represents a “unique moment” in his life. He and his wife, NELC lecturer Kathryn Slanski, are both relieved, he said. Frahm said the appointment will allow him some stability, which is rare in a small field like Assyriology.

“For both of us, this was great,” he said. “It is very hard actually for both of us to have positions at the same place.”

Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said Frahm’s skills and the University’s extensive collection of Babylonian artifacts complement each other well.

“He is one of the few people in the world who can read any clay tablet from the Babylonian period that comes his way,” Salovey said of Frahm. “That’s particularly important because Yale has one of the best collections of such tablets in the world.”

Benjamin Foster, a NELC professor who also specializes in Assyriology, said Frahm’s specialty in Mesopotamian civilizations represents an area in which Yale has traditionally excelled, so faculty were keen to retain the professor.

Foster praised the new tenure system, which allowed the University to respond quickly to an employment offer Frahm received from Oxford University in early October.

Slack’s work focuses on working with micro-RNA molecules to find possible therapies for cancer — particularly lung, breast and colon cancer, Slack said.

Slack is one of a growing number of scientists on Science Hill whose work could apply to practical medical care, Salovey said.

Slack said he appreciates the recognition of being granted tenure by the University.

“It just increases my loyalty to the University,” he said.

Salovey said Loria’s research on protein structure and enzyme function could potentially disprove some aspects of high school biology curricula.

“My guess is that if you took biology in high school you probably learned something about the ‘lock-and-key’ model [of enzymes and the substrates to which they bind],” Salovey said. “His work actually suggests that the ‘lock-and-key’ model is completely wrong. He is much in demand as a collaborator across many departments by professors at Yale.”

Loria, who is on leave this semester, could not be reached for comment.

Salovey said the fact that two out of three of this semester’s tenure appointments were in the sciences is not related to the University’s push for strength in scientific research.

“We are working very hard to mentor early career faculty in all fields,” Salovey said. “It could have just as easily been humanists.”

University faculty members will meet again to decide on additional tenure appointments about six weeks into the spring semester, Salovey said.

Comments

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