The University Record, May 23, 1994

LETTERS

LS&A Executive Committee makes tenure decisions

Recently published accounts of events involving the Department of Communication in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LS&A) have given a misleading impression of who is responsible for promotion and hiring decisions at the College level.

In LS&A, such decisions are made by a six-member Executive Committee (comprising equal representation from the three divisions—Humanities, Social Sciences and Natural Sciences), not the dean. Each member of the Executive Committee is appointed by the Regents from a list of exactly two faculty members, both of whom have been nominated and elected by the LS&A faculty. Full voting rights in Executive Committee deliberations belong to its faculty members alone—the dean is allowed to cast a vote only when necessary to break a tie.

How is the promotion process carried out? The Executive Committee reviews cases recommended by departmental committees. We strongly believe that individual faculty are entitled to case-by-case reviews based upon their contribution to scholarship, teaching and service. In carrying out our reviews, we are aided by outside appraisals of scholarship, a divisional LS&A faculty committee that reviews the candidate’s research, various reports of the scope and quality of teaching and service, and by our own reading of the dossier and work. The decisions we reach are then forwarded as recommendations to the Executive Officers of the University and the Regents.

There has been no effort by the Executive Committee to use the promotion review process to redirect the orientation of the Communication Department toward “quantitative” vs. “qualitative” research. The record shows that over the past two years the Executive Committee has reached both positive and negative promotion decisions regarding Communication faculty focusing primarily on quantitative and qualitative methods of research alike.

How are decisions to hire from outside the College at the tenure level made? Each such decision is subject to a peer review system comparable to that used in making promotion decisions: a department or authorized search committee makes a recommendation, which is first reviewed by a divisional faculty committee, and then voted on by the LS&A Executive Committee itself. Such decisions are never the work of any single individual.

The peer review for promotion and hiring in LS&A thus has multiple levels and involves the judgment of many faculty, individually and collectively. It is also fallible. Every academic knows of hiring and promotion decisions that seem in retrospect mistaken, however carefully they were made. We write not to claim infallibility, but to assure our colleagues, our students, and the public that promotion and hiring decisions in the College of LS&A belong, as they should, with the faculty.

The Executive Committee of LS&A, 1993–94: Morton Brown, professor of mathematics; Stephen Easter, professor of biology; Geoff Eley, professor of history; Al Hermalin, professor of sociology; Peter Railton, professor of philosophy; Domna Stanton, professor of romance languages and women’s studies