Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, February 21, 2011

Provost seeks public comments on tenure clock proposal

Provost Phil Hanlon is seeking public comment from the U-M community on a possible change to the university's maximum allowable tenure probationary period.

 

More information

Provost's letter to the faculty
Q&A on the possible change
• Report of the Committee to Consider a More Flexible Tenure Probationary Period
Committee's Response to Campus Feedback
• E-mail address for public comments:
publiccomments@umich.edu
Wording of proposed bylaw change
Senate Assembly and University Senate postpone meetings for tenure clock discussion

In a letter to faculty members, Hanlon, the Donald J. Lewis Professor of Mathematics, says he wants to "clearly explain what is being considered, the reasons for bringing this proposal forward and to ask for your participation in public comment."

The change, designed to better meet the needs of today's tenure-track faculty, would increase the maximum allowable tenure probationary period from eight to 10 years.

"If enacted, this would not require any school or college to change its tenure probationary period," Hanlon notes. "Decisions to make a change in the length of the tenure probationary period would remain the prerogative of the governing faculty within each school and college."

Hanlon says the case for seeking an extension of the upper limit arises from the experiences of a number of faculty members and units on campus and is based in large part on a couple considerations:

• First is the changing nature of scholarship in some disciplines, which may add to the length of time required to build a tenure case. Faculty working in science and engineering increasingly conduct research that is complicated by the need to set up sophisticated labs, assemble complicated lab groups and maintain stable research funding. In addition some research models, for example studies that depend on clinical outcomes or community based participatory studies, are highly complex and may take considerable time to carry out.

• Second is the changing nature of the professoriate, which now includes more two-career and single-parent households. "Our faculty have an appropriate and legitimate interest in balancing work and personal life," Hanlon writes.

"It is imperative that we give schools and colleges greater flexibility in setting the allowed time for faculty to build a tenure case," Hanlon says. "The proposed change in Bylaw 5.09 is a means to provide schools and colleges the flexibility they need."

Making such a change requires a change in Regents' Bylaw 5.09, which references the upper limit. That eight-year maximum was established in 1944. The precise language of the possible bylaw change is outlined on page 12 in today's edition of the University Record. Any change to the bylaw requires a vote of the Board of Regents.

The length of the tenure probationary period has been a significant concern among the faculty, Hanlon says. "Since being named provost, I have heard more about the need to address the time pressures being felt by some faculty on the tenure track than any other issue."

Faculty governance bodies in a number of schools and colleges are supporting the idea, especially since it would allow a change but does not mandate one, Hanlon says.

Five members of the Medical School faculty addressed the Board of Regents meeting Thursday in support of more flexibility in the tenure probationary period.

Also, the University Senate discussion of a resolution regarding the proposal that was scheduled for today has been postponed until March 21.