Thursday, October 08, 2009

Ohio State President Calls for Tenure Changes

Thank You President Gee!

At his annual presidential address yesterday afternoon, Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee thinks it's time for faculty members to be evaluated on the quality and impact of their work.

New faculty members at Ohio State University Libraries enter as assistant professors and have six years to build up their record of scholarship, teaching and service. They receive performance evaluations every year, a fourth-year comprehensive review, and in their sixth year undergo a more vigorous examination to see if they measure up to the level of performance required for tenure and a promotion to associate professor. Library faculty can then choose to undergo an additional review later in the careers to attain the rank of full professor.

President Gee said in his address that professors should be rewarded for their talents and should be encouraged to work with academic departments outside their own. Instead of using an arbitrary formula for evaluation, he would like OSU to create a system in which faculty members are judged on the quality of their work and their impact on students, their disciplines and the community.

This is exactly the position I have been advocating not only on this blog, but in discussions with my library faculty colleagues. Even though I have articulated to colleagues all the points that Gee highlighted, inertia has indeed won out.

From his prepared remarks:

Let me state this directly: We must change our recognition and reward criteria.

Since I returned to Ohio State two years ago, I have made this point a number of times. Changing the way we define scholarship, appreciate new forms of engagement, and properly reward superb teaching can be this University’s signal differential.

If we do not properly and tangibly value those activities, our efforts to extend our resources more fully into our communities will be stymied. We must take it upon ourselves to revise the centuries-old equations for promotion and tenure and develop new reward structures.

Without a doubt, this is a nettlesome issue. And I am not the first person to raise it. Ernie Boyer articulated the case nearly 20 years ago in a speech here on campus. And of course he did so very persuasively in his 1990 book, “Scholarship Reconsidered,” in which he called for “recognition that knowledge is acquired through research, through synthesis, through practice, and through teaching.”

At Ohio State, and at colleges and universities across the country, we have long had faculty committees devoted to looking at revising promotion and tenure standards. And yet, the status quo remains. Inertia is winning.

I believe we must finally speak aloud the truth: that some arbitrary volume of published papers, on some narrowly defined points of debate, is not necessarily more worthy than other activities.

Ladies and gentlemen, this University is big and strong enough to be bold enough to judge by a different standard.

We can dare to say, “No more,” to quantity over quality.

We can stop looking at the length of a vita and start measuring its true heft.

This University, finally, can be the first to say, “We judge by a different standard.” And let others follow our lead, if they wish.

I sit here thinking, what if OSU Libraries HAD acted a year ago and began to change our criteria? Would we have been included in President's speech as the leaders of where the University should be heading? Would that have raised our visibility on campus? As a profession?

So, Thank You! President Gee for validating my, and several of my colleagues, position. Maybe NOW we will be able to break that inertia and finally move ahead. Sphere: Related Content

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