LAWRENCE — The Kansas Board of Regents will consider requiring the six state universities to conduct periodic performance reviews for tenured faculty.
Board Vice Chairman Fred Logan said faculty would be part of planning the process for “post-tenure” reviews, and he envisions them being conducted by the faculty members’ peers.
“I think that post-tenure review — when it’s done by faculty and by university leaders — it’s a very affirming process for tenured professors,” Logan said. “It is a way to really improve what they’re doing.”
Logan said the regents could consider the policy at their December meeting, but he did not expect it to be implemented until next year, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.
Andrew Torrance, a law professor who is faculty senate president at the University of Kansas, said he thought most faculty would support the proposal if it is handled fairly and is not strictly punitive.
“Sometimes faculty may get off track, and we think this could be an opportunity to get faculty back on track,” Torrance said.
Faculty who earn tenure generally are protected from dismissal except for adequate cause, unless a program is discontinued or a financial emergency occurs.
Torrance said it is important to maintain tenure protections because they insulate faculty from outside influences on their research.
“Tenure actually backstops the objective search for the way the world really is,” Torrance said. “And it’s important to know that if you drop an apple, gravity pulls it down. It doesn’t send it back up.”
Logan said he has no interest in weakening tenure protections and he did not want the regents to impose a policy without faculty input.
Sandra Gautt, an associate special education professor and a former administrator, said it was a myth that tenure gives lifelong employment to undeserving faculty. At KU, tenured faculty must undergo annual evaluations that are more rigorous than reviews faced by typical private-sector employees, she said.
Mary Lee Hummert, vice provost for faculty support, said KU would ask faculty governance leaders for input on the post-tenure review policy and a special faculty committee would create a plan.