November 9, 1998

Tenure guidelines to see revision

Policy change will reflect system rules

by Josh Renaud
of The Current staff

The current UM-St. Louis tenure and promotion policy does not comply with the University of Missouri Collected Rules and Regulations but it will be changed, according to Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs Jack Nelson.

The rule was changed six years ago, but for unknown reasons the University never altered its own tenure policy, he explained at Tuesday's meeting of the University senate.

"This campus has apparently never been in compliance with paragraph A.4.b. of that section [320.035]," Nelson said. "Accordingly, I am acting today to bring this campus into compliance and to assure fair treatment for all candidates for tenure and promotion."

Tenure, according to the Collected Rules and Regulations, is the right to be free from dismissal without cause, granted to faculty who pass a review, usually given six years after being hired.

The University's tenure review policy appears to be out-of-line with a sentence from the Collected Rules and Regulations that reads "To insure fair and timely review of all actions, committees, chairpersons, and deans shall communicate their recommendations to candidates under consideration and give each candidate a reasonable time to submit written rebuttal to the recommendation so that both recommendation and rebuttal may go forward to the next level review."

Nelson outlined four changes that would be made to correct the situation. First, outside letters must be solicited before any recommendations concerning mandatory tenure review can be made. Second, both negative and positive recommendations must go forward all the way to the chancellor in a mandatory tenure review. Third, candidates must be given a right to respond to recommendations made at every level of review. Last, the chairpersons of review committees at the lowest level must submit their own recommendations separate from the recommendation of their committees.

"Administratively, it is my obligation to bring us back into compliance," Nelson said. "The changes I am putting forward are ones that I think are required to do that, and assure fairness to the candidates. There may be lots of other things that are discretionary which would be good ideas, but I don't have the authority to bring those about. That's an issue for faculty discussion and Senate action."

Dr. R. Rocco Cottone, chair of the Appointments, Tenure, and Promotion Committee, explained that Nelson's actions were not just spur of the moment, but the result of an investigation.

"[We were] trying to get all the documents together that are relevant to tenure and promotion," Cottone said. "When we did the investigation, we found this 1992 document."

Faculty members at the meeting seemed to be astounded by the six-year oversight.

"Every year we go over those tenure documents with a fine-toothed comb," said Dr. William Connett, chair of the Physical Facilities Committee. "We spend collective months on them. But nobody knew about this, and I find that bizarre. I'd like to hear from [Nelson] or someone eventually what exactly happened."

Nelson admitted he should have known about the policy change, but he didn't believe there would ever be an answer for how the oversight occurred.

"I certainly agree it is my job to know what [the changes] are," he said. "In a sense, I was derelict last year for not knowing. I don't think we'll ever know why we didn't know in '92. That's likely to be shrouded in mystery."

UM - St. Louis is not alone in its plight. The other three University of Missouri schools also appear to be cloudy in their stance on tenure policy.

"It appears that Kansas City is certainly out of compliance," Nelson said. "Rolla's policy may or may not be in compliance. It certainly isn't clearly in compliance. Columbia hasn't chosen to tell me how they operate yet [although] I've asked."

This incident certainly does not make the University look good, Cottone said.

"This reflects badly on the senate," he said, "because the senate document, as it stands, is really out of sync with the [system] policy. I think at the end of this year, ATP is going to have to revisit that document and make sure it is in sync with the policy."

This article was reprinted with permission from The Current.

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