Shared Governance, Part Two: All’s well that ends well?


 

On the evening of October 28, UVU’s Board of Trustees, following President Astrid Tuminez’ recommendation, awarded tenure to Professor […], reversing decisions by both parties made in March of this year. President Tuminez stated that she was modifying her decision after reviewing comments by the Faculty Senate Re-evaluation Committee and letters of support, and after revisiting her notes on the portfolio.

 

This is how shared governance is supposed to work. By policy, the President could have upheld her earlier decision despite the committee’s recommendation. That she chose not to do so demonstrates a level of respect for faculty expertise that was not evident in earlier stages of the process.

 

The Provost’s initial statement of denial gave a single reason for the decision: 

 

Dr. […] demonstrates unresolved failure to give students timely feedback in courses, first noted by his RTP committee during his midterm review, currently by the levels of review in his tenure portfolio, and consistently throughout his probationary period in Student Ratings of Instruction.

 

Professor […] appealed the decision. 

 

The first appeals committee, made up of five members of the UVU faculty assigned by a Faculty Senate oversight committee, stated unanimously that the decision to deny tenure was arbitrary and capricious because the decision was based on SRI scores and comments without attention to other context. Additionally, the committee noted that Dr. […] had provided convincing evidence that student comments about the timeliness of feedback represented a very small minority of the comments he had received during the probationary period.”

 

The Re-evaluation Committee, comprised of five members of the UVU Faculty, then considered the case. They concluded, again unanimously, that Professor […] in fact met expectations for teaching. They questioned why positive annual reviews, mid-term reviews, a unanimous RTP committee recommendation, the department chair’s recommendation, and the Dean’s recommendation were ignored. Documents in the tenure portfolio, they wrote, revealed that Dr. […’s] courses were rigorous. SRI scores for rigorous courses, they pointed out, are demonstrably lower than for easier courses. Rigorous courses, they said, provide meaningful learning opportunities and thus promote UVU’s commitment to excellent teaching. Further, the committee did a detailed analysis of SRI comments and scores and concluded that the cited comments about feedback represented a very low percentage of all SRI comments.

 

In response to these evaluations, at the end of a process that has lasted for seven excruciating months and that has cost Professor […] thousands of dollars in legal fees, the President and the Board of Trustees have awarded tenure. 

 

So, all’s well that ends well?

 

Although she states that she has decided now to award tenure, President Tuminez continues her letter by disputing the appeals committees’ findings on the exclusive use of SRIs for the original decision and on their consideration of the rigor of the courses. She argues that feedback issues are among the top complaints, dismissing the evidence that there are very few such complaints. She doubts whether Professor […] would receive tenure were he were measured against higher standards “appropriate to a teaching university.” In short, she repeats concerns that led to the original decision as if they were valid while appealing to unstated higher standards. Accepting the appeals committees’ recommendations for tenure, she rejects their reasons for recommending tenure.

 

The outcome of this process of shared governance is positive. Professor […] is now a tenured professor in the Department of […]. 

 

Still, the original decision to deny tenure in opposition to evaluations by the RTP committee, the department chair, and the dean, and to do so based on the single and questionable claim of lack of timely feedback based on several SRI comments, raises questions about future tenure decisions. There is still important work to be done as faculty and administrators work together to define and promote a university worthy of the name.

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