Faculty Senate Recommends on Promoting Associate Professors

The Faculty Senate approved changing College policy on considering promotions of associate professors to full professors who don’t meet all of the College’s three-pronged measure of acceptable performance: scholarship, instructional quality and service.

Departments will be tasked to develop firm and discipline-specific guidelines that candidates can use to meet performance standards and that departments can use to fairly assess them, the Senate decided by a narrow 9-7 vote at its Feb. 15 meeting in Park Center Hall of Fame Room.

The Academic Faculty Affairs Committee had drafted the proposed policy relating to Chapter 230 of the College Handbook: “That departments be asked to look at their personnel policies specifically to address this issue of the meaning of “satisfactory” in the exceptional circumstances of two areas of exceptional quality and one area of satisfactory quality for promotion from associate to full professor.”

At present, the policy asks department personnel committees to find two of the three “exceptional” areas of strength in a candidate for full professor, with the third area rated “satisfactory.” 

In its discussion surrounding the recommendation, the committee expressed the wish for departments to make this “two-out-of-three” approach to rating candidates more workable with language that is crafted to each discipline.
“It is each department’s prerogative to set scholarly standards for their members based on the internalized standards of their profession,” the committee noted.

The committee argues that the more obscure department personnel policies are, the more power departments cede to the administration.

If some departments are proactive in developing such policies, then other departments can follow by adopting language to guide their own personnel committee practices, observed Faculty Senate Chair David Miller, geography.

Those who disagreed with the committee’s proposal appeared to be mainly concerned that the revisions individual departments developed might not be as strong as one issued by the administration or that some departments would not bother to make any changes.

Several senators criticized the proposal presented by Committee Chair Andrew Fitz-Gibbon, philosophy, mainly for allowing departments to treat promotions differently.

Although the hard work of the committee is appreciated, clearly this is an area where the College needs to have a well-defined policy in place, asserted Senator Judith Ouellette, psychology.

“I do not trust all of the departments to act in the best interests of the individual,” she said, among other criticisms.

Senator Richard Kendrick, sociology/anthropology, questioned the choice of vague words “satisfactory” and “exceptional” used in the proposal (and lifted from the College Handbook) and asked for clarity.

Regarding the concern that departments may treat promotion candidates capriciously, Provost Mark Prus, ex-officio member, noted that his office has copies of each department’s policy statements should a case require review against negative reviews.

President Erik J. Bitterbaum, ex-officio member, said when promotion is recommended or denied his office makes the final decision.
“I do review thoroughly the complete portfolio and have overruled on rare occasions decisions in the past,” he said.

After the departments have drafted policies, these will be returned to the Academic Affairs Committee for consideration.

Due to lack of time, two other proposals under “Old Business” that the committee had wanted to bring before the Senate were tabled until the next meeting.