The President’s Committee on Tenure, Promotion, Reappointment and Equal Employment Opportunity recently awarded tenure to four members of the faculty: Assistant Professor of Anthropology Brenda Jenike, Assistant Professor of Music Steven Spears and Assistant Professors of Art John Shimon and Julie Lindemann.
Tenure is essentially an academic’s earned right to hold a position indefinitely without possibility of termination without just cause. “The concept of tenure was developed to provide freedom of speech and thought,” said Provost and Dean of the Faculty David Burrows. “It is an essential part of a system of education based on the free exchange of ideas, critical thinking, careful analysis and support for knowledge and creative activity.”
“Tenure acknowledges the deep bonds we and other tenured professors have formed with students and the university,” said Shimon and Lindemann in a joint statement for The Lawrentian. “We feel a responsibility to our students past and present, and to Lawrence. It also reflects the university’s support of the creative research we have dedicated our lives to.”
In a process described by Burrows as “comprehensive and exhaustive,” qualified faculty members undergo a rigorous review procedure during their fifth and sixth years of teaching at Lawrence.
According to the Faculty Handbook, the process begins Winter Term of a faculty member’s fifth year, when the Provost and Dean of Faculty look for letters of intent to stand for tenure from eligible members. These candidates will then spend Spring Term preparing materials to present to the Committee on Tenure.
These materials include scholarly or artistic work, a statement of professional scholarly or artistic interests and plans and other materials that may be useful to outside reviewers. Aside from this, the committee procures statements from members of the Lawrence community that have been involved with the candidate, such as fellow professors and students.
“The tenure evaluation process at Lawrence is taken very seriously by the faculty members who are asked to serve on the Tenure Committee, together with the provost, who attends all meetings as a non-voting member,” said committee member and Professor of Geology Marcia Bjørnerud. “Candidates are evaluated separately in the areas of teaching, scholarship or creative activity and service and must receive positive votes in each of these areas to be awarded tenure.”
The committee’s evaluation of a professor’s teaching ability is based on statements from the members of the faculty who have observed a candidate’s teaching — in cases such as team-taught courses, rehearsals, or seminars— or who have been involved with his/her students. The Committee also looks at the candidate’s self-evaluation regarding teaching ability and goals. Finally, the results from a student survey evaluating teaching ability are taken into account.
Scholarship or creative achievement is another major category in the tenure decision process, and it is also evaluated based on the opinions of faculty who have witnessed the candidate’s academic work or who have been involved directly in the work, as well as a self-evaluation. The committee also looks at a curriculum vitae, a comprehensive list of the candidate’s scholarly or creative achievements.
The final category for evaluation is service, which is based on a candidate’s commitment to different offices or departments of the university. Like the other two categories, the committee bases its evaluation on faculty recommendations and a self-evaluation, as well as the activities listed on the curriculum vitae that are related to service.
The Committee on Tenure, Promotion, Reappointment and Equal Employment Opportunity consists of five president-appointed, tenured faculty members, one each from the divisions of fine arts, humanities, social sciences and sciences and one member at large, as well as the Provost and Dean of the Faculty. The decisions for recommendation for tenure are presented to the President during Winter Term, who makes the final decision with the approval of the Board of Trustees.
“The process is thorough because the quality of the faculty is vitally important to the success of the University,” stated Burrows. “We want to make certain that our faculty meet the highest standards of excellence and can help our students achieve the qualities of liberally educated persons.”
Committee member and Associate Professor of Spanish Rosa Tapia commented, “I was particularly impressed by the thoroughness of the tenure review process, as well as the utmost seriousness and sensitivity with which the committee does its work. This is probably one of our most important service contributions to the university.”
“Going through the tenure process felt like a privilege and honor,” said Shimon and Lindemann. “Former students, faculty colleagues and professionals from our field gave us a serious critique — evaluating the quality of our work as teachers, artists and community members. Receiving our tenure evaluation report was like seeing our life flash before our eyes. The thoughtfulness of the feedback moved us to tears!”