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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Michigan Faculty Opposes Proposal to Lengthen Tenure Clock to Ten Years

Michigan Inside Higher Ed, Not So Fast:

The faculty senate at the University of Michigan voted overwhelmingly on Monday to reject an administration proposal that would allow the university to extend the pre-tenure probationary period to 10 years. ...

The faculty senate voted twice, 54-1, with one abstention, on two measures related to the proposal, which would alter university bylaw 5.09 and allow the university to extend the probationary period before tenure from 8 years to 10 years. ...

If Michigan extends the pre-tenure period, which is still possible, it would go against national norms for tenure outlined by the American Association of University Professors. Such a move by Michigan could transform a reasonably coherent tenure system nationwide into "a free-for-all," said Cary Nelson, president of the AAUP, because other administrations would likely follow suit. "For most traditional disciplines the six-year probationary period works well," Nelson said in an e-mail. "Exceptions can continue to be made for illness and family responsibilities in individual cases. In any case, the faculty senate's will about university policy should carry the day." ...

[T]he proposed change would not be mandated for all divisions. Instead, it would give the various schools and colleges within the university the option to lengthen the pre-tenure probationary period. In practice, individual units at the university have established their own timelines. The law school makes a tenure determination in six years, while the school of literature, science and the arts does so in seven; the business and medical schools can make their calls in as many as eight years. ...

The change also has been couched by supporters as a way to encourage junior faculty members, particularly in the sciences, to take on more ambitious or interdisciplinary research projects. Another intended benefit of the change is to help younger faculty members better maintain work-life balance and start a family. ...

For faculty members hired as assistant professors at Michigan, tenure is not a certainty. Between 1982 and 2004, 54.6% of those hired as assistant professors received tenure,

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