Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

When Tenure Protects Incompetent Faculty

John M. Rothgeb, Jr. (Miami University, Department of Political Science), When Tenure Protects the Incompetent: Results from a Survey of Department Chairs, 47 Political Science & Politics 182 (2013):

This research uses data from a national survey of political science department chairs to explore when tenure protects incompetent faculty. The characteristics of the responding institutions and the procedures and standards they use when evaluating tenure applications were analyzed to determine how they related to the protection of the incompetent. The results reveal that tenure is most likely to shield incompetent faculty when collegiality plays a role in tenure decisions and when departments focus on the quantity of articles an applicant publishes. The findings also show that when departments demand that candidates publish in prestigious journals and when higher authorities at the institution have reversed positive departmental tenure recommendations, the probability that the incompetent are protected declines.

Inside Higher Ed, Tenure and Incompetence:

Want your colleagues to remain effective teachers and researchers after tenure? Then prioritize quality over quantity in publishing during the tenure process, avoid collegiality as a tenure criterion and make sure your administrators aren’t rubber-stamping faculty tenure recommendations. That’s according to a new study ... based on results of a survey of 361 responding political science chairs at doctoral, master’s and baccalaureate institutions regarding faculty incompetence and tenure. ...

In the survey, Rothgeb asked chairs to report whether or not tenure “has shielded incompetent faculty from dismissal” at their institutions – not just within their departments. Some 62 percent of chairs said it had. Rothgeb followed up with a series of questions about institutional characteristics and the tenure processes at those colleges and universities, to try to identify when and how tenure may shield incompetence.

Advanced statistical analysis revealed some surprising correlations. The independent variable with the strongest link to tenure as a shield for incompetence – defined by the study as “failure to meet the teaching, research and service expectations at [the] institution” – was a previous reversal of a faculty recommendation for tenure by an administrator. Where that has occurred, probability of reported incompetence dropped by 30 percent. At institutions where collegiality is an acknowledged criterion in the tenure process, respondents were 12 percent more likely to report faculty incompetence. ...

The author said he was most surprised by the data on publishing, which showed that more is not necessarily better. A one-unit increase in the number of articles demanded from tenure candidates (from one to two, for example) increases the probability of reported incompetence by 8 percent, while a one-unit increase in the “prestigious” article variable (such a publication in a top journal) decreased the probability of reported incompetence by 16 percent.

Inside Higher Ed, Losing Tenure at the University of Illinois for Being Difficult?

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I think it's the people who have time for studies like this whose competence needs to be questioned.

Posted by: michael livingston | Jan 8, 2014 3:15:44 AM