Demand 7: Tenure diversity committee demand on track

Student Activists John Gillespie (center left) and Bilphena Yahwon (center right) lead a discussion about the students' demands.

By: Marcus Dieterle, Staff Writer

The seventh diversity initiative from Occupy Towson is to promote the diversification of committees that determine tenure for faculty.

“All tenured faculty of the department, and only tenured faculty, shall serve as members of the department’s tenure committee,” said Vice Provost Maggie Reitz. “This committee is responsible for tenure recommendations and third-year review. The tenure committee may or may not be the same as the Promotion, Reappointment, and Merit (PRM) Committee(s).”

The University, each college and each department have their own PRM committee, Reitz said.

Towson’s online Diversity Initiatives Progress Report lists this demand as on-track.

Tenure alone does not impact faculty salary, but salary is affected by faculty’s rank. For example, faculty who are promoted to associate professor receive a salary increase of $6,000. Associate professors who are promoted to full professor receive a $7,500 salary increase, according to Reitz.

Tenure also determines the retention of faculty members. The current tenure policy requires faculty who have not been granted tenure after being reviewed during a mandatory tenure-review year to be granted only one additional year appointment. Therefore, those faculty members are not retained, Reitz said.

As part of the initiative, college deans are required to report their efforts and results to the university, according to the Diversity Initiatives Progress Report.

Included in those efforts is obtaining student feedback through course evaluations.

Assistant Provost Bethany Pace developed a university-wide campaign last spring to encourage student completion of course evaluations, according to Reitz.

Reitz said the campaign involved an array of strategies including the posters distribution, tabling in dining areas, distribution of educational materials to faculty and students, development of an app for easier and more convenient course evaluation completion, and meetings with three student groups to encourage completion of the evaluations.

The response rate for course evaluations last spring was only 39% of Towson students, identical to the previous two spring semesters despite the new campaign efforts.

Reitz said the university will continue its efforts to increase student participation in course evaluations.

While there is no direct link between course evaluations and the diversity of faculty promotion and tenure committees, Reitz said the evaluations do help faculty perfect their teaching methods and course delivery.

Teaching is one of the four areas in which committees evaluate candidates for tenure; the other three are advising, service, and research/scholarship/creative activities, she said.

Reitz said the department chair reviews the student evaluation data with each tenure-track faculty member as part of the annual review and evaluation process. This data is also part of the required portfolio that is reviewed by each committee that recommends of whether to award tenure.

Other than course evaluations, there is currently no mechanism for student feedback on the tenure process, according to Reitz.

The Appointment, Rank and Tenure (ART) Document Revision Committee has requested a new student appointee from the SGA, she said.

Faculty tenure candidates are allowed to request an external expert in their discipline to look over the faculty member’s work and submit a report to the committee.

External reviewers are faculty from other institutions who review the curriculum vitae and any other information specific to that college or department in order to recommend whether the candidate has met tenure criteria, Reitz said.

As Towson continues to pursue this initiative, Reitz said the university will continue to raise awareness for course evaluations through this semester and next semester.

She said the university will also highlight the external reviewer process at the Spring New Faculty Workshop and the Spring PRM Workshops.

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