Provost discusses tenure

Tenure decisions are based on a faculty member’s scholarship, their teaching, and their service to assess the quality of teaching.

“Student evaluations are a critical element in that [decision],” Sam Houston State University Provost, David Payne, said. “The university policy allows a number of majors for a quality of teaching therefore it has an important [effect] in determining a faculty member’s tenure.”

During the Process a faculty member submits their credentials and goes through what’s called a department promotion and tenure committee.

That committee examines the credentials and makes a recommendation to the chair,” Payne said.

The chair makes a recommendation to the Dean and the Dean may or may not have an advisory committee. The Dean’s recommendation then goes to the Provost.

“I make an independent examination and evaluation of credentials,” Payne said. “I make a recommendation to the President.”

The President makes the recommendation to the Board of Regents. Only the Board grants tenure.

“Sometimes faculty members think that I give or deny tenure, not so. Payne said. I don’t grant tenure. We all make recommendations until it reaches the board, the board grants tenure.

It is possible for tenure to be granted without the Provost’s recommendation.

“The board would have to decide that I made a mistake” Payne said.

The same is true in the case of disapproval from the department.

“I may agree or disagree with the department’s recommendation,” Payne said. “This is the purpose of having multiple levels of review.”

Payne said if the department makes a decision about whether a professor’s credentials meets what the department feels are appropriate standards, the college then has to decide whether or not the department and its assessment meets the college standards.

“I have to ask is the decision that is reached appropriate for university standards,” Payne said. “Some departments are exceedingly strong, others are less strong, but all of them have to meet a basic level.

I’m the person who says does this meet the basic level for the whole university.”

Professors can appeal if denied tenure to the grievance committee. Payne said there has not been an increase in cases.

“Overall I don’t think so. There are always cases where people feel like they haven’t been properly recognized.

Tenure does cost the university more to cover salary as there often a promotion. Payne said tenure has not been affected by the budget cuts.

Tenure tends to be sensitive subject.

“You’re talking about someone’s future, a faculty members future, so of course it’s important and it ought to be important, ” Payne said. “You’re talking about making a judgment of the quality of work that their doing.

Payne said everyone wants to be recognized for the quality of their work.

“When you make a judgment that their work is not up to the standards of the university of course that is a very painful and difficult thing to hear and say,” he said.

The student evaluation is a national standardized exam.

“So someone in business here is compared to someone in business at other universities,” Payne said.

“What I tell faculty is that we don’t want anyone here at Sam Houston who is not at least an average teacher nationally.”

” We don’t care if other universities have teachers who are below average, but we want our faculty to be at the national average,” he said.

Student evaluations are one of several ways of assessing that. If a faculty member scores very highly on student evaluation it is likely that professor’s [very good].

If a professor scores low on student evaluations, there are other ways that faculty member can establish that they are quality teachers.

For example they can talk about innovations in curriculum, distance learning, contributions to construction, pedagogical techniques.

“There are a variety ways that a faculty member can establish that their contributions are better than the student evaluations show,” Payne said.

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