Faculty and Administrators at Minnesota Reach Agreement on Tenure Code


Following a year of often contentious debate over the current tenure system at the University of Minnesota, faculty and administrators presented a united front to the Board of Regents on June 14. Recommendations for modifying the current tenure code, which were crafted by the Faculty Senate and unanimously endorsed by the administration, will be voted on by the Board of Regents in July.

Although the Board of Regent's decision in May 1995 to review the tenure code drew attention to this issue, many faculty members at Minnesota believe that the tenure controversy was triggered by financial problems at the university's Academic Health Center. Just as it has at other medical schools and health science centers across the country, the recent shift toward managed health care reduced the income that tenured clinical faculty traditionally received from patient care, which was used to finance educational activities.

A dramatic solution to these financial problems, re-engineering, was imported from the corporate sector and brought to the Twin Cities campus by William Brody, the former Provost of Minnesota and recently appointed President of Johns Hopkins University. Brody, with the approval of the Minnesota Regents, hired the CDC Index Consulting Group of Massachusetts to re-engineer the Academic Health Center. CDC's plans for a top-heavy administrative structure, as well as its clumsy implementation attempts, alarmed many faculty and poisoned the tenure review process, according to a recent article in the Minnesota faculty/staff newspaper. However, the faculty were able to assert control over the process and developed a series of changes that were acceptable to the administration.

Several of the faculty's recommendations agreed upon June 14 are a formalization of administrative privileges that already exist. In addition, if the recommendations are approved by the Board of Regents, formal posttenure reviews wil be adopted--something that faculty committees had recommended years ago. Posttenure reviews would enable the administration to identify faculty who are not meeting expectations for research, teaching, or service. These faculty would then be given guidance and special opportunities to reinvigorate their academic lives. Failing to do so after successive reviews, they could be dismissed for cause--as was always the case--or they could receive intermediate sanctions, including a limited recision in salary.

The University of Minnesota is at the forefront of a review of tenure occurring on many college campuses across the coutry. In fact, the American Association of University Professors is sponsoring a conference at the University of Michigan September 6-8 to prepare faculty to deal with the imposition of corporate management fads on campuses so that academic traditions such as freedom of inquiry and faculty governance can be protected.

Not surprisingly, the atmosphere at the Twin Cities Campus has been tense. However, this recent breakthrough in negotiations between the faculty and administration may signal a resolution to the conflict. As Carolyn L. Williams, PhD, a psychologist and Associate Professor in the Division of Epidemiology in the Academic Health Center, reported, 'This year has been very difficult, but it has resulted in an energized and mobilized faculty that I hope can work with the administration and Regents to meet the challenges facing our university.'

J. Bruce Overmier, PhD, Professor of Psychology, added, 'Throughout this ordeal, faculty have continued to write their grants, teach their courses, publish their research--in short, do their jobs as they always have--with vigor, dedication, and love of their students and discipline.




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