U. of Texas Regents Adopt Plan to Strengthen Post-Tenure Reviews

February 09, 2012

The University of Texas Board of Regents sought to strengthen the system's process for evaluating tenured faculty, adopting a plan on Thursday that requires regular, comprehensive evaluations and specifies that professors can be fired if "incompetence, neglect of duty, or other good cause is determined to be present" during those reviews.

The plan builds on a "framework for advancing excellence" in the 15-campus system that the regents approved in August. University officials drafted that broader framework last year in response to calls from politicians, business leaders, and others for more transparency about the performance of the system's campuses and professors' productivity.

The policy adopted Thursday requires tenured faculty to receive annual reviews and to undergo comprehensive post-tenure evaluations no less than once every six years. Those comprehensive evaluations may be conducted more often, including any time that an individual receives two consecutive unsatisfactory annual reviews.

The policy spells out that the outcome of the evaluations can be weighed in decisions about salary, awards, promotion, and termination of employment. It also emphasizes that remediation—providing counseling, help with becoming a more-effective teacher, or mentors to assist with research issues or service expectations, for example—remains "a central part of the improvement process," to be used when it is clear that a faculty member with poor performance could be helped by a support plan.

The university system already had a system of post-tenure review in place. An analysis conducted last year by the Austin American-Statesman, however, found that there were few, if any, firm sanctions for those who fell short in teaching, research, or service.

The system's Faculty Advisory Council has endorsed the changes the regents adopted Thursday. However, some individual professors have voiced concerns about the policy, noting that it raises the stakes for annual reviews and will require extra work for faculty and administrators.