setting the record straight


This week's issue of The Chronicle of HIgher Education has an article on post tenure review here at RIT (subscribers only; email me if you want the full article). It's a feel-good piece that has our administration all in smiles this week, and most of it is a pretty accurate picture of how post-tenure review was implemented here.

But at the end of the article, in the second-to-last paragraph, there's a startling discussion with our provost.

Faculty Evaluation and Development grants have also been used to help midcareer, untenured faculty members. When the information-technology department began to grow, the university hired many of its own master's graduates. A dozen or more of those people are coming up for tenure soon. "Now we are saying they need Ph.D.'s or they will not get tenure," says Mr. McKenzie. Ten of those professors are currently enrolled in Ph.D. programs at George Mason University. Rochester is paying their regular salaries and giving them significant reductions in teaching, plus $1,500 each for tuition. Some of the professors are exempt from teaching, while others are teaching one or two distance courses. "They are valuable people for us," says Mr. McKenzie, and worth the investment.

Let's start with the first problem in this paragraph, the provost's statement that "Now we are saying they need Ph.D.'s or they will not get tenure." This came as news to the 14 15 untenured faculty members in our department whose master's degrees are from RIT. Is this an unreasonable requirement for tenure? Not if it's communicated to the faculty in question when they're hired, and reinforced through reviews and support. But it wasn't. Ever. None of these faculty were ever informed that a PhD would be a requirement for tenure. In fact, they've been told on numerous occasions that it would not be a requirement. Imagine their surprise when they read in the Chronicle about this requirement. It's worth pointing out, as well, that there are some real issues with rewriting tenure requirements on the fly, and doing it only for faculty in one department.

Then there's the over-the-top, completely false claim that RIT is providing generous support for "those faculty" to pursue doctorates. We have one faculty member, not ten, about to start a PhD program and George Mason. And he's definitely not getting the attractive package described in the article, not by a long shot. The rest of "those faculty" are teaching 9 classes per year (3 per quarter), which doesn't exactly give them a lot of time to work on advanced degrees.

The article appeared online on Thursday, and there's been no official response yet from our administration--departmental, college, or university level. "They are valuable people for us," the provost says. At the moment, I doubt that's how they feel.


Postscript: A colleague suggests "Master is tricksy" would have been a better title for the post...


I knew there was a reason I'm holding onto my professional staff position in the IT organization and just occasionally teaching grad classes instead of pursuing a faculty position.

Glad there aren’t any administrative openings at Seabury; someone from RIT might look like a valuable addition. . . .

I guess I'll never be able to teach at my favorite college... :-(

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