Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.

UNIVERSITY PRESS

Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.

UNIVERSITY PRESS

Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.

UNIVERSITY PRESS

FAU faculty wary of new post-tenure review policy

FAU faculty members expressed fear and uncertainty about the university’s new post-tenure review policy. This requires tenured faculty members to undergo a comprehensive review every five years, which could lead to termination if they do not meet specific criteria.
Faculty+members+during+the+heated+discussion+about+the+Post-Tenure+Review+policy+at+the+Sept.+17+Faculty+Senate+Meeting.
MIchael Cook
Faculty members during the heated discussion about the Post-Tenure Review policy at the Sept. 17 Faculty Senate Meeting.

In the upcoming spring 2024 semester, Florida Atlantic University must comply with the Post-Tenure Review (PTR) policy for faculty/university-wide evaluation and establishing unit/college criteria, which requires tenured faculty members in Florida’s public universities to undergo a comprehensive review every five years for permanent employment.

Tenure refers to the rights held by faculty and professors who engage in higher education at institutions, granting a permanent teaching position with solid job security and protection. PTR protects academic freedom, faculty governance, and due process. It is a critical feature that upholds FAU’s high-quality fundamental principles, which support students, staff, faculty, and administrators.

On May 15, the Florida Legislature signed Senate Bill 266 (SB 226), proposed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to expand higher education reform. On August 15, FAU’s Board of Trustees passed the 5.002 regulation establishing the revised PTR draft in response to the Florida Board of Governors (BOG).

“We continue to work through the shared governance process to comply with BOG regulation 10.003, that establishes a post-tenure review process,” said FAU spokesperson Joshua Glanzer. “This process involves internal feedback from various stakeholder groups to ensure a smooth and equitable implementation.”

Many faculty members agree that PTR implies fear of potential termination and uncertainty of job security to meet the expectations of compliance with state laws, BOG regulations and standards. Due to PTR’s political influence, universities state-wide face difficulties retaining and recruiting faculty members. 

Nicole Erin Morse, associate professor of multimedia studies and director of the Center for Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, expressed frustration with the political climate eliminating tenure that protects faculty’s academic freedom, governance and due process.

“Tenure exists to protect faculty conducting research from politicized retaliation. It became an important part of higher education in the United States. Following World War II, and was intended to shield faculty conducting potentially controversial research from political pressure,” Morse said. ”The proposed PTR policy would remove protections and due process from faculty, undermining tenure completely and risk that faculty employment decisions could be made based on political preferences, whims, or other arbitrary criteria that have nothing to do with a faculty member’s job performance.”

Carla Calargé, professor of French and Francophone studies, spoke out against the policy and showed concerns about potential termination for violating the specific faculty’s assigned research, teaching and service criteria for evaluation.

“The problem is, at least, what is making a lot of people nervous is the [vague] language of the document that came from the state,” Calargé said during the Faculty Senate meeting on Sept. 17.

David Rossman, Palm Beach State College communications professor and FAU student, shares his perspective as a professor on concerns of First Amendment rights violations of free speech and self-censorship in PTR’s teaching criteria.

“If I am not free to discuss topics that are crucial to the curriculum and my students, what am I doing here? I will find something else to do,” said Rossman.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), written in the PTR, protects against the threat of academic freedom from SB 266 and dismantles diversity, equity and inclusion programs that indoctrinate students in public universities. 

“An employee engaged in such activities shall be free to cultivate a spirit of inquiry and scholarly criticism and to examine ideas in an atmosphere of freedom and confidence. This is essential to the preservation of a free society and explains the willingness of society historically to accept the concept of academic freedom and, in addition, to protect it through the institution of academic tenure,” reads Article 5.1 of the CBA. 

Chris Robé, FAU United Faculty of Florida (UFF-FAU) vice president, explained that the CBA protects the rights of all Faculty Union members. UFF-FAU is committed to standing up and providing protection for tenure faculty.

“So, it stipulates what the university can do and what it can’t do, and where we have rights in terms of challenging that itself. So, it’s a legally binding document. That’s a contract between the university and the faculty that the union negotiates with the Board of Trustees,” said Robé.

Robé said the PTR is unnecessary because FAU already implements a similar policy called the Sustained Performance Evaluation (SPE). SPE evaluates faculty members’ annual performance over seven years, with criteria and procedures highlighting teaching, research, and service accomplishments.

During the Faculty Senate meeting, Steve Engle, associate provost for Academic Personnel, explained FAU’s draft for the PTR timeline to faculty and staff that is replacing SPE.

Every five years, selected tenure faculty fills out a review packet for evaluation. The Department chairs evaluate packets and assign recommendation ratings and written assessments. The Deans evaluate submitted information and provide a written rating. Faculty reviews submissions by the Chair and Dean and can provide additional PTR evaluation comments. 

“By the end of March [to the] middle of April, the provost will review the file [and] provide the final performance rating,” said Engle. 

After being finalized with oversight by the president, the provost will communicate the outcome determined by rating. If expectations approve a faculty member, the chair and dean recommend recognition and compensation awarded in their contract. Suppose faculty members do not meet the expectations of the criteria. The chair will draft a Performance Improvement Plan subject to the dean. If denied and unsatisfactory, members shall obtain a notice of proposed termination, which gives faculty a 12-month non-renewal period.

Karen Leader, a tenured faculty member and associate professor of art history, highlights the benefit of the Post-Tenure implementation, eliminating binding judgment in this turbulent process.

“The new PTR, in addition to duplicating a process that is already agreed upon by all sides in the CBA, eliminates binding arbitration. That means no neutral arbiter, leaving final decision-making in the hands of ‘the university president or his designee.’ Basically, universities have governance processes like SPE for a reason, so that too much power is not held in the hands of one person,” said Leader. 

Michael Cook is a Contributing Writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected].

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About the Contributor
MIchael Cook, News Editor
Michael is a junior multimedia journalism major with a minor in public relations. He's passionate about film and photography, and his journey into journalism began when he served as an editor for his high school yearbook. Now, he aspires to become a television news producer.

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