Faculty postpones vote on tenure change

March 10, 2006

Brandeis faculty postponed a vote at their Mar. 2 meeting on a faculty handbook change that would alter the amount of time that it takes for a junior faculty member to gain tenure at the university.

The proposed change is designed to give junior professors an extra year to work on and submit their portfolios before being considered for tenure. The faculty postponed a vote on the proposal until the next faculty meeting, which is scheduled for April 12.

Brandeis professors now teach for a total of six years, broken down into two three-year contracts, before they are brought up for tenure, according to the Faculty Handbook. After the sixth year, the university has the option of either awarding a junior faculty member tenure or terminating the professors contract. Junior faculty also come up for evaluation after their third year, at which time the university can deicide not to issue a second three year contract.

The general complaint with the current tenure system is that it is too inflexible and does not give the junior faculty an opportunity to gain study grants or have manuscripts published.

Professor Richard Gaskins (AMST) presented the proposed changes, saying that they were designed as a short term introduction for more flexibility. Professor Gaskins declined to comment to The Hoot on the proposed change.

The Tenure Task Force Committee, composed of various Brandeis professors and convened for the purposes of studying the current tenure system and proposing changes, presented a report at a faculty meeting Nov. 10 of last year. The report stated that in the humanities, sciences and social sciences, it is increasingly difficult to accumulate an adequate scholarly portfolio within five years. This is due to many factors, prominent among which are changes in the publishing industry as well as national funding trends. The Committee also suggested that the October 1 deadline for submission of an academic portfolio was unnecessarily early.

The proposed changes would add a year to a junior faculty members tenure clock. Instead of two three-year contracts, a professor would have one three-year contract, and upon successful evaluation, would be awarded a four-year contract. Tenure hearings would commence upon completion of a seventh year. If tenure was denied after the seventh year, a professor would have the option of staying at Brandeis for an eighth year as a contracted faculty member.

The faculty decided to postpone voting on this proposal Mar. 2, citing a need for more information. The movement for a postponement was put forth by Professor Marc Brettler (NEJS). Professor Brettler could not be reached for comment.
The faculty did pass a vote on Mar. 2 to extend the amount of time available to junior professors for medical or parental leave, and the faculty handbook will be amended accordingly.

Before the voting began, both Marty Krauss, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Dean of Arts and Sciences Adam Jaffe gave reports to the assembled faculty. Krauss spoke of her contact with other universities regarding their tenure cycles. She noted that many universities, including Columbia, Rice, and Wesleyan, use the seven year tenure track that is currently being considered by Brandeis faculty.

Dean Jaffe gave a succinct message, explaining that the administration is willing to negotiate with the faculty on most of the tenure track issues. However, he stated that the October 1 deadline for portfolio submission would not change. In a message sent to the Arts and Sciences faculty on February 14, Dean Jaffe wrote that the October 1 deadline is necessary in order to ensure that all cases are completed by the end of the year. Dean Jaffe could not be reached for comment.

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