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Post-Tenure Review

Professional Review for Tenured Faculty


Why a system of post-tenure review now? This proposal is a response to the changing circumstances of the modern university, three specific conditions of which directly impinge on the need for post-tenure review.

First, public universities are facing a period of lean budgets and virtually no real (inflation-adjusted) growth in finances. Indeed, most universities have experienced prolonged periods of budget cuts, and the prognosis is that health care, prison construction, and certain other costs are likely to consume all of the growth in future state budgets. The result is that universities, and this is true for us at the University of Kentucky, are increasingly being asked to live within roughly constant budgets. For most departments, no-growth budgets mean no increases in faculty sizes; any quality improvement or rise in reputation will have to come out of a constant faculty size, rather than by the method most commonly relied upon previously to build departments, that is, by adding faculty positions.

Second, higher education's special exemption from the federal ban on mandatory retirement ended on January 1, 1994. After that date, faculty members will not be required to retire except when the university can prove sufficient dereliction or neglect of duties to support dismissal. For departments, the end of mandatory retirement means that it is no longer feasible, nor perhaps even legal, for departments to take a "life-cycle" approach to faculty careers (that is, an approach in which junior members are seen as highly energetic, go-getter researchers, senior faculty are mature scholars and advisors, and mandatory retirement as the means of freeing up new positions for young scholars). Neither will departments, when confronted by a faculty member who is extraordinarily and chronically unproductive, be able simply to "wait for retirement;" such faculty members may now linger on for a decade or longer beyond what would otherwise have been mandatory retirement. Both the law and circumstance impel us to develop meaningful evaluation procedures that focus on performance and are neutral with respect to age.

Third, universities are faced by intense and growing external demands for accountability. Councils of Higher Education, legislators, news media, and others demand that universities account for the public resources being consumed by universities and that educators defend long-established academic practices. (The most insistent demand focuses on the quality of undergraduate instruction.) The strong implication is that if universities do not develop adequate methods of accountability by themselves, others will likely do it for us, imposing their own versions of accountability, with perhaps less respect for traditional academic practices and values; indeed, in a number of states such schemes have already been enacted in legislation.

Considering these three developments together, it seems clear that we must change some internal academic practices. We should do so because it is right, since the circumstances under which traditional practices operated have now changed and we should adapt. Less nobly, we should do so because if we do not do it, others outside the university may impose changes that are less consistent with our academic values. Departments have also discovered that the cost of ignoring (maintaining) a chronically unproductive faculty member has substantially increased. As departments strive to develop and improve, the traditional path -- adding additional faculty positions -- is likely to be foreclosed. Thus, to an otherwise hard-working and ambitious department, a faculty member who is chronically and highly unproductive is not simply an inconvenience or irritant but instead is an actual obstacle, hindering that department's plan for betterment.

Academic sentiment rightly insists upon giving enormous deference and latitude to faculty members pursuing scholarship that may be out of vogue, politically controversial, long in gestation, or in other ways needful of the protections of academic freedom. If we could be assured that such considerations are not at play, we might be less willing to tie up a valuable faculty line for a professor who, over a long period, has demonstrated that he or she is simply unproductive and disengaged from the academic enterprise.

In such cases, the questions arises: is there a way to develop a post-tenure review system that can respect all of the important values and practices of traditional academic employment, including most importantly academic freedom and tenure, and that will nonetheless allow departmental faculties to intervene in those cases of true dereliction or neglect of duties? The system outlined below is an attempt to institutionalize this delicate balance.


A Community of Engaged Scholars. We, the College of Arts and Sciences, view ourselves as a community of engaged scholars, organized and bound together to fulfill our responsibilities and to pursue our aspirations.

An engaged scholar is one who, being wholeheartedly committed to the principles and aspirations of the academy, vigorously participates in the full range of scholarly activities. Over his or her career, perhaps at times with one emphasis and at other times with a different emphasis, an engaged scholar is a dedicated and patient teacher, a highly focused and concentrated researcher, a learned resource and mental stimulant for colleagues, an active and public participant in the campus's intellectual culture, and a valued contributor to the larger success of the community of scholars and to the achievement of the faculty's responsibilities. In short, an engaged scholar brings all the faculties of his or her existence -- intellectual talents, energies, and passions -- to his or her everyday calling as a scholar.

By this model we explicitly reject the notion that there is only one career profile of a successful faculty member. Some faculty members, or every faculty member during some periods of his or her career, will be more oriented to achieving great strides in the discovery of new knowledge; other members, or each member during some periods, will be devoted to exploring a deeper or wider understanding of received knowledge or to working out more effective or intensive teaching efforts or to sustaining and contributing to the vitality of campus intellectual life. The model of the engaged scholar permits, indeed fosters, multiple orientations and varied activities.

We as a faculty have a stake in each other's contributions and successes; hence admission to the community of engaged scholars unavoidably implies acceptance of the high aspirations we set for ourselves and the high standards to which we hold ourselves. Each faculty member and the College at large thus share a vital stake in sustaining the faculty member's continuing enthusiasm, energy, and effort in his or her teaching and research. The College's faculty represents its most important resource, and the College must place a very high priority on maintaining and developing every faculty member's professional engagement throughout his or her career.

This mutuality of interest in fact underlies an implicit moral compact between the faculty member and the College. The faculty member must pledge his or her best efforts on a continuing basis. The College must provide an intellectual and material environment within which the faculty member's best efforts will be effectively transformed into achievement. The Professional Review process outlined herein is part of this moral pact.

This compact has not always been observed. When pressed, most universities admit that traditional academic evaluation procedures can result in a small subset of tenured faculty becoming disengaged scholars whose contributions to the academic enterprise chronically fall below acceptable levels. Unfortunately, such faculty members may not be held accountable for their disengagement. The faculty and the administration have failed to develop positive ways to help these faculty to improve; indeed, the incentives we do employ are almost invariably punitive in nature (such as the denial of merit raises). Because our procedures are post hoc, we punish inadequate performance but do little to plan for and stimulate the future performance that we desire. And because we have resisted recognizing the problem, such faculty are offered little encouragement or support to change. In consequence, these faculty achieve less than they are capable of and their colleagues often must shoulder heavier burdens.


The purpose of this Professional Review system is to provide effective evaluation, useful feedback, appropriate intervention, and timely and affirmative assistance to ensure that every faculty member continues to experience professional development and accomplishment during the various phases of his or her career.

The Professional Review system must not undermine the concepts of academic freedom and tenure, which are essential to the University. There is a presumption of competence on the part of each tenured faculty member. The review must reflect the nature of the individual's field of work and must conform to fair and reasonable expectations as recognized by faculty peers in each department and discipline. The review is to be conducted in a manner free of arbitrary, capricious, or discriminatory elements and which follows agreed-upon procedures.

The Professional Review system will be focused on those tenured faculty who request it and on tenured faculty for whom the biennial performance ("merit") reviews indicate persistent sub-par performance. It is thus intended for a specific sub-group of the faculty and is not intended as a new requirement burdening all tenured faculty. The system will be a supplement to (not a replacement for) the biennial performance review or other reviews. Non-tenured faculty are excluded because other review mechanisms exist to evaluate their performance.

Evaluation can be a positive force when used to encourage members of the faculty community to continue their professional growth and to remain professionally active. We intend to emphasize continuing engagement with all forms of scholarship and to provide incentives and resources to assist faculty members in remaining engaged.


Expectations for Performance. Each department will develop a narrative statement of its expectations for adequate faculty performance by tenured faculty. Such statements shall include expectations for the areas of research, teaching, and service, they shall be differentiated by rank and level of seniority if relevant, and they shall be as specific as is possible without unduly restricting the recognition of the diverse valuable contributions that individual faculty members may make. This statement, once agreed upon by the departmental faculty, shall be reviewed by the Dean to assure that the faculty performance expectations are in keeping with the established mission of the College and that they do not fall below College expectations for faculty performance. The approved statement of expectations will be the basis within the Professional Review for evaluating a faculty member's performance.

Timing of Evaluation. Professional Review evaluations will ordinarily be conducted during the academic year following the regular biennial merit review of tenured faculty (the "off" year).

Plan A: The Faculty Member Requests an Evaluation

A Professional Review may be requested by a tenured faculty member and initiated upon approval by the Dean. In this case, the review shall be strictly for the purpose of assisting the faculty member in evaluating his or her career, and no documents or results of the review shall be used in any other university evaluation process except by explicit consent of the faculty member. The department chair shall inform the faculty member of the nature and procedures of the review.

The Review Dossier. The department chair shall prepare a review dossier in consultation with the faculty member. The faculty member has the right and obligation to provide for the review dossier all the documents, materials, and statements he or she believes to be relevant and necessary for the review, and all materials submitted shall be included in the dossier. Ordinarily, such a dossier would include at least the following: an up-to-date vita, a teaching portfolio, and a statement on current research or creative work. The chair shall add to the dossier any further materials (prior evaluations, other documents, etc.) he or she deems relevant, in every case providing the faculty member with a copy of each item added. The faculty member shall have the right to add any material, including statements and additional documents, at any time during the review process.

The Review Process. The review will be conducted by a three-member ad hoc faculty review committee appointed by the Dean in consultation with the faculty member and his or her chair. The review will focus on the faculty member's accomplishments, research agenda, teaching program, and service contributions, relating these to the stated expectations for performance developed by the department. The purpose of the review is to provide informed and candid feedback to the faculty member concerning his or her accomplishments, the quality of the person's contributions, any weaknesses or deficiencies in the record, and (for associate professors) guidance on what would be needed to prepare for a successful promotion review.

Professional Development Plan. The review panel, in cooperation with the faculty member being reviewed, may decide to prepare a professional development plan. This plan would provide specific guidance and advice to help the faculty member more fully meet departmental expectations and more effectively achieve his or her own goals.

The plan should:

  1. identify specific strengths and weaknesses;
  2. define specific goals or outcomes that would help the faculty member overcome the identified weaknesses;
  3. outline the activities that can be undertaken to achieve the goals or outcomes;
  4. set appropriate timelines within which these goals or outcomes could be accomplished;
  5. indicate appropriate criteria by which the faculty member could monitor his or her progress;
  6. identify the source of any funding or institutional commitments (if required).

The faculty member shall be encouraged to discuss the results of the review with his or her department chair and dean; such discussion shall be, however, at the option of the faculty member.

The College has a vital stake in the faculty member's success, and so it stands ready to assist the faculty member in achieving the outcomes indicated in the Review plan.
Plan B: A Faculty Member Is Selected for Review

A Professional Review may be initiated when a faculty member is selected for review; any tenured faculty member who receives a merit rating below 2.0 (on a 5-point scale) for two successive biennial evaluation periods in any category (research, teaching, service) in which the faculty member's DOE is 25 percent or more will be selected for a Professional Review. The department chair shall inform the faculty member of being selected for review and of the nature and procedures of the review. Upon recommendation of the department chair and approval of the Dean, a faculty member subject to evaluation under this plan may be exempted if there are extenuating circumstances (such as health problems).

One option that would avoid a review would be for the faculty member to change his or her DOE so as to reduce below 25 percent the category in which he or she is deficient. This alternative follows from the notion of "multiple profiles" of a successful faculty member -- that is, that there need not be a "one-size-fits-all" DOE and that faculty members can contribute in a variety of ways to the multiple missions of the College. A change in the DOE would imply the assignment of new duties to the faculty member, and it would need to be approved by the department chair and the dean. In some cases this option may not be possible; for example, under ordinary circumstances it would not be approved for a faculty member to reduce his or her teaching assignment to less than 25 percent of the DOE.

When a review is conducted, the general strategy invoked would involve three steps: first, to identify and officially acknowledge chronic deficits in an individual faculty member's performance; second, to develop a specific professional development plan by which to remedy these deficiencies; and third, to monitor progress towards achievement of the plan.

The Review Process. The initial review will be conducted either by the department chair, a three-member ad hoc faculty review committee (including one member of the Arts and Sciences Council) appointed by the Dean, or a subcommittee of the Arts and Sciences Council (appointed by the Council), the choice being the option of the faculty member. The review may result in the following outcomes:

  1. Some strengths, no deficiencies identified. If the reviewer (department chair, ad hoc committee, or Council subcommittee) determines that the faculty member being evaluated has, during the preceding four years, met the reasonable expectations for faculty performance as identified by his or her department, the faculty member will be so informed and the review is thereby completed.
  2. Some strengths and some deficiencies are identified, but the deficiencies are determined not to be substantial and chronic. If the reviewer identifies some deficiencies in the faculty member's performance as compared to reasonable expectations set by his or her department, but those deficiencies are not judged to be substantial and chronic, the reviewer shall state in writing the specific deficiencies identified and provide a copy to the faculty member and his or her department chair. If accepted by the Dean, the review is thereby completed.
  3. Substantial and chronic deficiencies are identified. If the reviewer determines that there exist substantial and chronic deficiencies in the faculty member's performance, the reviewer shall state in writing the specific deficiencies identified and provide a copy to the faculty member and his or her department chair. The faculty member and the chair shall then work together to draw up a professional development plan.

Professional Development Plan. The professional development plan is an agreement indicating how specific deficiencies in a faculty member's performance (as measured against reasonable departmental expectations) shall be remedied. Ideally, the plan should grow out of an iterative collaboration among the faculty member, department chair, and Dean, and to the fullest extent possible, it should reflect the mutual aspirations and intentions of the faculty member, the department, and the College.

The plan shall be formulated by the department chair and Dean with the assistance of and in consultation with the faculty member. It is the faculty member's obligation to assist in the development of a meaningful and effective plan and to make a good faith effort to implement the plan once it is adopted.

The plan must:

  1. identify the specific deficiencies to be addressed;
  2. define specific goals or outcomes that are needed to remedy the deficiencies;
  3. outline the activities that are to be undertaken to achieve the needed outcomes;
  4. set timelines for accomplishing the activities and achieving the outcomes;
  5. indicate the criteria for annual progress reviews;
  6. identify the source of any funding (if required).

Appeal. The faculty member shall have the right of appeal. Of course the faculty member retains all rights of appeal as specified in University Governing and Administrative Regulations. In addition, the faculty member shall have the right within the College to appeal to the College Advisory ("Area") Committee and the Dean.

If the faculty member being evaluated contests the reviewer's finding of deficiencies, the evaluation will be forwarded to the College Advisory Committee for the Area (Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural and Mathematical Sciences) of the faculty member's primary appointment. After consultation with the faculty member and the reviewer, the Advisory Committee shall assess whether or not the initial evaluation should be upheld. If the College Advisory Committee determines that the faculty member has met reasonable expectations for faculty performance, the review is concluded. If the College Advisory Committee upholds the finding of the reviewer, it shall communicate its finding to the faculty member, his or her department chair, and the Dean in writing, and the review process shall go forward.


Monitoring and Follow-Up. The faculty member and his or her department chair will meet annually to review the faculty member's progress towards remedying the deficiencies. A progress report will be forwarded to the Dean.

Further evaluation of the faculty member within the regular faculty performance evaluation processes of the University may draw upon the faculty member's progress in achieving the goals set out in this plan.

Completion of Plan. When the objectives of the plan have been fully met, or in any case no later than three years after the start of the development plan, the department chair shall make a final report to the faculty member and the Dean.

The successful completion of the professional development plan is the positive outcome to which all faculty and administrators involved in this process must be committed. If the disengagement of some scholars derives in part from an organizational failure, the re-engaging of their talents and energies reflects a success for the entire University community.