Tenure and promotions explained

KATIE GOODRICH | Asst. News Editor IMG_0840

Twenty-nine faculty members will be in tenured or promoted positions next school year.

Provost Kathryn Morris announced the news to campus via email on Wednesday.

Twelve faculty members received a promotion to professor, and 17 received tenure and promotion to associate professor.

Having tenure status indicates that the university wants to keep a faculty member. A request for tenure status or a promotion is initiated by each individual faculty member, and all documents need to be turned in by September of that school year, according the Butler University Faculty Handbook.

“Pretty much everyone here with a terminal degree is hired on a tenure track, a track with a possibility of achieving tenure,” said Arthur Hochman, University Professional Standards Committee chair.

The committee is involved with the process that focuses on updating procedures and policies. The members, from all six colleges, rotate every few years, Hochman said.

When faculty are hired on the tenure track, they start as assistant professors.

In order to receive a promotion or tenure, faculty members are evaluated based on three criteria: teaching, scholarship and service, according to the handbook. The terms are defined by sharing knowledge and expertise with students, continuing research participation in department, college, university and community life.

The university outlines certain criteria to be met, and then the colleges and departments add more criteria specifically for their fields, Hochman said.

The faculty members provide documentation of the three criteria to be reviewed by several groups after faculty members have been at Butler for at least six years.

“Tenure and promotion aren’t the same thing,” Hochman said, “but they usually go together. A promotion is like you’re moving along, but tenure means you are supposed to be here. We think you are a dynamic addition to the faculty.”

Faculty can only be promoted twice—once to associate professor and later to professor.

In between assistant and associate, faculty are evaluated every year by their department chair, dean or associate dean, Hochman said.

“It is kind of like gaining data moving forward,” he said. “Then you go in front of people from your department or college. It is kind of like being judged by a jury of your peers.”

The process then goes through the University Professional Standards Committee, which judges the process,  not the portfolio, Hochman said.

The portfolio is then given to the Provost and, finally, the Board of Trustees.

“In every university, there is a stamp of approval that says we want to keep you,” he said. “That’s probably the most profound element of tenure. It often means at a lot institutions that it is harder to get fired, but that’s a loose term anyway.”

Hochman said the biggest benefits are a pay raise and the approval.

“After tenure is awarded, faculty members shall have continuous appointment, and their service may be terminated only for adequate cause or financial exigencies of the University,” according to the faculty handbook.

Bonnie Brown, professor of pharmacy practice, said she knew she wanted to stay at Butler for the rest of her career as soon as she stepped on campus.

She was hired more than 15 years ago on the tenure track.

“For me, it was really important to go that next step for the full professor title,” Brown said. “It feels like I’ve succeeded in what I wanted to do at Butler and in my career. It is satisfying professionally, as a pharmacist who has worked for 18 years in other places. Now I have achieved what I set out to do from day one here on Butler’s campus.”

Keeping the documentation of all the time and effort that goes into each of the three criteria means staying organized, she said.

Brown heard the news directly from Morris before the campus-wide email was sent.

“I sort of suspected all along that I would get it,” Brown said. “But you never know. It was a huge sense of relief and accomplishment.”

Travis Ryan, professor of biological sciences, was eligible for promotion last year.

“Honestly, it wasn’t even on my radar,” Ryan said.

Ryan said he views his promotion as recognition of his continued development after tenure.

“I also view it as something I was hired to do,” Ryan said. “We hire everyone with the hope that everyone reaches tenure. I think the university is the most vital if, post-tenure, the faculty remain as engaged as they were pre-tenure.”

Ryan said receiving the news from Morris was relieving because it meant the process was over and the result was good.

“The sad truth is that a lot of the big milestones tend to be a little anti-climatic,” Ryan said. “I wouldn’t say it was anti-climatic exactly, but I didn’t do the Rocky dance. The only thing that really changed that day was the signature line on my email.”

This story was edited on April 3 at 11:43 a.m.