UT Regents Vote to Revamp Review Process for Professors

Employee criminal background checks, post-tenure faculty reviews, and $10 million for matching donations to the Texas Research Initiative Program were approved at today’s meeting of the University of Texas Board of Regents.

The new system rules, which are effective immediately, are two tenets of Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa’s framework for the system’s future, which was unanimously approved in August.

“Nothing in these guidelines should be interpreted to infringe on the tenure system, academic freedom, due process or to require faculty to re-establish their qualifications for tenure,” Cigarroa said at the regents’ meeting. 

Tenured UT System faculty members will receive two kinds of reviews: yearly reviews and “comprehensive reviews” that will occur at least every six years. In their annual reviews, professors will get one of four ratings: Exceeds Expectation, Meets Expectation, Does Not Meet Expectation and Unsatisfactory. The results of professors’ reviews will be communicated to their department chair, the chief academic officer and the president for review and any appropriate action. 

The yearly evaluations may be used to determine recommendations about professors’ salaries, nomination for awards and other forms of “performance recognition.” If faculty members' reviews indicate poor performance, they will receive remediation training in areas such as teaching effectiveness, research issues and service expectations.

 

"We need to encourage and reward performance," said regent Alex Cranberg.

After a tenured faculty member receives two Unsatisfactory annual reviews, a comprehensive review may be conducted at any time. Faculty members who do not show improvement may, upon further review, be terminated for lack of competence, neglect of duty or “other good cause,” according to the regulations.

George Sylvie, a journalism professor at the University of Texas, said that as far as professors being evaluated, not much is changing.

“It doesn’t change what the administration was always capable of doing. To me, it sounds as if the regents are saying, ‘Let’s put some teeth and infrastructure to this process, ’" he said.

"I think most professors will feel no impact because most professors do their jobs, contrary to public opinion and political rhetoric. That is unlikely to change for the most part.” 

The board also approved a motion requiring criminal background checks for volunteers working in university health care facilities, day care centers and youth camps, and also for temporary, unpaid faculty members who instruct UT students.

These requirements follow 2010 rules requiring current university employees to self-report criminal offenses (excluding misdemeanors) and requiring UT institutions to conduct criminal background checks on all current employees. Since 2010, the rules have resulted in the termination of four employees.

“Our campuses must be safe environments for our students, faculty, and staff,” Cigarroa said.

 

If the university discovers an employee conviction that it was previously unaware of, the institution considers the length of time since the crime has passed, the nature and severity of the crime, and the individual’s employment history at the university before deciding whether to issue a termination.

In other board action, $10 million from the Permanent University Fund was allocated to match large, private donations to the Texas Research Initiative Program, which funds research activities at the four UT campuses competing to be the state’s next top-tier research university — in Arlington, Dallas, El Paso and San Antonio.

Regents also heard from Randa Safady, the UT System’s vice chancellor for external relations, on the need to retool the system’s fundraising program.

Safady said that despite uncertain economic times, the system saw a 21 percent increase in donations in 2011. She emphasized the need to reach out to younger alumni for donations and to adapt older fundraising methods to appeal to those alums. 

“Giving online and use of social media are growing with young alums, but not at the rate predicted,” Safady said. “This is going to be a big year for us in implementing new models and studying best practices. ... Philanthropy must become a more predictable and sustainable revenue stream.”

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