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Under a new policy adopted Friday by the state board of regents, it will be a little harder to hang on to tenure at Utah colleges and universities.
Regents voted to strengthen the post-tenure reviews of professors, mandating periodic evaluations that ensure faculty continue to meet standards for teaching and research once they achieve tenure's protections.
The move was intended to mollify legislative critics who say the tenure system has outlived its usefulness and removes incentives for professors to excel in the classroom and lab. Last session, a bill to scrap tenure was dropped in committee, but the issue is certain to be resurrected next year.
"We hope that post-tenure review will be rigorous enough that the Legislature will be less tempted to tinker with the tenure system," regents chairman David Jordan told his colleagues in a meeting at Utah Valley University. "Today's changes clarify guidelines that promote thorough and regular practices in order to properly evaluate faculty performance."
Colleges award tenure to professors after a six-year review process that measures their research productivity, ability to land grants, teaching skill and administrative service. Many junior faculty don't make it because they move to another school or fail to measure up. Once achieved, tenure protects professors from being fired without cause.
"This policy makes it clear that after it is granted, each school must have a post-tenure review process where faculty are evaluated by their peers, students and administrators every three to four years, as specified in institutional policies," said Commissioner of Higher Education William Sederburg.
The regents' revised post-tenure policy also makes it easier for universities to terminate professors for cause, which includes incompetence in the classroom, and when programs are terminated or institutions face "financial exigency."