The term line loss is accelerating. According to a new institutional survey of expiration policies by the American Association of University Professors, the expiration of expiration is similar.
The latest such survey of college and university term practice, in the U.S. Department of Education’s National Study of Post-Secondary Faculty, in 2004. At the time, 17 percent of organizations said they would replace the term line with a contingent appointment in the previous five years.
Today, that number is 54 percent, according to the AAUP survey, which paints a picture of what has happened since 2004, when the federal government stopped funding the national survey. The AAUP report noted that there are some problems with this comparison, such as how many organizations added term lines in the same period is unknown. Nonetheless, the group expressed concern about the threefold growth of organizations that cut term lines and replaced them with non-valid appointments, and shifted from long-term faculty recruitment to contingent academic work in multiple other studies. (Based on federal data from 2019, cited by AAUP, about 10 percent of faculty appointments are term track, 27 percent term, 20 percent full-time contingent and 43 percent part-time contingent.)
Most organizations now report on the Post Tenure Review Policy – 58 percent compared to 46 percent in 2000 (not a 2000 statistic from a federal survey but a study of the scholarly handbooks by Professor Kathy Travar).
Only 27 percent of organizations currently have a post-tenu review process that could lead to termination of tenure. While the AAUP does not see the post-tenu review as necessary or even beneficial for term organizations, it and other term advocates are much more concerned about potential disciplinary action than developmental processes as a whole. The AAUP described the post-tenu review process adopted last year by the Board of Regents of the Georgia University System as particularly serious, as it makes it possible for institutions to dismiss professors without faculty input.
AAUP says its survey is representative of 1,200 doctoral, postgraduate or undergraduate degree-granting institutions. The group sent its questionnaire to a sample of 515 chief academic officers and gave a 53 percent response rate.
In addition to the top-line results of the term, the AAUP survey sheds light on how diversity, equity and inclusion now factor into term processes, as these issues were not part of previous national studies. When asked if their organizations include explicit DEI criteria in the term criteria, 22 percent of respondents said yes.
Depending on the type of institution, about 30 percent of doctoral universities say they have DEI criteria in their tenure criteria, compared to masters and 18 percent undergraduate institutions. By size, 46 percent of large organizations reported having this measure compared to 16 percent and 15 percent of medium-sized and small organizations, respectively.
In some cases, such criteria have been found to be controversial, with groups such as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education arguing that evaluating professors on their contributions to DEI hinders their academic independence. But Joerg Tiede, AAUP’s director of research and author of the survey report, said the association did not agree with the claim that the DEI standard was “similar to a political litmus test or an oath of allegiance.”
Excluding anecdotes and arguments, Tide added, prior to the survey, “what was not really known was how widespread the practice was.”
About 39 percent of organizations also said they would review their standards for underlying bias, with large organizations more likely to do so than others. In some cases, these reviews have led to changes, such as the elimination of student course assessment (which often reflects student bias) from the expiration process, or the widening of the standard of expiration to make services more inconvenient for color faculty members.
Forty percent of organizations have provided training on the underlying bias of promotion and tenure committee members over the past five years, with large organizations more likely to do so. In this regard, some respondents said they were concerned about external influences – such as new state laws against so-called divisive ideas in education – limiting their progress.
Still, 50 percent of organizations are considering adding them in the future as there are no DEI criteria for the term. Some 55 percent of organizations that have not recently reviewed the value of their term for bias are considering it.
According to the widely followed AAUP recommendations and tenure standards, term review should not be within a professor’s probationary period of six years. The new survey found that 97 percent of organizations have a certain length of probationary period. This is a slight increase from 2004, when the figure was 91 percent. The average length remains about six years.
Although the AAUP strongly supports a clear term timeline, in 2001 the association recommended that organizations close the term clock for up to one year each time a candidate has a child. A new study found that this type of family care policy is now much more common (even the norm) than it was in Traver’s 2000 study: 82 percent vs. 17 percent. And of the organizations that offer term-stop stops today, 93 percent offer them to parents, regardless of gender.
Fifty-one percent of organizations explicitly allow elderly care period clocks off. But many respondents said such leave could be discussed for a variety of reasons. Nearly three-quarters of all doctoral institutes offer term-hour stops, compared to smaller and bachelor institutes.
Outside of the statistics, the AAUP report noted “the long-term, discriminatory and gender impact of such policies on primary caregivers,” given that women are more likely to turn off the clock and therefore delay promotions and growth opportunities for the rest of their careers. . “Of course, alternative measures need to be taken to avoid these consequences,” the AAUP report added. (This critique of time-clock stops has been leveled against epidemic-related breaks for the same reason.)
The AAUP has long opposed term quotas, or caps on the share of eligible or term faculty members, which some organizations say they need to maintain financial flexibility. The federally funded survey last asked about term quotas in 1988, when 18 percent of organizations had some kind of quota, formal or informal. At present that number is 9 percent. They were most likely to stay in small organizations.
AAUP initially opposed the term quota, arguing that organizations could increase the value of the term over time if they needed to. Institutions later backed away from that guideline for fear of being unfair to qualified scholars. The survey, conducted on a federally funded basis, regularly asked about the tightness of term standards, finding in 2004 that 13 percent of organizations had “tightened” their standards over the past five years. AAUP found that the current answer to this question varies by institutional size and type: 9 percent of small enterprises, 16 percent of medium-sized enterprises, and 39 percent of large enterprises reported that they would improve term quality.
Of these, 79 percent said they have increased the quality of research, 41 percent said they have increased the quality of education and 24 percent said they have increased services.
“Although tenure is under constant attack, by both institutional practice and the law, it continues to serve as a frontier in the defense of academic freedom,” the AAUP report concludes. In this light, “it is essential to study the exercises related to the period regularly and on a regular basis.”