Business professors debate tenure rules

The School of Business failed to pass a proposal for the third time last month that would fundamentally change the way professors receive tenure and promotions in the school – amid a growing debate over the requisite standards needed for advancement.

Professors seeking promotion or tenure in the business school currently apply through their department. If the proposed promotion and tenure committee is created, faculty members seeking tenure or promotions would apply to a board, which would then make a recommendation to the business school dean.

The business school and the School of Engineering and Applied Science are the only schools at GW without promotion and tenure committees. The most recent faculty-wide vote on the committee in October failed by two votes – the closest it has come to passing.

“It is my opinion that the current process is broken because people in the departments have not lived up to their responsibilities to adequately review these decisions,” said John Artz, an associate professor in the School of Business and a member of the Faculty Senate.

Artz noted, however, that the creation of a promotions and tenure committee might not be the way to solve the problem.

Business school professor and Faculty Senate representative Phillip Wirtz said the formation of the committee is not the correct way to raise the standards for faculty within the schools.

“It is absolutely essential that the determination of the faculty, of the individual departments, who know the field, who provide annual guidance to tenure-track candidates and with whom the ultimate decision to initiate the recommendation for tenure must necessarily rest,” Wirtz said.

School of Business Dean Susan Phillips said the lack of a promotion and tenure committee has not affected the number of faculty members applying for positions in the school.

“We have … added a record 12 new faculty members this fall,” Phillips said. The lack of a promotions and tenure committee “did not come up in the hiring process. Many schools have a promotion and tenure process similar to the one we currently have,” she said.

A promotion and tenure committee is required by the faculty code. Arthur Wilmarth, head of the Faculty Senate, said sometimes a school may overlook the faculty code on a few issues.

“Generally a school can be out of compliance on a few certain issues, one being the composition of faculty,” he said. “We’ve never had a school say they didn’t care to cooperate with our recommendations. The ultimate consequence is that we could issue a letter of no confidence in the leadership of the school, but that is very drastic.”

Other GW schools, such as SEAS and the School of Public Health and Health Services, are also out of compliance with the faculty code, but Wilmarth said the Faculty Senate does not plan to take any drastic steps to force these schools to follow standards.

Phillips said the dean’s committee within the School of Business is scheduled to take up the matter, but she did not specify details. Joseph Reum, the interim dean of SPHHS, said in September that he submitted a plan to the Faculty Senate on how he plans make the school compliant with the faculty code.

The most recent vote in the School of Business, held in October, was conducted by secret ballot, and thus professors do not know who publicly voted for or against the committee. The next vote has not yet been scheduled.

Eric Thibault and Danielle Meister contributed to this report.

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