Transforming the Tenure and Promotion Process

Author Information
Author(s): 
Melody Thompson, Penn State University
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
Auburn University
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

Auburn University has fundamentally changed its reward structure to recognize faculty outreach contributions.

Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 

Implements reward structure to recognize faculty contributions.

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

The new approaches and the policies to support them were unanimously approved by the Board of Trustees in Summer 2002, indicating a high level of initial success for this academic cultural change initiative. Following the approval, the policy was dissemminated to academic units for immediate implementation. The impact of the new policies on faculty involvement in outreach activities, including online teaching, and on tenure and promotion decisions will be monitored over time.

How does this practice relate to pillars?: 

Since promotion and tenure (P&T) are critical issues for faculty members, they are reluctant to participate in activities that do not contribute positively to P&T decisions. An institutional reward system that recognizes the value of online teaching contributes to faculty satisfaction by allowing faculty members to make decisions about how to spend their time and resources.

Over the last ten years Auburn University has worked to fundamentally change the culture of the University to ensure that Outreach activities, including teaching online, are appropriately valued in the University reward structure. Changes to the administrative structure of the University to better position the outreach function, formation of an Outreach Council, forums with University leadership and stakeholders throughout the state, development of a strategic plan for outreach, provision of Outreach Presidential symposia with several university presidents, and development of an assessment model have all worked toward the goal of changing the University culture to understand, value, and encourage participation in the outreach function.

A key strategy in the process was the involvement (e.g., as chairs of the strategic planning and assessment committees) of distinguished academic faculty of the university. The eventual result of this strategy has been high levels of buy in from the "academic side" of the university for activities that were once believed to be outside of their purview. The support and encouragement of senior academic faculty members is a crucial element in participation by all levels of faculty.

Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice: 

The costs associated with the process described here primarily involved the reallocation of resources based on a conscious shift in priorities, rather than depending on new resources. This shift in priorities and resources was intended as a clear signal of the University's major commitment to Outreach activities and its expectations of faculty involvement.

References, supporting documents: 

A complete paper on this topic is available from Dr. David Wilson, Vice President for University Outreach & Associate Provost, davidw@auburn.edu

The text of the policies discussed are in Chapter 3 of the AU faculty Handbook, available at http://www.auburn.edu/academic/provost/handbook.html

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Dr. David Wilson