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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Consider post-tenure review

Published: May 19, 2012
Section: Editorials

Faculty seeking tenure at Brandeis face a high degree of scrutiny that bears little resemblance to the relaxed oversight that tenured professors enjoy.

That should change. In a Hoot survey, 45 percent of respondents answered that they had taken a course with a professor they considered “unqualified.”

The Hoot also reviewed spring 2011 course evaluations and found 21 undergraduate courses ranked lower than 3.0 out of 5.0.

The ratings are provided to students through the Student Union and are based on responses to course evaluations submitted at the end of the semester.

Students regularly review professors when submitting course evaluations. It must be noted, however, the people tend only to submit reviews when they have something to complain about. Additionally, many students rush through course evaluations in order to receive their grades earlier.

Department chairs play a limited role in overseeing department members, including through salary increase recommendations and course scheduling. Few additional formal procedures exist.

Brandeis administrators and faculty are generally content with the tenure process.

“When you start with the strength that we start with, the fact of the matter is the problems are extraordinarily rare,” Provost Steve Goldstein told The Hoot in a sit-down interview last month. “I feel like I’ve been given a gift with bows on top. This is an extraordinarily powerful faculty.”

But faculty could certainly be subject to peer reviews. They should also be held accountable for updating their curriculum. Courses often have variable requirements, and faculty should be able to answer why some courses can have four exams while others have just one paper.

Students should have a clearer sense of where to turn when they have complaints.

In a Hoot survey, students were generally unsure, answering on average that they were somewhat aware of how to lodge a formal complaint against an instructor.

Faculty should also be reviewed for their teaching styles. Professors should not be given latitude when it comes to disorganization or confusing teaching styles.

We do not accept Goldstein’s argument that the process of acquiring faculty necessarily means faculty continue through their entire careers to produce at the same level as during their tenure review process. We call for more reviews of professors throughout their Brandeis careers.