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September 19, 2012 11:00 AM St. Louis University Gives Up in Faculty Review Idea

By Daniel Luzer

St. Louis University, a 8,000-student Jesuit university in Missouri recently proposed a plan that would put professors up for review every six years, even if they’re already earned tenure. The institution gave up on that unusual plan after intense, and rather understandable, faculty opposition.

According to an article by Tim Baker in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

St. Louis University on Monday said it is dropping a controversial proposal that would have changed the way the school handled tenured faculty.
The plan would have put all tenured positions through a review every six years, with those faculty members essentially having to reapply for tenure. The proposal was blasted by critics, who said it would have effectively destroyed the school’s tenure system.

They’re right. Under the proposal professors would have been up for review again every six year. This was apparently designed to ensure that professors were still writing and researching and not merely costing along.

According to an editorial in the student newspaper, St. Louis Today, however:

Since professors who fail are at risk of losing their supposedly permanent positions, and since the review itself resembles the process for attaining tenure in the first place, it would make tenure at SLU a meaningless concept.

If the university really has a widespread problem with professors not performing new research, it should perhaps consider revising its existing tenure process to do a better job finding and hiring hard working, energetic academics.

According to many critics, the proposed six year review would have a devastating effect on morale at the university. This, in turn, could actually adversely affect faculty productivity.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer