Being offered tenure is a milestone in the academic career of most faculty members. Promotion is recommended only after a rigorous review of a faculty member's research, scholarly work, teaching and public service. But, in addition to the privileges afforded by tenure, it comes with responsibilities.
The recent Report of the Tenure Seminar, convened by Sylvia Manning, UI vice president for academic affairs, addressed several issues relating to the principles at the root of the tenure system that supports the fulfillment of the UI's mission. In order to emphasize these issues in the campus community, Larry R. Faulkner, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, and the Council of Deans have decided to expand the content of the traditional tenure notification letters, sent annually to faculty members being offered tenure.
The letter, which traditionally serves to congratulate the faculty member being offered tenure, also will invite faculty members to accept the privileges and responsibilities of tenure at the UI.
"The letter makes no change in any of the policies governing appointment as a tenured faculty member at our university," Faulkner said in a letter to deans, directors and department heads. "Rather, it articulates obligations that have always been incumbent upon all of us and makes their assumption explicit rather than implicit, as they have been in the past."
In addition, all faculty members being offered tenure will receive a copy of "The 1940 Statement on Academic Freedom and Tenure" drafted by the American Association of University Professors. "Since 1940 [this document] has been the foundation document in this country covering the freedoms and obligations of tenure," Faulkner said. The statement is not a static code but a fundamental document designed to set a framework of norms to guide adaptations to changing times and circumstances. Tenure candidates also will receive "Interpretive Comments" established in 1970 to further clarify the original document.
Three statements of academic freedom stressed in the 1940 document were highlighted in the report of the Tenure Seminar and are below. "Teacher" as used in the statement includes professors.
1) Teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject to the adequate performance of their other academic duties; but research for pecuniary return should be based upon an understanding with the authorities of the institution.
2) Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter, which has no relation to their subject. Limitations of academic freedom because of religious or other aims of the institution should be clearly stated in writing at the time of the appointment. (The intent of the statement is not to discourage what is controversial. Controversy is at the heart of the free academic inquiry which the entire statement is designed to foster. The passage serves to underscore the need for teachers to avoid persistently intruding material which has no relation to their subject.)
3) College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship of discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As scholars and education officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.
The "Statement on Professional Ethics," adopted in 1966 as association policy and revised in 1987, will be distributed to tenure candidates as well. It states that academic freedom provides extensive protection for inquiry and speech, so long as the correlative responsibilities of adherence to standards of professional conduct and performance, duty to the institution, and respect for the dignity of colleagues, students and other members of the university community are met.
Both the protection of academic freedom and the requirements of academic responsibility apply not only to tenured professors, but also to all others who exercise teaching responsibilities such as graduate teaching assistants and assistant professors.
"I believe tenure is critical to the health and quality of this
university," said Faulkner. "To defend and protect the system
of tenure, we must start speaking more clearly about its responsibilities
as well as its privileges. The revised tenure offer letter is one step toward
that end." t