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The traditional system of evaluating faculty candidates for tenure is outdated and subject to numerous biases, according to an essay by KerryAnn O’Meara. The essay suggests that the tenure evaluation system be expanded to include more diverse groups of reviewers and new kinds of scholarly contributions.

O’Meara is associate professor of higher education at the University of Maryland at College Park, and has spent 15 years studying academic reward systems. Her suggestions are based on studying findings and reports by several other researchers and organizations. The essay was published in the January 13, 2014 edition of Inside Higher Ed.

The essay argues that tenure evaluation systems set up in the mid-20th century are out of date, and that relying on traditional criteria creates a bias against some members of today’s more diverse college faculties.

“Academic reward systems should ensure that faculty making excellent contributions to scholarship, teaching, and service should be retained and advanced,” O’Meara writes. “Yet what excellence looks like in 2013 may differ from what it looked like in 1960 and 50 years from now.”

O’Meara presents three primary critiques of the traditional system: that it is biased in favor of white men; that it fails to recognize the legitimacy of newer forms of scholarship; and that choosing external evaluators from only prestigious institutions contributes to a cycle of bias against diverse candidates and new scholarship.

The essay goes on to offer numerous ways to remedy these issues. O’Meara suggests that promotion and tenure committee members be trained on the hidden biases in the traditional system. She argues that the criteria for scholarly contributions should be widened to include things such as digital media, community engagement and activism, and that institutions choose from a more diverse range of outside evaluators when making tenure decisions.

The full essay is available here:

Content originally published on Learn more about Interfolio’s acquisition of Data180 here.