Our new white paper Equity and Legal Risk in Tenure Reviews, released this week, examines a variety of tenure denial cases across the U.S. The paper identifies four characteristic “areas of deficiency” around institutions’ tenure practices in situations when candidates have brought legal action over a denial: clarity, consistency, communication, and the organization of documentation.
From time to time, we put out papers like this to give a little more depth and context to why Interfolio addresses faculty work experiences and policies in the ways that we do.
In this case, the paper opens by acknowledging that there is currently no agreed-upon database storing information on tenure denials nationwide. It’s a dimension of faculty jobs* that is clearly present to some degree every year, but perhaps deserves a more formalized place in contemporary research on the academic workforce. (If you know about other good resources on this, feel free to let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.) And yet the question of who is granted or denied tenure, and who made the decision, and how the committee “shows their work,” is highly material to more juggernaut topics in higher education today—like long-term faculty diversity, academic freedom, and the appropriate role of presidents and governing boards.
We also want to make the case that Interfolio’s place in this sensitive world of tenure decisions, as a provider of software and services, is structural and functional, not cosmetic. The goal of leveraging new technologies to support faculty shared governance is to assist institutions in actually making these reviews more equitable, consistent, and well documented—not just give them the appearance of compliance while preserving patterns of subjectivity and bias.
*Well, the 25-30% of faculty jobs that are on the tenure track.