Campus News

Council seeks change in ‘tenure clock’

The University Council is seeking a change in the way the probationary period can be extended for faculty members seeking to attain tenure.

The council passed a resolution at its March 24 meeting asking President Michael F. Adams to request the regents to modify their policy on conditions under which the “tenure clock” can be stopped for tenure-track faculty.

Currently, non-tenured faculty members must complete a probationary period of at least five years of full-time service at the rank of assistant professor or higher to be eligible for tenure. The probationary period must be continuous except for certain circumstances that permit it to be extended for up to two years-a practice known as “stopping the tenure clock.”

Regents’ policy requires that to stop the clock a faculty member must take a leave of absence, which must be approved by the president. UGA policy also requires that a leave of absence to extend the probationary period be approved by the provost.

Under regents and UGA policies, the leave of absence must be for a “personal exigency” that qualifies under the federal Family Medical Leave Act. Examples of such personal exigencies are extended illness, disability, ­childbirth, death of an immediate family member, or serious health problems for a child or other immediate family member.

The regents require that to stop the tenure clock a faculty member must actually take a leave of absence. The council is requesting that this rule be modified to allow a faculty member to request to stop the tenure clock for a qualifying personal exigency event that results in lost work time.

Irwin Bernstein, chair of the Faculty Benefits Committee, noted that while the tenure clock generally is extended for one year, under the proposal it could be extended for not more than two years regardless of the number of qualifying events. Bernstein explained that not requiring an actual leave of absence will benefit faculty on an academic-year contract who experience a personal exigency but are able to continue teaching and other obligations without taking a leave. However, fulfilling those responsibilities may not allow those faculty members necessary “free time” for research, writing and other creative tasks essential to promotion and tenure during the time of emergency.

Documents provided by the council’s Faculty Benefits Committee, which proposed the change, show that many of UGA’s peer institutions have such a policy. The change would make UGA more competitive in attracting and retaining top faculty members, and will reduce confusion and possible inequities in the way the tenure-clock policy is now applied to faculty on nine-month contracts, according to the committee.

Adams said he agrees with the proposed change and will forward it to the regents.

The council also passed a recommendation from the Faculty Benefits Committee to allow faculty on nine-month contracts to receive their salary on a 10-month or 12-month basis. The change will be implemented for the academic year that begins July 1, 2006.

The council approved on first reading a change to the UGA Statutes concerning appointment of a faculty member to the board of trustees of the University of Georgia Foundation. The change specifies that the council will designate a list of possible faculty candidates and that the foundation will select at least one of those candidates to serve on the board. The change will come up for a required second reading at the council’s April 21 meeting.

Council members also learned that the council’s Faculty Affairs Committee will look at how search committees for deans are formed and operate. The study is the result of a request from the Faculty Conference, a group of faculty with a strong interest in faculty governance matters. The request was assigned to the Faculty Affairs Committee, which will make a report at a later date.