Not So Fast
The faculty senate at the University of Michigan voted overwhelmingly on Monday to reject an administration proposal that would allow the university to extend the pre-tenure probationary period to 10 years.
"I don’t know whether we will prevail, but we certainly spoke with virtually one voice," said Edward Rothman, professor of statistics and chair of the faculty group, which is known formally as the Senate Assembly. Rothman characterized the level of unanimity as surprising during an interview after the faculty senate met Monday afternoon with Philip J. Hanlon, the provost and architect of the proposal (the new policy was not discussed during their session). Hanlon left before the senate cast its votes, which are not binding, but advisory.
The faculty senate voted twice, 54-1, with one abstention, on two measures related to the proposal, which would alter university bylaw 5.09 and allow the university to extend the probationary period before tenure from 8 years to 10 years. The first faculty vote was an explicit rebuke of the proposal. The second was in favor of limiting the vote on this issue to faculty members who are tenured or on the tenure track.
If Michigan extends the pre-tenure period, which is still possible, it would go against national norms for tenure outlined by the American Association of University Professors. Such a move by Michigan could transform a reasonably coherent tenure system nationwide into "a free-for-all," said Cary Nelson, president of the AAUP, because other administrations would likely follow suit. "For most traditional disciplines the six-year probationary period works well," Nelson said in an e-mail. "Exceptions can continue to be made for illness and family responsibilities in individual cases. In any case, the faculty senate's will about university policy should carry the day."