Tenured professors in the UNC System have nearly permanent job security. Now the UNC Board of Governors has adopted a plan to ensure that tenured professors are performing as they should, and to reward those who consistently exceed expectations. Jesse Saffron of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy writes about the change in this piece.

The UNC system’s Board of Governors in June amended its post-tenure review policy. The amendment was the result of a working group created in January at the behest of board member John Fennebresque, who now serves as chairman of the full board.

What makes this post-tenure review policy different is that it will bring the process outside the control of close-knit faculty groups by requiring a series of evaluations.

“Both the department chair/unit head and the dean must conduct an evaluative review in the cumulative review process,” says the policy.

Previously, tenure reviews were conducted predominantly by the professors’ peers. Debates frequently are aired in publications such as The Chronicle of Higher Education over whether these reviews are meaningful due to a perceived culture of mutual back scratching — faculty members who satisfied modest publication requirements seemed to receive tenure as a matter of routine. Requiring deans also to provide evaluations adds another layer of oversight to the process, one that the working group hopes will give tenure review more teeth.

Furthermore, university provosts must certify that reviews are in line with the new policy. UNC General Administration will be responsible for conducting systemwide audits to ensure compliance.

The working group has created three assessment categories: meets expectations, exceeds expectations, and does not meet expectations. Going forward, the Board of Governors and the universities in the system will look at providing extra compensation to professors who regularly exceed expectations. The designers of the plan see this provision as the starting point for encouraging and incentivizing better teaching and research performance.