Reader Poll: Let's talk tenure

Jul 17 2013 Published by under [Education&Careers]

We discussed the university-wide declining funding rates (at least here) last week and I'm curious whether we have yet seen what people have been saying will happen for so long: Administration recognizing that the funding expectations for tenure from 5-10 years ago are unrealistic now. Has anyone seen evidence that this is happening at their institution?

27 responses so far

  • MediumPriority4Life says:

    No evidence yet. Case studies coming in the next year.

  • Namnezia says:

    In my experience, maybe a few years ago when funding started to get bad, I saw a few cases where folks got tenure without R01 s or other major funding. More recently, I've seen the oposite, folks being denied tenure despite having good funding and publications. Not just in my institution but in others I get the impression that if anything, tenure criteria re getting more stringent.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    I get the impression that if anything, tenure criteria re getting more stringent.

    Thanks dude.

    *continues toiling at tenure packet research statement.*

  • Zen Faulkes says:

    No. The opposite is occurring, if anything. And I expect this will get worse, given that we will soon be merging into a new South Texas university, which has the goal of becoming a national level research institution.

  • Physician Scientist says:

    No, having just gone through the process, tenure is getting tougher.

  • On the other hand, Administration seems to be great at recognizing supply and demand.

  • Joshua King says:

    Yes. But only sort of. Next two years will provide lots of data on this subject.

  • eeke says:

    The department where I formerly held a tt position dismissed all of their junior faculty (all non-tenure decisions), so they no longer worry about tenure criteria. Problem solved.

  • phagenista says:

    Lots of words of support at the departmental level, but tenure seems to be getting more stringent at my institution too

  • Dave says:

    There does seem to be a doubling-down on funding. The harder it gets, the more they demand it. It is definitely getting tougher at my place but, to be honest, tenure is rarely offered here anyway.

  • Elsa says:

    No. We have monthly workshops for new faculty sponsored by the dean's office and were recently told that "NIH funding rates are at 10-15% but we expect all of our faculty to be in the top 10-15%." Large state school R1.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Well, I'm glad everyone's administration is reacting to the current reality, just like they told us they would!

  • Jen says:

    Makes me thankful to be at a SLAC, where applying for grants is enough to meet the funding portion of the "scholarship" criteria (although there are rumblings that will change given the success that several STEM faculty have had in securing large NSF grants that aren't RUIs).

  • gerty-z says:

    i have also heard the "we expect to hire the best, so funding shouldn't be a problem" line from admin.

  • Michelle B says:

    Mixed messages here at state-funded research extensive univ. Last year tenure denied to modestly NSF funded person and granted to one with no funding (yet). Different colleges. Seems here college level decisions are key.

  • onkelbob says:

    Weirdness abounds in the frau's Ivy League school and Department. The frau was granted tenure under the "old" rules, which required 2 R01's (check) an exceptional publication record (Couple DevCell papers, numerous Development ones), and some "service" to the school. Now the rules have apparently been tightened! We are not happy with the program and are looking around to leave. The Department chair effectively told her not to bother coming with an offer and expect the school to match the offer or change her duties as the new dean cares jack squat about the department.
    So to answer the question: yes, tenure rules have changed, and changed for the worse or the more restrictive. Basic sciences are uninteresting to the school, and if they could jettison the whole graduate school (and keep the medical one) I think they would.

  • mikka says:

    I would expect that the logical reaction to the progressive loss of indirects would be to make employment less secure, not more. Scaling back while the going is rough makes sense. They can always count on the big postdoc holding tank for fresh meat.

    In the medium term I wouldn't be surprised if they do away with the whole concept of tenure. State republicans would love it, they would have a field day pointing at tenured professors and setting the middle class on them: "Look, those people have lifetime employment, and you are working three precarious jobs just to get by!". It's working out great against the unions.

  • Zuska says:

    mikka's medium range scenario is what I'm betting on.

  • Dave says:

    I would expect that the logical reaction to the progressive loss of indirects would be to make employment less secure, not more

    The logical reaction is a complete reevaluation of how researchers are funded/paid. The F&A gravy train is over, so how are universities going to fund research long-term? This is what they need to be thinking about but, in my experience here, they just not prepared to face the reality.

    Another important question is this: why is a $30 billion NIH budget (I'm not even including NSF here) not enough to fund all the researchers that we have?

  • Dave says:

    In the medium term I wouldn't be surprised if they do away with the whole concept of tenure

    Yeh, because that hasn't happened already....................

  • geomom says:

    My partner and I just went through tenure at a R-1 state school. I don't think the requirements for funding/research have changed recently, but they have increased the expectations for teaching (# of students/year, # of courses) to make the state legislature less aggressive. In reality this means we had to do the same amount of research in less time, so I guess they effectively increased the research requirements as well.

  • Alex says:

    I'm at an undergrad-focused school, and Jen's comment raises a big issue: It seems like every undergrad-focused school out there has convinced themselves that their budget problems can be solved with research grants. Of course, they came to this conclusion just as grants became so friggin' hard to get.

    It doesn't help matters that every place has one star who DOES get funded, so the school convinces itself that everybody can get funded in this climate (with a track record of productivity proportional to the resources and teaching load of a PUI, no less), so that's what they'll aim for.


  • proflikesubstance says:

    Indeed, I've seen more proposal activity at the PUIs I work with recently, no doubt driven by internal pressure as much as anything else. All those new applications the agencies are getting aren't writing themselves.

  • Alex says:

    It's one thing for PUIs to tell faculty to write more proposals. Every now and then one will get funded and this will enable people to do things that are worth doing.

    It's quite another thing for PUI deans to talk about how grant activity is important for the budget. Um, no. Not at these funding rates.

  • Eli Rabett says:

    F&A is about the only place that they can grab set up costs from.

  • anon says:

    I suspect that one reason for increased grant proposals from RUIs is also that the faculty at good small lib arts college continues to improve in quality. Out of the last 4 people we recently hired, three had good post-doc experience, and one left a successful R1 career to leave the public R1 funding pressure behind.

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