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Survey taps KU among top work places for junior faculty

KU is an "exemplary" work place for junior faculty, according to a survey conducted by the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education at Harvard University.

The collaborative surveyed junior faculty at universities and colleges regarding their happiness with key dimensions of faculty work life. KU, along with Harvard, scored "exemplary" in two of the categories.

"While all (collaborative) participants are committed to a more fulfilling and productive work life for new faculty, the exemplars deserve special mention because they are already succeeding," said Richard Chait, professor of higher education and co-director of the collaborative at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. "If they can sustain an earned reputation as a great place for junior faculty to work, they will enjoy a competitive edge in recruiting and retaining the next generation of faculty."

KU received exemplary ratings in effectiveness of key policies, such as mentoring, childcare and leaves. To qualify as an exemplar, institutions needed scores that were notably higher than similar institutions. KU also received an exemplary rating for tenure, clarity and fairness.

Rick Hale, associate professor of aerospace engineering and president of the University Senate, said he was pleased by the recognition of KU's tenure process and said it will soon be even better.

Hale served as a member of the Faculty Senate task force on promotion and tenure, a group that has been studying KU's promotion and tenure process for the past two years to recommend ways to improve it.

"We all concur the process wasn't broken, but we're trying to improve it," he said.

The task force conducted a thorough review of the tenure and promotion process and held several open forums to solicit feedback from faculty for ways to make it more efficient and fair to those involved. A proposal for an updated process will be presented to the Faculty Senate this semester, possibly by late March, and could be voted on by mid-April. If approved, the standards would be in effect for the 2007-08 academic year.

Under the task force proposals, there will be formal university standards in the faculty senate rules and regulations, and units will develop written criteria for the implementation of those standards within their discipline, which would be approved by a faculty committee. Currently, the university standards are found in several sources and the relationship between those standards and unit level standards is not always clear.

The proposal also calls for increasing the timeliness of the process so candidates can appeal decisions in the same academic year they are made. Hale said one of the most important objectives of the proposal is improving the transparency of the tenure and promotion process, so candidates will know at all times what the status of their candidacy is.

"We think we can always do better," Hale said.

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