TOWARDS A RETHINKING OF THE TENURESHIP POLICY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES
Roland G. Simbulan
Professor and Faculty Regent,
University of the Philippines System
During my campus visits and consultations with faculty constituents in the UP System’s seven constituent universities (UP Diliman, UP Manila, UP Los Banos, UP Visayas, UP Baguio, UP Mindanao, and UP Open University) and in our regional extension programs (UP Clark in Pampanga and UP Subic), I have been repeatedly confronted with the issue of the UP System’s tenureship policy. I have been approached by both rank-and-file faculty as well as administrators, including Vice Chancellors for Academic Affairs, deans and department chairs who lament the loss of their faculty because of this policy. In particular, this is about the refereed publication requirement in our tenureship policy. In the implementation of our tenureship policy today at UP, controversies regarding the “publish-or-perish-policy” for untenured faculty in whom the University has invested just refuse to perish. There is widespread demoralization in the University’s faculty ranks because of the effect of the University’s “publish-or-perish” rules in its tenureship policy. The policy is quite often seen as “cruel” by many junior faculty members who are devoted to teaching and are recognized as excellent teachers by their students.
Should there be Tenure?
Yes, there should be tenure, for the idea of a tenured professor was originally advanced to protect the faculty’s academic freedom. The problem in the “Up-or-Out Rule” is not with the tenureship rule per se that requires instructors to obtain an M.A. in 5 years so that they can be “upped” to assistant professor, or they are not reappointed (“out”). The problem for many junior untenured faculty is with the “Tenure-or-Out” rule which requires the publication of a scientific paper in a peer-reviewed journal in order to gain tenure within five years as instructor, within 3 years as assistant professor, within 2 years as associate professor and within a year as a full professor. Failure to do so within the specified periods will mean no reappointment or reclassification as a part-time lecturer no matter how outstanding one is as a teacher or that one is taking up a PhD or has one already.
Losing Outstanding and Experienced Faculty Members
I contend that this rule is really an administrative nightmare in the few years that we have been implementing the tenureship policy, especially if there are no substitutes of equivalent or similar experience. In most instances, administrators are forced to appoint a new graduate and start at zero in faculty development.
My office, the Office of the Faculty Regent, has documented so many cases from our various units where we are losing or removing good teachers with advanced degrees because of the very strict requirement of a peer-reviewed publication in our tenureship system. But the harsh paradox of the present tenureship system is that we are losing some of our finest teachers, and often replacing them with young, inexperienced teachers because of the difficulty of hiring on a lateral basis.
Loss of Investments in Faculty Development
We invest hundreds of thousands if not millions of pesos to send our faculty to study locally or abroad for the MAs and Ph.Ds, only to terminate them as a result of the implementation of our tenureship policy, for lack of a refereed article in an academic publication. Sometimes, we even have to shorten their return service to the University because of this, after they come back from their study leave with pay. Let me reiterate that the University invests immensely in the education of our junior faculty whom we also overload with subjects. By the time they become experienced teachers with good evaluations, we throw them out because they lack the publication requirement. Meanwhile, it is the private universities like Ateneo, De La Salle, and the University of Asia and the Pacific(UAP), etc. that reap this harvest of our outstanding teachers whom we did not renew. Our loss is often definitely their gain, of our experienced faculty with advanced degrees whom we did not renew because of our publications requirement for tenure. This is for sure hurting the University in more ways than one.
For Excellence: UP as a teaching and research university
I contend that the implementation of a rigorous tenureship policy is the number one concern of the UP System faculty today. The present tenure system implies temporariness and the possibility of being replaced, it is assumed quite often wrongly, when a better qualified person comes along. But oftentimes, the replacement or substitute is less qualified in terms of academic qualifications and teaching experience. I cannot understand why we must impose a time limit to non-tenureship as long as the faculty member is a good teacher, though still lacking a refereed publication. To get a less qualified and less experienced teacher as a replacement is to go against the very grain of academic excellence, but administrators often are left with no choice because they say that “this is the policy of the University.” The situation undergoes a vicious circle because the new entrant would also be faced with the same dilemma.
There is a hemorrhage of good faculty members due to the implementation of the tenureship policy, a situation inimical to the University’s quest for academic excellence.
Proposed Alternative Tenureship Tracks
Good teachers must be reviewed until such time that they are ready to apply as tenured faculty members and they are ready with the publication requirements. But let us also add other privileges and benefits to being a tenured faculty so that it becomes a valid goal that every faculty member will really aspire for.
In the case of our high schools (UPIS and the Rural High Schools in UPLB and UP Visayas), and units such as Human Kinetics or P.E. Departments, we can assign alternative performance indicators in place of the refereed publication. UPLB Rural High School faculty members, through their principal, have submitted an alternative proposal specific to their situation as high school teachers which, I understand, is being reviewed for the entire system by a university ad hoc committee.
The Present Conditions of Non-Tenured Faculty
Most non-tenured faculty are overworked, have overloaded teaching units, are enrolled for 2nd degrees, yet receive salaries a lot less than some of their students who are working in call centers.
It was in the process of implementing the publication requirement in our tenure rule that many have realized that we need to solve the following obstacles that make it difficult for our junior faculty to cope with our stringent publication requirements for tenureship:
1. The enigma of a limited number of refereed journals in certain academic fields or disciplines, despite an increase in research activities; and
2. the lack of proper enabling conditions in the academe that are fertile to scholarly writing and the prevalence of overloaded teaching assignments and committee work that we assign to non-tenured faculty.
Other questions raised are in connection with the standards we set for the criteria of peer-reviewed publications like:
1. Who determines what are peer-reviewed journals or publications? Should we not come out with a complete list of acceptable peer-reviewed journals so faculty members can determine where to publish?
2. Does the university not accept peer-reviewed online journals for tenureship requirements?
3. Are contributions in human rights or environmental advocacy or applied social sciences, for instance, in popular (but not peer-reviewed) publications not acceptable to meet the tenureship requirements as new indicators that can be incorporated?
We all envision a University that recognizes and gives tenure to great scholars, but can it not give the same recognition to its great teachers too? I have met some of our best junior teachers at UP who display an extraordinary devotion to their students and cultivate very creative lecture styles. It is sad to see these excellent teachers who commit extensive time to their students, depart untenured because they have expended their energies to teaching instead of research and writing. A new crop of junior faculty arrives and the whole process begins again. Students end up paying the penalty with a professor with an outstanding publication record but only mediocre teaching ability and who barely has time for them.
While I strongly support the goal of strengthening UP’s reputation as a “research university”, we should be keen on situations that may either be not applicable or result in self-inflicted human resource losses to the University. The implementation of this tenureship policy has now become inimical and stifling the growth of some of our units.
I urge the University administration to reflect and re-examine the current tenureship policy being vigorously implemented in the University in the light of its quest for excellence as well as the current limitations and constraints in its academic resources. And perhaps we can review the University’s tenureship policies without sacrificing our goal of excellence.
I hope that the “publish-or-perish” policy of the University can be re-examined in the light of these experiences and situation.
The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip in Oct 20th 2006
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