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Ad Hoc Committee on the Professoriate presents Interim Report to Faculty Senate
STANFORD -- Rules prohibiting promotion within the research line of the professoriate and renewal of appointments as research assistant professor and associate research professor after six years should be abolished, according to preliminary recommendations presented to the Faculty Senate on June 15 by an ad hoc Committee on the Professoriate.
Relaxing the restrictive policy on research professor positions could provide flexibility on appointments and partially offset the declining number of tenured faculty in the clinical departments of the School of Medicine, said Walter Falcon, chair of the provost- appointed committee, in an interim report.
Falcon, director of the Institute for International Studies and professor in the Food Research Institute, has been meeting with five other faculty on the committee since December to review various proposals relating to promotion in the research line, principal investigator guidelines and tenure. He said he hopes to bring recommendations for changes to the Faculty Senate in October.
"As the Medical School downsizes, and there is talk of a reduction of more than 100 tenured professors there, it is terribly important to have some options that involve soft money [funding from outside grants or contracts] on the research side," Falcon said.
Allowing promotion within the research ranks and making the positions renewable indefinitely also could help attract and sustain top-notch researchers, many of whom may turn down appointments otherwise, if they see taking a job at Stanford as a dead end in terms of career advancement.
"There isn't a single person that we talked to who thought the present system was working well," Falcon said. The restrictive policy now in place was developed on the rationale that faculty careers at Stanford should emphasize research and teaching. Of the small percentage of non-tenure line faculty who comprise the research ranks, Falcon emphasized that almost all are engaged in some aspect of teaching at the graduate level.
He also pointed out that in 1994-95, the research professoriate composed only 4 percent of the 1,450-member Academic Council -- this despite the absence of limits on the number of research appointments that can be made.
John Brauman, chemistry, said, "The research line isn't working because it's not supposed to work." The current policy was crafted in 1991 by an earlier committee led by biologist Philip Hanawalt. The policy was written in part to prevent people from coming to Stanford and assuming permanent positions without going through the channels that are appropriate for the professoriate, he said.
"I have serious concerns about recreating the research line," Brauman said, noting that he was particularly worried that pressure to create such a line was being exerted from a small part of the university.
Patricia Jones, biological sciences, recalled that one of the underlying sentiments expressed during discussions of the Hanawalt report had to do with the need to reserve institutional resources of space and salaries for individuals who practice the dual roles of teaching and conducting top-quality research. Although there may be particular disciplines and departments, such as the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, where there is a programmatic need for people who are pure researchers, Jones felt that the situation was less clear cut in the Medical School.
"What we're seeing is that we're developing the medical center [research line] while reducing the number of tenure-track faculty," Jones said. Such a move might be helpful to optimize research income, but Jones said careful review of such changes should occur before any decisions are made.
Responding to these concerns, Provost Condoleezza Rice told senate members that they were going to have to think creatively with the Medical School about the structure of the professoriate there because the present circumstances at the school are radically different from what they were even five years ago.
Falcon, in a June 19 interview, suggested that the provost, in consultation with each school dean, could keep the numbers small by setting a limit for research professors within each school. Such a move would balance the university's focus on teaching and research with the committee's recommendations to revise the policy in order to make it more attractive to high-quality researchers, he said.
In the area of family leave policies, the committee considered whether the university should allow unlimited extensions of the "tenure clock" for maternity leave. There is now a limit of two one-year extensions for maternity leave on the seven-year probationary period during which most faculty members are evaluated for tenure. The tenure clock also stops ticking for leaves without pay and in some cases administrative appointments.
Falcon said the committee will recommend that the two-child limit be eliminated because it was felt to be arbitrary and intrusive. To accommodate for special circumstances such as maternity leave, however, the committee will suggest that the seven-year probationary period be retained but that a cap of 10 years be set on the total length of appointment in a tenure-accruing rank. An automatic one-year tenure extension for women who give birth would continue to be awarded, regardless of whether the woman actually took a full year of leave, he said, so long as it was within the 10-year cap.
The committee also reviewed broadening the maternity leave policy to apply to fathers and to include leaves for adoption as well as birth. "We debated back and forth on that," said Falcon, who added that the committee will not be recommending additional time on the tenure clock for fatherhood or the adoption process. "We argued strongly that we wanted to distinguish pregnancy and birth from the child care issue."
Under the proposed policy, Falcon said fathers and parents of adopted children would continue to be able to take leaves of absence without pay -- a process that stops the tenure clock. The only difference would be that such leaves of absence must fall within the 10-year rule, which would apply to faculty across the board.
Falcon's committee took a conservative position when it came to considering the policy of tenure clock extensions for emergencies such as divorce or caring for an ill spouse, domestic partner, parent or child.
"When you start to list what the crises are that might effect people, it's hard to know where to draw the line," Falcon said. Rather than conferring an automatic extension to the tenure clock for emergencies, the group will recommend that the deans and provost review extreme cases where special need has been demonstrated and make occasional exceptions.
Another subject the committee reviewed was the eligibility policy for principal investigators, which was approved by the Senate in 1991. The policy states that only members of the Academic Council may serve as principal investigators on externally funded projects, with some rare exceptions. This rule is based on the principle that principal investigators are responsible for determining the intellectual direction of the research and scholarship at the institution.
Continued adherence to the strict interpretation of principal investigator eligibility vis-à-vis membership in the Academic Council will be one of the recommendations the committee will be making on this matter in the fall, Falcon said.
The group also will set forth a more precise definition of what qualifies as a "rare" exception; recommend that interdisciplinary projects be eliminated from the exceptions category; and suggest a revision in the eligibility of the Medical Center professoriate to permit them to serve as principal investigators for externally sponsored clinical research or training projects as opposed to projects that are laboratory based.
Serving with Falcon on the committee are Brad Efron, statistics and health research and policy; Phyllis Gardner, molecular pharmacology; Peter Gregory, associate dean, medicine; Perry McCarty, civil engineering; and Saul Rosenberg, medicine. Vice Provost Robert Weisberg has served ex officio, and Associate Provost Kathy Gillam is staffing the committee.
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