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Stanford Report, May 6, 1998

Senate reviews long-range faculty plans: 5/98

Senate: Do full professors need help with career plans?


A draft proposal to institutionalize periodic, long-range planning meetings between tenured professors and their department chairs or school deans was reviewed at the Faculty Senate on April 30.

Some senators voiced concerns that the proposal might eventually lead to a formalized system of post-tenure review. Others worried that it would become linked to the annual salary-setting review process, while one suggested it should be linked to the salary-setting process. But the majority of senators felt that such a planning exercise was long overdue.

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"What we're trying to promote is an idea of a forward-looking, prospective review to facilitate changes in faculty members' interests, emphases and in institutional priorities," said David Kennedy, professor of history who chairs the Planning and Policy Board that drafted the proposal.

Consultations routinely take place with assistant professors and with associate professors in the context of consideration for promotion to full professor, Kennedy said. But institutionally guided and supported career planning for full professors is virtually nonexistent. The Graduate School of Business and the School of Earth Sciences are the exceptions ­ both have implemented regular planning meetings with faculty.

A professor's interests, needs and priorities can change over time, Kennedy pointed out. For some individual faculty members, making mid- or late-career changes in professional direction or emphasis can be very difficult.

"I think there are faculty who could use some assistance in trying to change their career plans or change the direction they're going in," said John Hennessy, dean of the School of Engineering.

Regularly scheduled consultations with faculty members could help by encouraging faculty to think about the changing balance of their professional commitments, Kennedy said.

But change is not a necessary end-goal of the review. According to the proposal, "for many faculty members, the occasion could provide an opportunity to affirm the value of ongoing research, teaching and service contributions."

"But when change is the issue," the proposal states, "the principal goal of the consultation should be to reduce friction involved, to catalyze innovations in research and teaching programs, or shifts in professional emphasis."

Chairs and deans are encouraged to provide incentives to facilitate the shift in balance between research, teaching and service.

Some of the incentives mentioned in the proposal include:

In addition, a "significant strengthening" of the role of departmental chairs is recommended, with better training and enhanced resources to help faculty members in career development. SR