Georgia Board of Regents approves changes to its post-tenure review guidelines

Janet Murray, a professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at Georgia Tech addresses professors from several Georgia universities who rallied Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021 at the Keneda Building on the Georgia Tech campus in Atlanta against proposed changes to the state system’s post-tenure review process. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Janet Murray, a professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at Georgia Tech addresses professors from several Georgia universities who rallied Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021 at the Keneda Building on the Georgia Tech campus in Atlanta against proposed changes to the state system’s post-tenure review process. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

The Georgia Board of Regents voted Wednesday to approve changes to its post-tenure review process that critics say will make it easier to fire faculty members and tougher to recruit professors.

University System of Georgia officials maintain the changes are needed to better measure student success in the tenure review process, which they say is critical to improving their efforts of getting students to complete their degrees. The changes include adding a student success component to reviews to evaluate how faculty members interact with students outside the classroom through mentoring or advising.

Faculty members are worried about changes that weren’t in the prior guidelines, such as the potential for them to lose their job if they have two consecutive subpar annual reviews and don’t meet improvement requirements.

The Regents voted for the changes without any discussion Wednesday. Board members on the academic affairs committee previously said faculty members will have input in how the changes are implemented at their colleges and universities.

“Critical to this is continuing to engage with faculty and campus leadership as they develop and refine standards that meet the unique needs on every campus,” system officials said in a statement Wednesday night. “These new standards must be consistent with all (Board of Regents) policy, and so must build in appropriate due-process mechanisms as well as the promotion of academic freedom. While the policy as a whole ensures consistency, equity and accountability across the system, it remains a framework around which faculty and campus leadership build a post-tenure review process that works best for their individual institution.”

However, more than 1,100 people have signed a petition opposing the changes. The American Association of University Professors has threatened action that could result in censure against the system, which those against the review changes describe as a “black eye” that could hurt recruiting of highly qualified professors from other states.

One of Georgia’s most prominent Democrats, former state House of Representatives Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, pointed out those concerns in a social media post before the vote.

“Academic freedom guaranteed by tenure is more than a hiring gimmick,” Abrams wrote on Twitter. “Georgia cannot compete for talent or produce innovation if we undermine our public universities. (The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia) has already abandoned the physical health of our schools. Let’s not destroy intellectual capacity as well.”

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