Tenure for research faculty

Question

Today ( Aug. 31) during the Chancellor forum the Chancellor said he supported the tenure system because it protects researchers. The Chancellor also said he does not support tenure for Research Faculty. That got some laughs, including from the Chancellor himself.

The Vice Chancellor of Research also echoed this sentiment, that he does not support tenure for Research Faculty. Interestingly the only (?) Research Faculty member on campus who has received tenure is our current Vice Chancellor of Research.

Can the Chancellor further explain why tenure is good for his Vice Chancellor of Research, good for academic faculty, but not good for the everyday Research Faculty on campus who yearly bring in over a 100 million dollars in external funds, mentor students, teach classes and have helped build the stellar Research reputation UAF has?

Response

I will reiterate what I said in the forum last week. I am a strong supporter of tenure. Tenure allows researchers to step into areas largely without concern for their position as they pursue elements of both research and instruction that may be controversial. Tenure has great value in an academic setting and I’ll continue to support tenure and the academic freedom that comes with it.

Research rank faculty are not eligible for tenure because their positions are primarily supported by external funds. Although we greatly value the contributions of research faculty, UAF does not currently have sufficient state funding to cover the salaries of all research faculty should those funds from grants and contracts not be renewed.

Tenure can be viewed as a benefit and can help UAF to recruit and retain faculty. However, nearly every college or university also employs many non-tenure track faculty for the same reason that UAF does. Tenure is a financial commitment, and UAF and other universities can award tenure to faculty only to a limited extent.

Vice Chancellor Larry Hinzman, negotiated tenure track position as part of his administrative contract. His tenure application was reviewed and approved by the College of Engineering and Mines. Hinzman also indicated that he would like to offer more stability for our researchers through state support. While tenure might be a heavy lift given the budget climate, he stated that he’d keep it on the list of things we’d like to see in the future.

You are correct in pointing out that our research faculty mentor students, post-docs and junior faculty. They are responsible for much of the outreach valued by the residents of Alaska. Our research faculty have made the tremendous contributions to the scientific stature of UAF and are the reason we have such a strong reputation across our state, nation and around the world.

— Dana Thomas, interim chancellor