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Human Resources

Human Resources

Policies and Procedures

The Role of Tenure at Eckerd College

Updated 2/28/13

Tenure is a means to an end, and that end is the achievement of academic excellence. Tenure can be misused and abused; however, on balance it still appears to be the best available device for achieving excellence in teaching and scholarship in American higher education. It is on this premise that these policies are adopted. The burden of implementing these policies falls jointly on the faculty and administration. The tenure system will achieve its goals only to the degree that both of these segments of the college community assume responsibility for detecting and correcting abuses of tenure.

A. Institutional Statement on Academic Purposes and Tenure

From the beginning, Florida Presbyterian/Eckerd College has sought to select students of promise and to define and produce in them qualities of moral and intellectual excellence. This has been accomplished in the context of an academic community committed to the faith and world view of the Jewish and Christian peoples interpreted in relation to the problems of the times.

The purpose of Eckerd College is to help its students attain attitudes, skills, and knowledge necessary to maintain a life-long, largely self-directed learning experience and develop the personal qualities that will enable them to lead lives of competent, humane leadership and service. Its primary function is academic and is performed through providing programs and human resources that stimulate and discipline the life of the mind. The College feels strongly its obligation to provide an environment in which students can attain a sense of worth and be involved in experiences which nurture in them a capacity to care for people. Eckerd College understands that emotional and social maturation are intimately related to intellectual development, and seeks through its unique academic and social institutions to foster personal maturity while fully respecting the independence, rights, and freedoms of each student.

Tenure exists at Eckerd College to achieve and maintain the high levels of academic excellence, both in teaching and scholarship, re-enforced by the enduring moral values so necessary to the attainment of these institutional purposes and goals.

At its heart, tenure is a contractual agreement which ensures that a faculty member, once appointed to a tenured position, can be removed only for reasons of financial exigency or moral turpitude or well-documented and continuing failure to carry out defined professional obligations to the College. Through such an agreement the faculty member is protected from institutional pressures which may arise in the face of novel, bold, or unconventional thinking. The faculty member is free to challenge accepted beliefs, to responsibly present new ideas in the class room, and to pursue any avenues of research, scholarship, or creativity without fear of economic reprisal. The tenured faculty member has the obligation to serve as a model of academic excellence and personal integrity to his/her students and colleagues, and to act always with a sense of responsibility to the well-being of the college and the search for truth.

B. Employment Practices

  1. With the exception of short-term appointments to replace permanent faculty members, all initial appointments for full-time teaching positions will be probationary in nature and will carry with them a specified date by which a final tenure decision is to be made. Faculty members who are initially hired on a short-term replacement basis, if retained for more than two years, must be placed on probationary status and given a date for tenure decision.
  2. While the College does not maintain a fixed quota on tenured positions, it recognizes the need to retain flexibility in staffing and thus can not permit the percentage of faculty holding tenure to rise to levels that would prevent infusion of new persons into the faculty. The College will continue to apply rigorous standards in the awarding of tenure.
  3. The preponderance of the College's faculty should be full-time in order to ensure sustained academic excellence, institutional continuity, and significant faculty involvement in the total life of the College; however, part-time teachers may be employed as an effective way to meet special needs.

If the tenure system is to function well in achieving its broad goals of academic excellence, it is imperative that all parties concerned understand the basis on which tenure decisions will be made. Not only do such criteria specify the institution's definition of professional excellence, but also they serve to help define the continuing obligation of a tenured faculty member to the institution. In the absence of specified criteria, tenure decisions could be made on an idiosyncratic and constantly shifting basis, to the possible detriment of the individual and the interests of the College. The burden of proof of excellence properly falls on the probationary faculty member. As such, it is not unreasonable to expect such faculty members to evidence foresight and ingenuity in providing measurable indices of professional excellence.

C. Criteria for Awarding Academic Tenure

1. Academic tenure may be awarded only to faculty members whose primary responsibility to the College lies in a teaching function, and to full-time professional librarians who hold faculty status. Teaching faculty and librarians will be evaluated according to the same criteria, except that it is recognized that the nature and scope of the librarian's teaching and mentoring functions are necessarily different from those of the classroom teacher.

Academic tenure is awarded to support and enhance the teaching effectiveness of the institution's faculty. As conceived by the College, the concept of effective teaching embraces not only traditional effectiveness in the classroom setting, but also the ability to help guide the intellectual development of students through academic counseling and personal example. It includes, moreover, the maintenance of a program of personal scholarship, through which a faculty member remains an active contributor to his/her field of inquiry and thereby brings to his/her teaching the excitement of scholastic or artistic creativity.

2. While it is expected that individuals will vary in the way in which they approach their teaching, mentoring, service and scholarship responsibilities, it is nevertheless possible to specify a common body of institutional expectations against which all faculty members will be evaluated. The following sections describe these expectations.

a. Teaching - Achieving excellence in teaching is necessarily the professor's first priority. Faculty members are expected to devote themselves energetically to designing and developing challenging and rewarding educational experiences, mastering the material that they teach, maintaining rigorous intellectual standards for themselves and their students, striving for clarity and effectiveness in their methodologies, and serving as models of intellectual honesty and academic achievement. Faculty members are also expected to commit themselves to enhancing student learning by exploring innovative pedagogical strategies, to using professional activities to enhance teaching effectiveness and to engaging students enthusiastically in intellectual pursuits. Moreover, they will be committed to the larger educational goals of the college as demonstrated by effective teaching in its interdisciplinary values-oriented programs.

b. Mentoring - All full-time faculty members serve as mentors, responsible primarily for helping students with their academic programs, career plans, and personal growth. Beyond being knowledgeable about the college’s resources and requirements, mentors are expected to be caring and supportive of students and to know when and where to refer students to other campus professionals. Mentors strive to help their student associates develop intellectual maturity: the ability to think critically, to make wise decisions, and thereby to achieve greater independence and personal efficacy.

c. Professional Productivity - Faculty members are expected to develop and maintain a program of research, primary scholarship, or artistic production. Professional productivity at Eckerd College is not limited to a traditional discipline-based definition of scholarship, and includes the integration of knowledge, the application of knowledge, and the presentation of knowledge. Therefore, scholarship is understood to include specific discipline-based research, interdisciplinary research projects, research in or application of knowledge to solving societal problems, and research into effective pedagogical approaches.

College and Community Service - Faculty members are expected to engage in service to the college and community. This service may be accomplished by participating in the college’s governance structures, in activities with students beyond the classroom, and/or representing the college in service to the broader community. Faculty members should generally be given wide latitude in the focus of their service activities, as long as these activities serve the interests of the college in a significant way.

e. Other Considerations - In addition to evaluation in the four categories described above, faculty members will also be evaluated on their ability to work with and command the respect of students and colleagues and their commitment to the goals and purposes of the institution.

Since affirmative tenure decisions commit the college to long-term and costly obligations, factors other than the individual’s competencies may enter into the decision. Among others, these include the long-term projected enrollments in the individual’s area of specialty, the number of other tenured faculty members in related areas, and program priorities of the institution.

3. Insofar as tenure is a mechanism specifically designed to enhance the quality of teaching and scholarship, tenured faculty members who assume permanent administrative duties occupying more than half their defined commitment to the College will be expected to surrender their academic tenure at the end of three years.

Fairness requires that the faculty members on probationary status at the present date should be given time as needed to adjust their activities and efforts to insure a reasonable chance of receiving a favorable tenure decision. The following implementation policy is therefore adopted:

D. Formation of a Faculty Committee on Academic Standards

In accepting tenure, a faculty member receives a number of significant benefits, including greatly heightened job security, enhanced guarantees of academic freedom, and an institutional presumption of his/her academic excellence. At the same time, however, the faculty member assumes the obligation to the institution to maintain the high standards of scholarship, teaching, and community service for which he/she received tenure initially. While research interests or teaching methodologies may shift with time and the visibility and vigor with which a faculty member carries out his/her work may change with increasing age and intellectual maturity, the commitment to excellence in teaching and scholarship must remain. Tenure must not shield faculty members who fail to meet these obligations.

It is the responsibility of the entire faculty, acting in collaboration with the appropriate administrative officers, to maintain the effectiveness of the tenure system, and to take corrective action, up to and including dismissal, for instances of continuing a substantial deterioration of academic performance.

The effective exercise of this responsibility requires the establishment of some mechanism through which faculty members and administrators may jointly review and evaluate the performance of both untenured and tenured members of the teaching staff. To this end, there will be established a Faculty Committee on Academic Standards. This committee would function jointly with the Dean of Faculty of the College in evaluating the products of the merit review process and making recommendations to the President concerning the awarding and maintenance of the academic tenure and promotion.

No attempt is here made to list all possible indices of deterioration of academic performance. The criteria according to which faculty members receive tenure initially also define the continuing tenure obligations, and thereby the "causes" for which tenured faculty members may be removed. The determination that a faculty member is showing significant deterioration in carrying out such obligations is necessarily complex and often evolves only over substantial periods of time. Considerable maturity of judgement is required for such evaluations, and in all cases documentation supportive of these determinations is essential.

The Faculty Committee on Academic Standards will consist of five tenured faculty members who are not serving as collegial chairpersons, one from each of the upper Division academic collegia, with members appointed by the President from a list of three nominees submitted by each collegium. Members would serve rotating two year terms with the Dean of Faculty serving as the committee chairperson. The duties of the Committee would include the following:

1. The committee will regularly evaluate the merit review of probationary teachers and will inform them of their progress toward any chances of a favorable tenure decision. Such reports will help probationary faculty members to assess realistically their strengths and weaknesses and, where possible, to take corrective action to improve performance in areas critical to receiving tenure. If the Committee functions diligently in this regard, the outcome of tenure decisions generally will be anticipated, and faculty members receiving unfavorable decisions will have had greater opportunity to seek alternative employment prospects. Formal recommendations for a tenure decision will come from this Committee after consultation with the members of the discipline or collegium of the individual in question, and will be submitted by the Dean of Faculty with his/her recommendation to the President for evaluation and recommendation to the Board of Trustees for a decision.

The Committee will likewise evaluate the merit reviews of the tenured faculty. Where it is evident that a tenured member of the faculty is failing to meet his/her defined obligations to the College, the Committee may act to bring these lapses to the attention of the individual involved. At least initially, such efforts will usually be of an informal nature and may be handled collectively by the Committee or through an appointed member. If formal discussion fails to resolve the problems under consideration, the Committee may elect to issue a formal warning to the faculty member in question. Such a warning is entered into the faculty member's permanent file and, in the face of continuing failure to meet his/her obligations to the College, may form the basis for disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.

The Committee will also serve as the review committee for suggested promotions in faculty rank. These suggestions may come from the merit reviews, the collegial chairpersons, other faculty members, administrative personnel, from within the Committee, or from the faculty member concerned. Formal recommendations for a promotion will come from this Committee after a thorough review of the merit reviews of the individual in question and after consultation with the members of the discipline and/or the collegium of the faculty member. These recommendations for promotion will be submitted by the Dean of Faculty with his/her recommendation to the President for evaluation and recommendation to the Board of Trustees for a decision.

It is recognized that in some instances, problems affecting both tenured and untenured faculty members will arise suddenly, or will come to light via the merit review process. In these instances, the Dean of Faculty of the College may elect to deal with such matters on an informal basis, or, where appropriate, the Dean of Faculty of the College may bring the matter to the Academic Standards Committee for advice or formal action. In no case, however, will a decision to dismiss a tenured faculty member be made without consultation with the Academic Standards Committee.

E. Academic Standards Committee Evaluation Procedures

1. The Academic Standards Committee, in order to insure high standards of performance, will review each tenured faculty member every third year. This review should occur in the second year following the hexennial leave and in the year preceding a subsequent hexennial. These reviews are intended to facilitate the professional and personal development of tenured faculty and the quality of college programs through careful planning for and assessment of leaves of absence. The Committee, through the Dean of Faculty, will communicate its evaluations to the tenured faculty member under review. These reviews and evaluations will occur during the fall term. If, in the judgement of the Dean of Faculty, a special review and evaluation of a tenured faculty member is required because of deteriorating performance, he may take the case to the Academic Standards Committee at any time.

2. The Academic Standards Committee will annually review the performance of untenured faculty members who have served at least one academic year. The members of the Committee will have access to the faculty member's permanent file in the Dean of Faculty's office. The Committee may also request additional information for the evaluation. The Committee, through the Dean of Faculty, will annually communicate to each untenured faculty member about progress toward a tenure decision carefully indicating strengths and weaknesses discovered through the evaluation procedure. This review and evaluation will occur during the fall term.

3. During the spring term, the Academic Standards Committee will review the performance of all faculty who have been recommended for tenure and/or promotion. For these reviews, the Committee will have access to the faculty member's permanent file in the Dean of Faculty's office, and will solicit special statements of evaluation for tenure and promotion from collegial chairmen, discipline colleagues, and other faculty particularly close to a case under review. The Academic Standards Committee will make formal recommendation about tenure and promotion. This recommendation will then be submitted by the Dean of Faculty with his/her recommendation to the President for evaluation and recommendation to the Board of Trustees for a decision.

4. A faculty member may review his/her permanent file in the Dean of Faculty's office at any time.