Two-thirds of faculty with tenure

Kelsey Ruane

Just over 63 percent of full-time faculty members have tenure, while an additional 101 are somewhere on the six-year track to becoming tenured, according to John R. Johannes, vice president for Academic Affairs.

These numbers are based on 541 full-time faculty members, excluding academic administrators, naval science professors and temporary appointments.

The percentage of tenured faculty has decreased over the past 15 years, due to a huge influx of young faculty members, according to Johannes.

“Tenure ensures the University that it has experienced, loyal people,” Johannes said. “It’s a way of keeping good people here.”

The full-time faculty can be roughly divided into three groups: those with tenure, those on track to become tenured and those hired on a non-tenure track.

The University hires new full-time faculty members on tenure track appointments or as continuing non-tenure track faculty members, depending on a variety of factors.

A professor may choose not to pursue tenure due to the rigorous nature of the process and for personal reasons, according to Johannes.

In order to be considered for tenure, a professor must have a doctorate or other terminal degree, such as a master’s or a law degree.

The tenure process takes place over six years.

After the first three years of a tenure track professor’s career at Villanova, the department and dean of the school review the professor’s performance.

The department almost always concludes that the professor is making good progress toward tenure, according to Johannes, and offers the professor a fully paid sabbatical for one semester of his or her fourth year to help with scholarship and research.

The tenure-track professor submits a detailed file, or dossier, at the beginning of the sixth year.

The dossier and subsequent written reports from professors in the department, the department chair, a college committee of senior faculty and the dean of the professor’s school are eventually reviewed by the University Rank and Tenure Committee.

The Rank and Tenure Committee is composed of the four college deans and seven elected faculty – one from each of the nursing, engineering and business schools, three from arts and sciences and one faculty member elected at large. Members of the committee have a three-year term and can be re-elected.

Johannes chairs the committee, which meets in the first week of May.

The Rank and Tenure Committee has in recent years approved about 95 percent of professors for tenure, according to Johannes.

“People who come up for tenure in the sixth year almost always make it,” he said.

Ten faculty members were granted tenure last May, and 15 are coming up for review by the committee this spring.

“We don’t hire unless we think the professor can make tenure,” Johannes said. “We’re selective about who we hire.”

The Rank and Tenure Committee’s decision is advisory to the president, who has full authority to accept or reject a tenure recommendation.

In one case, the committee on a close vote rejected a professor for tenure, but University President Peter Donohue, O.S.A., decided to grant it, according to Johannes.

Theology professor Rodger Van Allen was a representative for arts for five terms on the committee until 2008.

“We rarely denied people tenure, but it does happen,” he said.

The argument often made in favor of tenure for university professors involves a professor’s right to academic freedom.

“Somebody who doesn’t have job security doesn’t have the freedom to speak and write as he or she sees fit,” Van Allen said. “Historically, there have been problems with that.”

The American Association of University Professors formed in 1915 to protect the academic freedom of professors, which was a new idea at the time.

“You have to see tenure as related to the kind of society you want to live in where freedom and the best ideas are circulated,” Van Allen said.

Students don’t always experience tenure in this light.

“I’ve had teachers with tenure who seemed to have just stopped teaching,” said junior Brigid Didden. “Or they’ve become so old that they’re out of touch with students.”

Both Johannes and Van Allen stressed the fact that tenured professors are continually reviewed and that student action is important in reporting cases of unsatisfactory teaching methods.

“I would advise students to run, not walk, to the department chair to let him or her know there’s a problem,” Johannes said.

He added that concrete suggestions from students on CATS reports can help a professor improve.

“The fact that somebody has tenure does not mean they’re beyond review,” Van Allen said. “Every professor wants to do the best job he or she can.”