Senate mulls change to early tenure policy

HOUGHTON – In addition to hearing a presentation from Michigan Technological University Provost Max Seel on the future of higher education (see related article), Tech’s University Senate discussed several other matters at Wednesday’s regular meeting, including a controversial change to its early tenure policy.

The policy as detailed in the faculty handbook conflicts with the Board of Control policy on academic tenure and promotion. The handbook procedure undermines the BOC’s authority to grant or deny tenure and prevents the candidate from appealing a negative decision by the department/school Tenure and Promotion committee.

Wednesday the Senate ultimately approved – with 13 yes votes, six no and one abstaining – sending an updated proposal for a faculty-wide referendum.

The previous policy would require a candidate to receive a two-thirds approval vote from the entire TPR committee of the academic unit. If fewer than two thirds vote in favor, the process stops and no appeal is possible.

The new proposal allows a candidate to conduct the early tenure process through the TPR committee and then decide whether to continue through the department chair or school dean. The process from that point, including appeals, is exactly the same as it is in the mandatory year.

“My constituents asked me to vote against this almost unanimously,” Senator Pete Moran said. “They felt strongly that this removed whatever influence the department had, or too much reduced the influence the department had, on making the decision for a person that they will have to work with for the rest of their life.”

The full proposal, including the current faculty handbook and board policy can be found at, as can all other proposals, Senate minutes and video of Senate meetings.

In other business Wednesday, the Senate:

approved unanimously a proposal to shelve the Bachelor of Science in Operations and Systems Management.

accepted wording changes from a committee for a proposal modifying search procedures for college deans, but postponed the Senate-wide vote on the proposal until the Feb. 20 meeting.

approved unanimously a proposal for a new Concentration in Business Analytics within the Bachelor of Science in Mathematics, and a proposal for a new Certificate in Business Analytics. Several concerns were shared before the vote about lack of demand for them and lack of similar programs around the country.

“The demand is there and I don’t think it’s in dispute,” responded Mark Gockenbach, chair of the Department of Mathematical Sciences. “… I was unable to find any other programs in business analytics at the undergraduate level, so this would put us a little out in front.”

Senator Bill Breffle, who represents the School of Business and Economics, and Curricular Policy Committee Chair John Gierke reassured the other Senators concerns had been addressed. Specifically, Gierke said certificates and concentrations seldom had the amount of information in their proposals than full degree programs, and new programs seldom have hard data to support them.

approved, with one Senator opposed, a proposal to amend graduate scholastic standards to allow for the use of “BC/C” grades – at the graduate program’s discretion – in up to six credits, regardless of where those credits lie. The previous language stated those credits had to be outside the student’s primary field of study.

introduced a new proposal for a Master of Geographic Information Science program in the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science. It will likely be voted on on Feb. 20.

heard from Senator Tim Scarlett concerns about the lack of communication between departments on creating interdisciplinary coursework/programs. The matter will be discussed in more detail at a future Senate meeting.

heard from Moran about a proposed modification to allow graduate students in “research only” mode, which he suggested renaming “dissertator mode,” to take up to three credits of advanced graduate electives if there is room in the class and the professor/advisor approves.

heard from Gierke about possible upcoming proposals concerning a new minor in aerospace engineering, and a new undergraduate concentration in entrepreneurship.