Personnel Committee recommends all six eligible faculty for tenure

By Peter Wright

Six Macalester faculty members have been recommended by the Faculty Personnel Committee for tenure and the title of associate professor. The endorsement is a major step in the tenure process before the Board of Trustees makes the final decision.Holly Barcus, geography; Paul Dosh, Lain American studies; Erik Larson, sociology; Kelly MacGregor, geology; Chad Topaz, mathematics and Harry Waters Jr., theater, were all recommended by the committee, Provost Kathleen Murray said in an e-mail.

Committee chair Martin Gunderson said the recommendations will be shared with the Board of Trustees during their December meeting. While the recommendations are not guarantees of tenure, Gunderson said, they are an important part of the Board’s review process.

Generally, faculty members are reviewed for tenure after six years at the college, Gunderson said, although that can be negotiated in select cases. They are evaluated in three categories: teaching, scholarship and service.

He said teaching is the most important factor, relying largely on student reviews of the professor comparing them to effective professors they have had.

The second most important category, scholarship, is assessed on a very individual basis, Gunderson said.

“For scholarship, it depends on what department and division that person is in,” he said.

He said primarily scholarship is assessed on the professor’s publications, reviews by other Macalester faculty members, usually from the same department, and recommendation letters from experts in the same field outside of Macalester.

In terms of publications, he said fine arts professors may be assessed on their compositions or plays they directed.

The third category, service, is assessed by looking at how active the professor is in the school and community.

“In some cases the kind of work a person is doing outside of the college can make up for them not sitting on many committees,” Gunderson said.

Once his committee completes the recommendation process for tenure, Gunderson said, a similar process is used to make recommendations for improvement to professor on tenure-track who have been at Macalester for three years.

Gunderson said the extensive process on the road to tenure is necessary because once set it is a big commitment.

“It’s not that you could never lose tenure, but it would take a great deal,” Gunderson said.

He said tenure helps the professors feel safer, allowing them to take some risks they might otherwise avoid, and it benefits the college by essentially guaranteeing a solid base of professors.

“The kind of lifetime security granted by the college is really a huge step for the college,” Gunderson said.