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Allow students to have a final say in professor tenure and promotion

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Tenure illustration
Students should be present in any committee or review group that has to do with professor advancement at Texas State.
Illustration by Cameron Hubbard

In 2018, Texas State promoted 37 faculty members and approved 24 members for tenure status.

Each department possesses its own promotion and tenure policy while also following mandatory criteria set by the university. However, the Tenure and Promotion Review includes several specifications that do not include a student vote. The fact that a trustworthy student review is not completely mandatory is absolutely absurd and unfair to the university’s student body.

A student vote should be one of the determining factors in any process where students are directly affected. A professor’s main responsibility is to provide students with the necessary knowledge and material to enhance their understanding of the world around them. Their job is to try, to the very best of their ability, to help students be successful and knowledgeable contributors to society.

Any progress toward tenure increases the likelihood of faculty members having a permanent job within the university’s system. With promotion and tenure, more and more students each semester will be in direct contact with the professors who have been promoted. With proper student education on the line, there is absolutely no reason for authentic student review not to be a factor in determining whether or not a faculty member is able to advance up the university’s chain.

The tenure and promotion review also highlights that candidates must submit documentation that supports the quality of their teaching, scholarly and creative activity and leadership and service. It states that candidates will work with their chair or director to select appropriate reviewers from outside the institution to review their creative and scholarly accomplishments.

There is no existing piece of documentation that conveys a professor’s effectiveness in any lecture hall more than a group of students could. Students are the individuals sitting in the university’s classrooms. Students are the individuals on the receiving end of both effective and ineffective teaching strategies. Students are often the individuals reading professor-authored textbooks and scholarly works. Lastly, students are the individuals being taught, not anybody from the university’s hierarchy and surely not any outside source. No piece of paper or unconnected reviewer should undermine the powerful voices of students — the actual people who are closest to professors throughout any given semester.

A completely ineffective measure in most current tenure processes is the summation of student evaluation form results. In many cases, students visibly rush through those evaluations due to a lack of interest or to exit class as soon as possible. They are not a direct reflection of a professor’s true effectiveness in a classroom, and they surely should not be the sole form of student review in a process that affects student lives. No form of evaluation is more powerful than an actual present student voice.

Instead, student committees would be the most effective and trustworthy alternative. Its members would be appointed by each candidate’s department or by members of the student body. Appointing those members would likely eliminate student negligence in the current end of the semester professor evaluations.

Furthermore, other universities have exhibited that a student committee can work.

St. Olaf College utilizes a student committee, which is appointed by each promotion or tenure candidate’s department to assist in gathering and summarizing student reviews of the candidate’s teaching. The committee’s summary is included in the evidence of faculty effectiveness during the promotion and tenure process.

Syracuse University’s School of Public Communications also utilizes a student committee, in which three members are appointed by student peers to assist in the tenure and promotion process. The three students and other prominent faculty members take part in a vote for or against tenure and promotion candidates.

Students should be present in any committee or review group that has to do with professor advancement at Texas State. Students should have a present vote when determining whether or not a professor’s teaching is of quality or not. Finally, students should have a vote in whether or not a professor’s actions are worth longevity.

Making a student vote mandatory is completely within the university’s power to get done, and inaction would be a blatant disregard for credible student voices.

– Jaden Edison is an electronic media sophomore

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