State Schools Better for Junior Professors

Junior professors confused by the tenure process might fare better in public universities, according to the results of a recent report released by Harvard’s Graduate School of Education (GSE).

The study, led by the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE), is a compilation of surveys of over 7,000 junior faculty from close to 100 different universities and colleges, public and private, on the professors’ satisfaction with their institutions’ policies and faculty services.

The study, begun in 2003 by Richard P. Chait and Cathy A. Trower of the GSE, aims to help individual institutions better understand their own areas in need of improvement as well as their standing in the national arena.

A recent release of the study reported that public universities were rated higher than private on the clarity and reasonableness of tenure expectations for junior professors.

According to Kiernan R. Mathews, one of the assistant directors of COACHE, Harvard administrators received the study’s results from its own surveyed faculty and used them in the University provost’s faculty development and diversity end of year report.

Jonathan D. Colburn, communications coordinator for the office of the senior vice provost, said that the fact that junior faculty are unclear on the tenure process will be “something we consider very strongly over the next year as we try to find the best ways to support junior faculty.”

“One of the main objectives [of this office] is to support and develop junior faculty, and mentoring is going to be one of our biggest priorities this year,” he added.

Senior Lecturer of Economics Jeffrey A. Miron, formerly a tenured professor at the University of Michigan, said that the report did not account for the vast difference between different kinds of universities in its conclusions on tenure.

He added that different universities have different expectations for tenure, which makes them difficult to evaluate all together.

But Mathews said the study assessed both the clarity and the reasonableness of the university’s expectations for tenure.

“The purpose of the study is to help all institutions identify their areas of strength and their areas of concern...no single institution can be the best at all things,” Mathews said.