Universitywide committee would bring consistency to faculty tenure decisions

Advisory group formed to weigh the merits of establishing a body that would advise and counsel the university's president on duties related to tenure

Johns Hopkins University has created an advisory committee to consider the merits of establishing a universitywide body that would offer advice and counsel to President Ronald J. Daniels on his duties related to tenure.

The potential universitywide tenure committee would ensure consistency in academic standards and decision-making across disciplines, complementing the work of the academic councils in the university's tenure-granting schools and in the School of Medicine, which offers an equivalent contract to retirement.

Tenure recommendations are made by the academic councils, each of which approaches the process differently, applying its own governance and weighting of various factors—"from eminence and leadership in an area of study or practice, to research productivity and impact, teaching, mentorship, and university service," Daniels wrote today in a message to faculty.

The university's bylaws require that each tenure recommendation made to the board of trustees be endorsed by the president. At most peer institutions, Daniels wrote, the president is advised in this duty by a universitywide committee, but Johns Hopkins has no such body.

"Such a committee would continue to honor our university's tradition of shared governance over tenure decisions among academic leaders and departmental and divisional faculty colleagues," Daniels wrote. "It would also ensure that a pan-university, collegial perspective would be imparted to these foundational decisions. In this respect, such a body would stand as another way in which we foster our identity as one, integrated university."

Daniels, in consultation with Provost Sunil Kumar and the university's deans, has appointed seven people to the advisory committee:

  • Alfred Sommer, Dean Emeritus and Professor of Epidemiology, International Health, and Ophthalmology, Bloomberg School of Public Health (chair)
  • Janet DiPietro, Vice Dean for Research and Faculty and Professor of Population, Family and Reproductive Health, Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Kevin Hemker, Alonzo G. Decker Chair and Professor of Mechanical Engineering , Whiting School of Engineering
  • Robert S.D. Higgins, William Stewart Halsted Professor of Surgery, School of Medicine
  • Ralph Hruban, Baxley Professor of Pathology, School of Medicine
  • Barbara Landau, Dick and Lydia Todd Professor of Cognitive Science, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences
  • Mary Elise Sarotte, Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Distinguished Professor of Historical Studies, School of Advanced International Studies

The advisory committee is expected to begin its work immediately and submit recommendations by late spring or early summer.

"There is no more important academic decision we make at the university than conferral of tenure on academic colleagues," Daniels wrote. "It is through this process that we affirm and re-affirm the standards of performance that we expect of each other in education, research, and service. As America's first research university, and an institution firmly committed to the highest standards of global academic excellence, every decision as to whom we appoint to the tenured professoriate manifests our commitment to pre-eminence within the disciplines and across the university as a whole."

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