Faculty Senate addresses tenure and promotion concerns

Victoria Manenti

Faculty Senate members discussed issues surrounding the university tenure and promotion process, approved two new Kent Core courses and elected new officers during their third meeting Monday.

Todd Diacon, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, began the meeting by speaking about his role in tenure and promotion decisions. Diacon referenced recent discussions at Faculty Senate meeting about alleged evidence of racial discrimination presented by professor and senator George Garrison.

“It is one of the most, if not the most, important activity that I and we engage in at Kent State University,” Diacon said. “Our decisions in such matters literally shape the university for decades to come.”

Diacon said Kent State awards more than 85 percent of its candidates with tenure, which “reflects the quality and accomplishments of our outstanding faculty.” He then detailed his approach to the process, which includes carefully reading the written tenure and promotion guidelines of each academic unit before reviewing candidate files. Diacon said he reads every tenure and promotion file carefully, as well as considers student surveys and external reviews of each candidate. 

“This is absolutely the best part of my job as provost, learning about the amazing creative work, research and publication of our professors,” Diacon said.

The provost also said he is motivated by written guidelines of individual academic units when overturning a faculty tenure decision. Diacon has overturned two negative decisions and one unanimously positive decision while at Kent State, he said.

“My primary commitment, in short, is to defending the tenure and promotion guidelines of the academic unit, which are composed by the professors of that unit,” Diacon said. 

Diacon also briefly addressed his involvement in a 2006 lawsuit at the University of Tennessee Knoxville? in response to an email sent out by Garrison. Diacon told senate members that he ruled in favor of tenure and promotion for an African-American male candidate as department chair, but was overruled by higher administration at the university.

The Attorney General of Tennessee ruled university lawyers could not represent Diacon because he was in favor of the plaintiff. Diacon was quickly dismissed from the case, he said. 

In response to the provost’s remarks, Garrison argued Diacon does not conduct the tenure and promotion process fairly. He said faculty members’ opinions should be weighed equally to the provost’s concerning  faculty tenure decisions.

“Those cases are full of procedural and factual errors,” said Garrison, who was accompanied by students with signs reading “black lives matter” urging equality in the tenure process.

Students also promoted a “Do black lives matter at Kent State University?” forum which will be held on the Student Green at 3:30 p.m. at April 22. 

New course changes to the Kent Core were also approved.

Senate members unanimously approved the inclusion of the Anatomy and Physiology course, effective fall 2015, as well as the Molecules of Life course, effective fall 2015, within the Kent Core. The Molecules of Life course would replace General and Elementary Organic Chemistry within the Kent Core effective fall 2016, senate chair Lee Fox-Cardamone said.

The identical pilot version of Molecules of Life, which is currently in effect, will be incorporated within the regular Kent Core courses offered spring 2015 only. This allows students who took the pilot course to receive credit in fall 2015, Cardamone said.   

Senate members also elected new officers for the 2015-2016 school year. Sen. Linda Williams will serve as the new chair and Sen. Deborah Smith will serve once again as vice chair. Sen. Paul Farrell was re-elected as secretary as well. Sen. Christopher Fenk was voted the new senator at-large.

 “I have a vision of students attending Kent State University in order to intellectually earn a degree by learning the material rather than get a degree because they attend class and pay money,” Williams said. “I have a vision of professors holding the intellectual standards bar high and not getting lax on standards and expectations because of non-educational value.”

Contact Victoria Manenti at [email protected].