Bill could impact tenure process

If passed, a bill in the California State Legislature sponsored by Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, could impact the tenure process at public universities in California, including the University of California.

Assembly Bill 2132, which was last amended in the state Senate Aug. 24, would request that the UC Board of Regents “develop and adopt tenure policies aimed at encouraging and rewarding service” and has been formally opposed by the university.

UC spokesperson Brooke Converse said in an email that the university opposes the bill because existing tenure policies already include a service component. If passed, the bill would also be problematic because it could affect the university’s power of determining tenure, Converse said.

“We believe the university, not the Legislature, should establish the criteria for faculty tenure,” Converse said. Currently, tenure is granted based on criteria revolving around categories including teaching, research and creative work, professional competence and activity and university and public service.

“At UC, such practice is already deeply embedded in the merit and promotion process including promotion to titles with tenure,” said Joe Kiskis, vice president for external relations of the Council of UC Faculty Associations, in an email.

Neither the Council of UC Faculty Associations nor the Berkeley Faculty Association has chosen to take a position on the bill.

Bryan Krantz, a UC Berkeley assistant professor of chemistry and molecular and cell biology who will be up for tenure in several months, said the bill’s passage would place an unnecessary and potentially detrimental emphasis on service. He said a need to perform service could also prove to be a hardship for young faculty members with new labs.

“The faculty member needs to work closely with his/her laboratory to maintain it at its early stages,” Krantz said in an email. “If the faculty member must travel all over the city going to various meetings then I doubt the lab will do well.”

The bill defines service projects as activities including serving on community boards, working with nonprofit groups, developing programs for underserved populations and engaging in civic activities.

While the university has officially opposed the bill, some nontenured faculty say the bill is an admirable way to encourage greater service from professors.

Assistant professor of city and regional planning Malo Hutson said that though the bill is well-intentioned, it may not have much of an effect at the university because of the university’s emphasis on research.

“Research is everything here,” Hutson said. “I don’t know how you’d measure it, and it’s unlikely that service will have as big of an impact as your research will. It seems positive in spirit, though.”

The bill would also require that members of the Board of Regents and the California State University Board of Trustees consult with Academic Senates and student and community organizations.

Jamie Applegate covers higher education. Contact her at [email protected].