Mentorship Would Be Considered, Not A 'Must' Under Amended Policy

Oct 8, 2015

Purdue Trustees are expected to approve the changes Friday.
Credit Wes Jackson / https://www.flickr.com/photos/boilermakerwes/3608649743/

10:00 p.m. Friday update:

Responding to WBAA's story about the Trustees' decision regarding the role of mentorship in the Purdue tenure process, Academic Affairs Committee Chair JoAnn Brouillette issued the following statement:

“It is the full intention and expectation of the University Board of Trustees that mentoring is a requirement as part of consideration for Promotion and Tenure, and the new guidelines approved today (Oct. 9) clearly state that requirement. Discussion at Thursday’s Academic Affairs Committee made clear these expectations. As the document states in Section 1A: ‘Commitment to active and responsive mentorship, as well as an active role in mentoring  will also be documented as part of the process that defines tenure and promotion.’ Mentoring also is required in Section III.E.: ‘Documentation of teaching activities includes not only classes taught and evaluations, but also mentoring, advising, curricular and pedagogical innovation ..."

Earlier:

The Purdue Board of Trustees is expected to approve a toned-down version of its revised tenure policy Friday. The Board’s Academic Affairs Committee gave preliminary approval to the measure Thursday afternoon.

Earlier this year, the Board added language that stipulated professors must provide evidence of mentoring students in order to be considered for tenure. Then last month, the Faculty Senate, displeased, sent the policy back, with the mentoring requirement dashed out in red ink.

The revised version of the policy takes out language saying professors must mentor students and adds, this time in a calming dark blue, a line merely saying mentorship will be considered.

Faculty Senate Chair Kirk Alter says a tenure recommendation has traditionally been propped up by three legs-learning, discovery and engagement.

The changes originally proposed by the trustees suggested mentorship would be a fourth leg. By changing the location of the mentorship language in the document, the new version stipulates mentorship underlies the three facets of professorship, instead of existing independently.

Additionally, Alter says the policy was revised to omit certain language the Senate thought would quickly become outdated, such as references to web textbooks. 

"The language that had been inserted was very contemporary, and we were very concerned it wouldn't stand the test of time," Alter says. 

Trustees inserted the mentorship language after the Purdue-Gallup Index appeared to show the school has traditionally done a poor job building bridges between faculty and students. But faculty question the necessity of the language in the tenure document. Some say professors are, by definition, mentors.

On Thursday, Purdue President Mitch Daniels again defended that decision.

"There’s evidence we could do better," he says. "And also that this is the single most important thing that can happen in a student’s life. So the board, who has this authority, and it’s one of the most important authorities they have was leaving, I’d say, nothing to chance."

The full board is expected to ratify the changes Friday morning.