Letter from Jim Gordon to AAUP, 25 march, 1997

Letter from Jim Gordon to AAUP, 25 march, 1997

March 25, 1997

Dear [Members of the BYU Chapter of the AAUP]:

I am responding to your letter of March 13.

Your letter correctly observes that the department and college committees did not request that the candidates include additional information in their files. However, the University Faculty Council on Rank and Status acted within its jurisdiction when it requested additional information relevant to the candidates’ teaching, scholarship, and citizenship. Because the department and college committees asked to see any documents that the Faculty Council will use as it considers the candidates, the candidates were requested to include the documents in their files at the beginning of the process so that the items could be reviewed by the committees at all levels.

You have asked, “Does Jim’s reply mean that the University has always collected all that information and has routinely used it for rank and status decisions, without the knowledge of the candidates or department or college committees?” The answer is no. If documents are added to a file, the candidate is given an opportunity to respond.

Incidently, your description of the documents requested by the Faculty Council is incorrect. I assume that you have not seen the Faculty Council’s request, but are instead relying to some degree on a generalized description that was circulated in the English Department.

The Faculty Council’s request is narrower than that description. I understand that the candidates have been advised of the specific request.

A faculty member’s body of work consists of his [sic] teaching, scholarship, and citizenship as described in the rank and status policy. The requested documents relate to activities with students or in public and are relevant to the standards set forth in the rank and status policy.

While I have a close and longstanding friendship with Professor Gedicks, I disagree that the rank and status policy requires the Faculty Council to give candidates a list of concerns. That issue was addressed last year, and it was correctly concluded that the rank and status policy does not require such a list. The standards that apply to a candidate’s teaching, scholarship, and citizenship are clearly set forth in the rank and status policy.

I would like to respond briefly to the drawbacks your letter asserts about the Faculty Council’s request for additional information:

1. The burden on candidates is not unreasonable in light of the importance of the rank and status process. In most cases it merely requires some additional photocopying.

2. Review committees are entitled to evaluate theses and dissertation. Section 3.5.1. of the rank and status policy provides: “It is incumbent upon the applicant to provide persuasive documentation, such as the following: . . . The products of good teaching and mentoring, such as: . . . honors, masters, or PhD theses supervised . . . .” The theses and dissertations are relevant, and it is incumbent upon the candidates to provide them if requested by a review committee.

3. The recommendations at every level will be more informed, not less, by the additional information.

4. Faculty review committees request additional information when they have questions. The fact that they have questions about some candidates does not mean that they are being inconsistent. Review committees have also requested additional information about candidates in other departments.

5. The request for additional information is intended only to help in evaluating the candidates’ teaching, scholarship, and citizenship consistent with the standards set forth in University policy.

6. The assertion that the request will inhibit research on Mormon topics assumes that the Faculty Council has requested, as your letter asserts, “any and all documents relating to Mormonism.” That assumption is incorrect.

People will disagree about whether the benefits of the Faculty Council’s request exceed the costs. However, that is not the issue. The issue is whether the administration should intervene in a faculty peer-review process and prohibit a faculty review committee from requesting relevant information. It is ironic that the AAUP, which advocates faculty self-governance, is insisting that the administration overrule the request of a faculty committee that is acting within its jurisdiction. It is also ironic that the local AAUP group advocates “vigorous debate and open processes,” but wants the administration to deny a request for information that a faculty committee considers relevant in the review process. Vigorous debate and open processes are best served by honoring the Faculty Council’s request for additional relevant information.

The practice of review committees to request additional information is well established. The administration has consistently honored requests for additional information by faculty review committees at the department, college, and university levels. To overrule a faculty committee’s legitimate request for information would be a departure from established procedures.


James D. Gordon III

cc Randall L. Jones, C. Jay Fox, Thomas G. Plummer, Douglas H. Thayer

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