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Thursday, Jul. 27th 2017

Academic Appeals Lawyer Explains Post-Tenure Review for Professors

In the early 1980s a form of post-tenure review for faculty was implemented that goes beyond previous processes. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) in 1999 published Post-Tenure Review: An AAUP Response, which offers recommendations to faculty professors whenever post-tenure review has been indicated. When the first notice of an unsatisfactory evaluation has been issued, it is of vital importance that legal counsel is sought immediately. Cohen Law Firm has the experience and knowledge to guide you through the process.

The perfect storm of chronic under-funding of higher education, together with historic lack of appreciation for the role of tenured professors in higher education, continues to threaten the traditional model of tenure providing actual protection for senior faculty from calculated culling of older and higher paid faculty.

Mr. Cohen’s practice has seen a significant uptick in cases for faculty members in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s who are being given unsatisfactory evaluations based primarily on insufficient research and publication (typically 40% of the rating score) and poor teaching scores given by students in regular course evaluations completed anonymously and online (also 40%). The remaining 20% of the performance evaluation is service to the university and is rarely a factor. However, an unsatisfactory rating in EITHER Research & Publication or Teaching will cause a tenured professor to be subject to the Performance Improvement Plan process.


The PIP process typically claims to be a collegial interactive collaboration between the targeted professor and the Dean and his committee. In reality, while the professor is allowed to give input, it is not a true negotiation and a Performance Improvement Plan is often implemented over the objection of the professor in question.

Borrowing from the AAUP’s aforementioned publication, we offer these points to consider:

  • Be aware that “selective” post-tenure review evaluations (as opposed to periodic ones) may raise the specter of impermissible age discrimination.

  • Post-tenure-review policies should be developed and implemented by faculty members.

  • Resources should be allocated to support the professional development of faculty under such policies. Such policies should provide an opportunity for faculty members to comment and respond to such evaluations, as well as an appeals procedure by which faculty may challenge such evaluations.

  • Successful post-tenure-review policies should reaffirm an institution’s commitment to academic freedom and tenure; establish and apply standards consistently and fairly; and educate participants in the process, including department chairs and deans.

Mr. Cohen represents tenured professors throughout the United States at both public and private universities. Public university tenured faculty have significantly greater due process rights and opportunities to object to unjustified evaluations. The time to contact Mr. Cohen is when the first notice of an unsatisfactory evaluation has been issued. For a free initial phone consultation, call 785.979.7361 or contact Mr. Cohen at: cac@studentrightslawyers.com

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