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University of North Carolina system leaders expressed concern last week that the rigor of the posttenure review process for faculty members differs markedly across UNC’s 15 tenure-granting institutions.

A report issued last week said that, on average over roughly the past decade, about 3 percent of the system’s tenured faculty members have been identified each year as “not meeting expectations.” That label leads to an improvement plan for the employee, which can mean termination if progress doesn’t occur.

System leaders noted variation among institutions. For instance, UNC at Greensboro, which had 18,000 students last fall, identified no professors as “not meeting expectations” over the 10-year period ending with the 2021–22 academic year, while UNC at Asheville, with 2,900 students, labeled 10 faculty members as such over that span.  

“We are good, but I’m not sure we’re that good,” said Wade Maki, a senior lecturer at Greensboro and chair of the UNC system Faculty Assembly.

“Everyone agrees that an inconsistent standard is a concern,” he said. “Some institutions can’t explain why their numbers are so different.”

Maki also said he wants posttenure review to possibly lead to rewards, not just punishments. He said system officials, institution provosts and faculty members are collaborating to provide a slate of such suggested policy changes to the system’s board this fall.

The Board of Governors also last week discussed plans to provide retirement incentives. NC Newsline reported that board member Swadesh Chatterjee said he’s noticed some faculty members are “close to 80 when they cannot hear properly, cannot see properly, but still they are tenured faculty, they don’t want to retire.” He said it reminded him of “a privileged nursing home.”

Chatterjee told Inside Higher Ed Friday that the “privileged nursing home” comment referred to something Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley said. Chatterjee said the comment had “no bearing at all to the UNC System.”

In an audio recording provided by Newsline, Chatterjee made the “privileged nursing home” comment almost immediately after his statements about faculty members nearing 80 and not retiring. After making the comment, he continued to talk about incentivizing faculty retirement.