Provost shares faculty promotion summary with senators

Following the approval last month of promotion recommendations for 76 tenured and 40 term faculty, provost and senior vice president Jonathan Wickert gave his annual review of faculty advancement data at the Faculty Senate meeting May 3.

Of the 119 promotion requests among tenure-eligible and term faculty, only three were denied, Wickert said.

"I continue to be impressed by the high quality of cases we see, particularly in this cycle with all the complexities of navigating this process during COVID," he said.

While the faculty who advanced should be congratulated for completing the rigorous path to promotion, Wickert said all involved deserve recognition for their contributions -- including colleagues who evaluate cases and mentors to early-career faculty.

Reviewing the term faculty data, Wicker said he especially appreciated that about one-third of the advancements were from associate teaching or clinical professor to the full professor level.

"One of the things we've worked on over the years is to provide that career ladder for faculty, not only from assistant to associate but also from associate to full," he said.

Of the 57 tenure-eligible faculty hired in fiscal year 2016, 33 received tenure status this spring, nearly 60%. Six have taken advantage of policies allowing a tenure clock extension, including extensions due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. About 25% left the university, a departure rate similar to past averages. That data is watched closely for trends, but exit interviews indicate there is no overarching theme, Wickert said.

Among tenured faculty, this year's promotions had an atypical gender disparity, with male faculty representing more than 75% of the cases (compared to 52% and 50% in the prior two years). Wickert said associate provost for faculty Dawn Bratsch-Prince is looking into the question and will report back to the senate about any findings.

In other senate discussion, Wickert responded to senators' questions about the April 21 announcement that Iowa State is concluding its membership in the Association of American Universities. 

"It really comes down to the fact that we excel at what we're designed to do as a land-grant university, and we're very, very proud of that,” he said.

Action items

In its final meeting of the academic year, the senate approved:

  • An update to the Faculty Handbook to allow innovation and entrepreneurship activities to be included in position responsibility statements and considered in annual reviews and promotion and tenure requests. ISU has placed a greater emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship, but the handbook does not mention either among faculty responsibilities such as teaching, research, creative activity, service, extension or professional practice.
  • A bachelor's degree in climate science in the geological and atmospheric sciences department. The major will educate students on how the climate system works, climate impacts on society, and relevant sustainability and mitigation options. The 74-credit major would be the first at a state Board of Regents university and has support from the universities of Iowa and Northern Iowa.
  • A bachelor of arts in computer science to accommodate students who want to major in computer science but are interested in taking a wider variety of courses than the bachelor of science program allows. The bachelor of arts would require 32 computer science credits, compared to 50 for the bachelor of science. The less-targeted degree program is expected to lead to more diverse student enrollment in computer science. The proposal is supported by the universities of Iowa and Northern Iowa, both which already offer both types of degrees in computer science. May 3 was the first reading of the proposal, but the requirement for a second reading was waived to avoid the summer break delaying the program's progress.
  • A change to the interdisciplinary design bachelor's degree, to a secondary major program in the College of Design. The secondary major will reinforce a primary major and focus on inventiveness, visual communication and imagination skills. Enrollment numbers for the degree declined significantly since 2018, and the college stopped admitting new students to the program in fall 2020. The change better aligns with the college's interdisciplinary portfolio of innovation and entrepreneurship options.
  • A policy change that clarifies when a grading mark of incomplete is appropriate, adjusts how a resolved incomplete is recorded on a student's transcript and requires instructors to specify what grade a student will receive if no further coursework is done. The change also requires the department chair to retain a copy of an incomplete contract until it is resolved.
  • A resolution condemning the Russian attack on Ukraine. The resolution calls on faculty to stop cooperating with individuals and organizations supporting Russia's attacks, including those indirectly financing the war by paying taxes to the Russian government.
  • A resolution recognizing six former faculty members who recently passed away: Joseph Burris (agronomy), Mark Engelbrecht (architecture), Robert Molison (music), Gregory Palermo (architecture), Don Pigozzi (mathematics)  and James Stephenson (economics). 

Coming in fall

The senate will consider approving at its first meeting of the fall semester:

  • A policy change that eliminates the penalties for transfer students entering Iowa State with grade point averages below 2.0, such as being on academic probation due to their transfer credit grades. Transferring students still must meet admission requirements, but the change gives them a fresh start at their new institution, academic affairs chair Sarah Bennett-George said.