Over a year ago, Barnard English Department Chair William Sharpe said he perceived a "crisis of morale" among Barnard faculty, borne out of the tenure process and the rift that debate created among staff.
But that has changed, according to Joel Kaye, history professor and chair of the Tenure Process Review Committee.
"The faculty and the administration are no longer working as antagonists," Kaye said.
Tension has eased in large part because the 10-member TPRC recently released its long-awaited report of recommendations to change the tenure process at Barnard.
At the Barnard faculty meeting on Feb. 2, where just under half the faculty were present--a high turnout, according to Kaye--the proposal was passed, by a vote of 79 to 9, as a document on which to base negotiations.
"I think there is a good solid basis of support for this report," Kaye said. "It's definitely a compromise blueprint."
At the suggestion of the faculty, the TPRC was created in spring 2002 after many expressed frustration and anger toward the administration for not addressing Barnard's unique tenure process. Many faculty members believed the administration was at fault for the low rate of tenured faculty--especially of women and minorities--at Barnard.
At Barnard, tenure requires one more step than at other Columbia institutions: the approval of a Columbia ad hoc committee appointed by the Columbia provost's office.
When controversy over the tenure process was at its high point, opinions on how Barnard should mediate the problem ranged from divorcing itself from Columbia to warranting slightly longer maternity leaves to recent parents.
The administration refused to admit that problems with tenure existed, and even held a town hall meeting for students stating as much. Recently, however, Provost Elizabeth Boylan admitted there are indeed problems with Barnard tenure.
"Everybody believes there are too few tenured faculty--that's a given," she said.
Many hope that Boylan's public willingness to work on the tenure process could act as a first step toward change in the process.
The TPRC based its report on faculty input from a questionnaire sent out to the entire voting faculty last March. At the December faculty meeting, the committee handed out the first draft of the proposal and received ample e-mail input before releasing the final proposal in February. Every aspect of the report will be debated in committees in the following months and years.
The report calls for the administration to foster "a realistic discussion among the faculty about the effect of high publishing expectations on the teaching mission of the College." How that dialogue would be facilitated was not mentioned; details will be ironed out in later discussions in individual committees.
The report also includes suggestions for symbolic amendments to the tenure process, including bringing the Columbia Ad Hoc committee, now based out of the Columbia Provost's office, to Barnard's campus. The Columbia Ad Hoc committee determines whether to recommend Barnard candidates to the Columbia provost and then to the Columbia Board of Trustees.
This suggestion addresses Barnard's position with respect to Columbia. The preamble states, "Barnard is inextricably linked to a powerful university that, in its culture and tenure decisions, places far more value on scholarly achievement than on teaching and mentoring."
The statement seems to be a reference to a faculty complaint that Barnard professors were at a disadvantage at the University level because of Columbia's traditional approach to academia.
All suggestions to the President's Advisory Committee on Appointments, Tenure, and Promotion, which reviews the files under review for tenure and decides whether to pass the case on to Columbia's five person Ad Hoc committee, were well taken by members of the committee, according to Provost Elizabeth Boylan.
But Boylan said that she didn't think there had been sufficient discussion about the clause in the report regarding changing the composition of the ATP committee.