Students, Faculty Discuss Representation on Tenure Committee

A debate on whether to remove student representatives from its Appointment, Promotions, and Tenure committee (APT) is underway at Pitzer College. 

Braden Holstege PZ ’14, one of the two student representatives on the Faculty Executive Committee (FEC), said that the issue of student representation on the committee is heading to faculty meetings for discussion within the next few weeks and may go to Pitzer's College Council, the overall meeting of students, faculty members, and staff members that votes on college policy at Pitzer. 

After a disagreement between students and faculty members on Pitzer's APT prompted the committee to forward complaints to the FEC about two years ago, the FEC scheduled a meeting with a consultant from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). The consultant discussed best practices for tenure committees of the college.

“AAUP representatives and AAUP guidelines differ from Pitzer's current practices in a number of important ways, one of which is that their guidelines don’t call for any student representation on the committee,” Holstege said.

Contrary to what the AAUP's policies reflect, Holstege said, he believes students play an important role on the tenure committee. 

“I think that students are more concerned about educational quality than professors are, I think professors generally have more of a focus on research, and I think that the student perspective is important," Holstege said. "I also think that students have a right to be on a tenure committee insofar as they constitute the majority of the college population."

Stephen Colón PZ '15, one of the two student representatives on APT, had a similar assessment. 

“There should be someone to really comb through course evaluations who has their skin in the game and who has some some stakeholder-ship for that,” he said.  

While opinions among faculty members vary, some professors firmly support student representation on the committee. 

"Students play a vital role in the APT process at Pitzer, and I cannot imagine ever eliminating their voice from the process here," anthropology professor Dan Segal wrote in an email to TSL.  

Holstege said that the motion to remove students from the committee is still in the discussion stage, and no formal proposals for a vote have been put forth. 

Students have announced their commitment to student representation in committees such as APT and FEC through a resolution in the Pitzer Student Senate. 

According to the resolution, "removal of students from APT and FEC was unacceptable to the student body under any circumstances." 

Holstege noted that students have limited influence, however. 

"Faculty controls roughly 2/3 of the votes at college council, so they technically can vote this through regardless of what the student position is," he said. "So we may have to be creative in the ways that we fight the proposal."