Sunday, May 21, 2006

On the bright side, it's impossible to be denied tenure here...

[Update: I've made some changes to this, based on some informative comments from Clyde Warden.]

Got this in our mailboxes on Friday. It confirms something I heard about earlier, but didn't want to mention here because I didn't have all the details.
The university is following an MOE mandate to evaluate teachers every three years. Teachers are evaluated by four categories: Teaching (40-50%), Research (20-40%), Service (10-30%) and Student counseling (10-30%). Teachers need to have 70 points in total to pass the evaluation. There is no minimal point requirement for each category, but there has to be at least some points for each category. Teachers will be evaluated every three years and the evaluation is done at the college level, not the department level. If a teacher does not pass the first time, then s/he will be evaluated once a year (maximum of 6 years) also, the teacher will not be allowed to teach part-time outside of Tunghai, will not be paid overtime, annual-promotion-pay will be frozen, and cannot be "lent to other institution". If a teacher does not pass after 6 years of yearly review, s/he will be referred to the university FAC, which reserves the right to terminate his/her contract. Each college needs to come up with guidelines to calculate points for evaluation. These guidelines have to be approved by the college FAC and university FAC, but they also have to meet the MOE mandate. Each college has flexibility in assigning points. We need to create guidelines to submit to the college that will meet the needs of the teachers in our department.
The main conclusion that I draw from this is that there is no tenure system in Taiwan the tenure system in Taiwan is quite different from what many applicants might expect. (Some say there was never any tenure system--this is probably true. [But see Clyde's comments below.]) If any department or university in Taiwan is advertising for a "tenure-track position", the writers of the ad have either been misinformed and/or are misinforming the audience need to make sure applicants understand what exactly is meant by "tenure" in the Taiwan system.

My questions:
  1. Are other schools doing this? Is this only new for private universities or is it new for public and private schools?
  2. Can someone point me to the relevant MOE guidelines/mandate? I'd just like to take a gander at it myself.
Feel free to discuss.


Clyde Warden said...

I've been involved with this issue up close, both in departments and sitting on appeal committees. Tenure does not mean a job without end. Wikipedia defines tenure as:

Tenure commonly refers to academic tenure systems, in which professors (at the university level)—and in some jurisdictions schoolteachers (at primary or secondary school levels)—are granted the right not to be dismissed without cause after an initial probationary period.

This is exactly what the teachers law gives all teachers in Taiwan. This is part of the confussion. Actually all teachers have tenure (at least the Taiwan version), in so far as they cannot be just let go because there are not enough classes this semester, or because we want to bring in some big cookie professor and we need the space. Rather than a school issue, this is a legal issue, for which the teacher affected can bring suit against the school.

If you move to a new school, your years of service are counted, just like being given tenure, your pay starts at the same pay rank, etc.

Now, what you have at THU is long under developement at many private schools. This is in response to the question of exactly what are the steps needed to get rid of someone. What is the window of time, what are the chances given, what is the process, and so on.

Let me emphasize the legal issue, which cuts two ways. While we are protected from random actions of schools, it requires us to take any complaints into the court system, which is not exactly fun in Taiwan. But just the threat of such action is usually enough to pressure any administration to work things out.

Each school also has its own probationary period, during which contracts can be dropped for any reason, this time is often two years. If there is no such thing as tenure, why do schools have probationary period when a person is first hired? In the last few years, a number of schools have also been creating contracts that make teachers more like adjunt faculty, and thus more open to being let go (Wen Tzao and Feng Chia are two examples and I've heard CYUT is considering hiring foreign teachers the same way).

Jonathan Benda said...

Thanks for your informative response, Clyde. I would say that while "tenure" certainly doesn't mean "job without end", one would also not usually associate tenure with the situation I've seen described. According to the information I have, all faculty will be evaluated every three years, even after they are granted tenure and promoted, and failure to pass that evaluation could result in fairly heavy penalties and even eventual dismissal.

In practice, this might not be much of a problem if the evaluations don't have overly burdensome requirements. The requirements, for instance, don't need to be the same as those for promotion.

My main worry is that the word "tenure-track" has been used in several advertisements that I've seen for faculty positions in Taiwan--ads that have been placed in international fora. It's important that appplicants--especially ones from, say, the U.S.--know that the Taiwan version of tenure is different than that of many schools in the U.S.

Just a side-note here: The system that I described in the post, combined with Clyde's information, sounds a bit like the definition of "term tenure" that I've seen on my undergraduate school's website (pdf):

"a. Term-tenure track positions are deemed such by the Provost. The creation of a term-tenure track position represents the Provost's determination that this newly created full-time teaching position (1) will be needed on a continuing basis, given expected
curricular demands, and (2) is most appropriately filled by a teacher-scholar who will meet the College's term-tenure criteria in the areas of teaching, scholarship, and institutional service.
b. A faculty member who fills a term-tenure track position shall receive one-year contracts throughout his/her employment tenure. However, that person shall also receive the security inherent in a term-tenure track position. In sum, the onus for terminating a term-tenure track faculty member falls upon the College, and an extensive appeals process assures that the onus remains weighty."

Clyde Warden said...

Jonathan, I think that bit from your previous school is almost exactly what we will end up with in Taiwan.

One of the strange things I've seen in Taiwan is that a vast majority of teachers don't have any idea what their employment situations are, what the meanings of words like tenure are, or what things like promotion involve. In fact, it is totally normal to have a teacher become director of a whole department and have no idea about the rules and regulations. This means asking about is not very productive.

I suspect that when ads mention tenure, what they mean is a new hire gets the normal contract, which includes all the normal rights, especially research grant applications and promotion applications. Since many schools now hire outside this system, the word tenure could have meaning, but as you point out, making its meaning clear would be helpful (but no one quite knows what it means I bet).

The trend, however, is that instructors will feel the weight of these new reviews. Within the next five years, instructors may go the way of teaching assistants in the early 90s, only now with these reviews, they can be let go.

Jonathan Benda said...

"Since many schools now hire outside this system, the word tenure could have meaning, but as you point out, making its meaning clear would be helpful (but no one quite knows what it means I bet)."

And, to some extent, the meaning changes when new requirements for continued employment are introduced into the equation.

On your comment about knowledge of rules and regulations: I've been reading a book about the JET program in Japan, and one of the things that comes up in that discussion is the lack of institutional memory in the program. New people are brought into administrative positions without having access to or interaction with prior administrators. Obviously, Taiwan is not Japan, but I wonder if part of the problem stems from a lack of a well-organized system to maintain the administrative memory of the department or school in a way that could be conveniently accessed by new administrators. (This might be an overstatement of the situation based on only a few examples, though.)

Mentoring (or lack of formal systems for mentoring) is something else that comes into play here. If administrators don't have a clear idea about the rules and regulations (or if those rules keep changing!), it's hard to mentor tell new faculty what to expect. So the problem just gets passed on. (I'm depressing myself here. Better stop.)

Clyde Warden said...

All you mention about lack of memory is true, there is just no way to transfer it, and there is no real training, since private schools tend to have high turnover, administrative positions are usually forced on people who have just entered.

National schools do a bit better on this because the department staff run the show for many years, if not many decades. At private schools, a large department, like my wife's previous post as head of business administration department, with over 2,000 students, and only one office worker, this just doesn't function and everything is dumped on the director.

BTW, I asked around about the rules you mentioned and a number of people told me the schools that implement this kind of system do NOT review full professors. Also, these rules are used in the context of time limits for promotions. For example, if a person has not made a promotion in rank in six years, then this type of review will play a larger role. Thus, when one gets to the top rank, this does not play a role at all.

Jonathan Benda said...

I asked our chair about this, and he said that as far as he knows, at Tunghai all faculty will be evaluated this way, regardless of rank. And I didn't hear anything related to the promotions context. So I'm not exactly sure what's going on here...