Aerial photo of campus overlooking Tinkham Veale University Center, Kelvin Smith Library, Severance Hall and more

CWRU approves tenured faculty ‘salary guarantee’

As Case Western Reserve embarks on a strategic initiative to hire 100 net new tenured and tenure-track faculty members by 2028, members of Faculty Senate recently approved a clearer definition of what the term “tenure” means at the university—a move that was decades in the making and could help attract top candidates to these new roles.

Since at least the early 2000s, members of Faculty Senate had sought to clarify the university commitments that accompany the rank of tenure, according to Maureen McEnery, chair of the Faculty Senate and associate professor of neurology at the School of Medicine. In practice, she said, different interpretations of existing tenure guidelines undermined equivalence among faculty.

When President Eric W. Kaler was made aware of the possible discrepancies between the definition and implementation of tenure, he was quick to act, past chair of the Faculty Senate Steven Eppell, associate professor of biomedical engineering said.

President Kaler charged a committee to review discrepancies and make recommendations to him and, ultimately, the Board of Trustees. At its February meeting, the board approved a Faculty Handbook amendment specifying that tenure comes with a salary guarantee and standardizing operating procedures.

“The Faculty Senate recognizes President Kaler for his leadership in this effort and how incredibly important it is—not just for those on the faculty today, but for those who will follow us. It sends an incredibly strong message of the university’s commitment to tenure,” McEnery said. “But it also couldn’t have happened without the champions of the effort over the past 20-plus years.”

The result of their efforts: a clearer definition of what tenure guarantees (see sidebar) that explicitly calls for a “salary guarantee” of “reasonable compensation for the roles and responsibilities of each tenured faculty.” This guarantee is set by the deans of each of the eight schools who are responsible for implementing this policy and will be codified in the bylaws of the schools and college.

“I want to thank the faculty senators for raising this issue and for their diligence in bringing this salary guarantee to fruition,” President Kaler said. “At a time when tenure and tenure protections have become the subject of debate across the country, I’m pleased that Case Western Reserve can be a place where faculty feel supported and secure to have critical dialogues, conduct groundbreaking research and contribute to our greater community.”

McEnery is confident this codification of a definition of tenure and salary guarantee in both the Faculty Handbook and all of the schools’ by-laws will help retain and attract exceptional faculty.

“The presence of a vibrant tenured faculty with a university commitment to that faculty,” she said, “is transformative to the campus culture in the classroom and beyond.”

Defining ‘tenure’ at CWRU

From the Faculty Handbook, chapter 3, part I, article I, section E:
“Academic tenure is an essential component of the development and delivery of quality educational and research programs at the University. The basic purpose of tenure is to provide the assurance of academic freedom throughout the University. Another important purpose of tenure is to attract and retain outstanding faculty. Tenured faculty members are protected explicitly against dismissal or disciplinary action because their views are unpopular or contrary to the views of others. Their nontenured colleagues derive protection by general extension of these principles of academic freedom.

“When awarded, academic tenure rests at the constituent faculty level rather than at the departmental level. The award of academic tenure to a faculty member is a career commitment which grants that faculty member the right to retain his or her appointment without term until retirement. This commitment includes a salary guarantee to which the University obligates itself. The salary shall be at a level determined by the dean of the relevant school or college to be reasonable compensation for the roles and responsibilities of the tenured faculty member.