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UND president goes on leave to study tenure policies

GRAND FORKS — University of North Dakota President Robert Kelley has taken a 30-day leave to study faculty tenure.

Kelley said the time will allow him to network and study different ways the process is implemented across the nation. He said he wants to use that information to create a more streamlined method of evaluating and awarding tenure at UND, not to create more or fewer tenured positions.

“Tenure has to be somewhat uniformly and fairly administered so that some people aren’t being inadequately rewarded for work that is so different from someone else’s work,” Kelley said. “Someone could be denied tenure because somehow they didn’t meet a poorly expressed or unexpressed standard.”

As of fall 2013, about 48 percent of the professors, associate professors and assistant professors at UND were tenured, and about 17 percent were on tenure track, according to the Office of Institutional Research.

Larry Skogen, interim chancellor of the North Dakota University System, granted Kelley’s request.

UND Provost Tom DiLorenzo will oversee the university in Kelley’s absence. The president will be back Aug. 7.

In his official request for developmental leave, Kelley cited issues surrounding different standards for what it means to achieve tenure, financial implications and a differing level of understanding of what tenure means for an individual.

University System policy leaves the particulars of granting and evaluating tenure up to each institution, and Kelley said he has been thinking about trying to find a way to create an overarching, standardized policy instead of the current method.

“My concern is that we’re not terribly consistent in the way we administer tenure on this campus,” he said. “Every department, appropriately, has different standards, but I think we may have gotten to the point where we’re somewhat disparate in our institutional standards. I wanted to see what other universities do.”

Kelley said tenure is meant to ensure instructors have the ability to voice sometimes unpopular academic opinions for the betterment of the educational environment without the fear of getting fired.

Anna Burleson

Anna Burleson is the higher education reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. She is a 2013 graduate of the University of South Dakota's Mass Communication program and is originally from Watertown, S.D. Contact her with story ideas or tips by phone, email or Twitter, all of which are listed below. Examples of her work can be accessed here.

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