Star teachers shine outside tenure track

By Amanda Hunt

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Two professors repeatedly nominated for a prestigious student-sponsored teaching award have not been so lucky when it comes to being awarded with tenure.

Dan Dolata, an assistant professor of chemistry who has been nominated for the five-star award almost every year since he started here in 1987, was up for tenure last year and did not pass the review. He has been given a year to look for another job and must leave after the semester ends.

Jim Todd, an adjunct assistant professor of political science, is not on tenure-track. He has worked at the University of Arizona for nine years and has tried to get on tenure track without success. Todd was a finalist for the award in 1989.

The other nominees for this year's Five Star Faculty Award are William Bickel, physics professor; Adel Gamal, Near Eastern studies professor; and Kamakshi Murti, German associate professor.

The award is entirely student-sponsored and was started in 1983. The winner of the award, to be announced in early April, will receive a plaque and a gift certificate to Anthony's in the Foothills. The recipient will also have his or her name engraved on a plaque in the Terrace Lounge.

According to Nathan Buras, professor of hydrology and water resources and chair of the Senate Academic Personnel Policy Committee, the tenure process is initiated at the departmental level. After six years of continual reviews, an assistant professor on promotion and tenure-track goes through a thorough review by his or her particular department's promotion and tenure committee. An individual hired as an associate professor or a professor is usually reviewed after one or two years.

Through various reports and letters, the teacher is evaluated for the quality of his or her teaching, the amount of research and publications done, the quality of the projects done and the number of students involved in those projects. Any outside service done is also considered, such as serving on committees.

The evaluation reports are reviewed by the department, the college, the dean and finally the provost to determine whether tenure and promotion will be granted. Buras said the process is "very carefully designed" to protect the rights of the individual and the integrity of the institution.

Todd said because of his status he has to work more than the average professor, in terms of teaching more classes and teaching in winter and summer sessions, to earn a lower salary. He was hired to replace a professor and did not have his doctorate when he was hired, which is why he was not put imme mid

diately on tenure and promotion track, he said.

He received his doctorate in 1993 but he did not publish his dissertation. "It's very difficult to find a job without publication," he said.

Todd also said, "Good teaching is not something that gets you hired." He said he has not pursued job offers at other institutions because the UA has higher quality students.

"Research One (institutions), especially the U of A, are addicted to grant money," he said. Dolata said because a high percentage of the UA's revenue comes from federal research grants, a person not bringing in that overhead is not bringing in money that the university needs.

Dolata said his computer-based research does not require as much funding. He said he has not pursued his research as much because he has spent his time at the university doing "five-star teaching" and being a faculty fellow.

Todd said the political science department has been supportive of his efforts and good teaching, but that teacher evaluations by students are often thought of as a "popularity contest."

Dolata, who has job offers at other schools, said he failed to receive tenure because he was not able to receive grant money by writing a successful grant proposal.

"In my opinion, the whole system isn't fatally flawed, it just needs some fine tuning," Dolata said. He said there needs to be more balance because some professors "excel as much in teaching as others do in research."

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