Organisation - December 3, 2009

Tenure track optional for established staff

Current staff do not have to sign up to tenure track but will be expected to improve their performance. The campaigners are satisfied with the concessions.

Fred de Boer (left) hands Martin Kropff a petition against tenure track with 320 signatures
Newly appointed staff will have to meet the tenure track criteria of Wageningen UR, but established staff are exempted. The legal position of staff will not change, even if they do opt for tenure track. Rector Magnificus Martin Kropff announced this after a week of discussions about the new staff policy. He talked to the directors of the sciences groups and graduate schools, and to the campaigning staff members who handed him 320 signatures on 26 November, in protest against the introduction of tenure track.
Last month some sciences groups told their staff that they would have to meet the tenure track criteria 'within three years' or 'sooner or later'. The rector now made clear that staff can go over to tenure track if they wish, but they have the choice. They are expected to improve their performance, though. That can be done through the currently usual Performance evaluations in which the professor outlines the goals and coaches staff members in reaching them. The criteria depend on the chair group and the ambition, experience and age of the staff member. 'An individual approach is needed', says Kropff. 'The main thing is that the personal ambitions of the staff fit in the team.'
Tenure
Nevertheless, quality has to go up if Wageningen UR wants to be competitive still in twenty years time, says Kropff. 'That's why we have now established tougher criteria for new appointments. However, there is only one moment when you can make the choice for 'up or out', and that is when you decide whether to give someone tenure. And precisely because staff members could be active in the organization for thirty years after that, we want to make sure they're good.'
'I notice that everyone is pleased when we set goals', says the rector. 'For example, we are aiming for an assessment grade of 3.7 for education. Half the staff don't make that grade yet. So it's an ambition, which we back up by offering staff courses.'
Selfish
On 26 November, Kropff spoke to staff of the Environmental Sciences Group, who launched a petition against the tenure track criteria for established staff. As he handed over the petition, ESG staff member Fred de Boer said, 'Globally, tenure track is losing ground, as it leads to selfish behaviour. Teamwork is very important in our work. We want a career policy that is motivating.'
This was followed by constructive talks, according to both the campaigners and the rector. 'We could see that the rector has an academic background', said Fred de Boer. He took the protest seriously.' His colleague Milena Holmgren said, 'In the information meetings it was said that everyone had to sign up to tenure track, but that was bad communication.'
The new career policy will be evaluated after a year.

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