UND President Has Nothing To Show For Month Off Studying Tenure Issue

What if a university president took a month off to study an aspect of university administration but then had nothing to show for it? Wouldn’t that make it seem as though the president in question…kind of took a vacation instead?

Back in July I wrote a post about UND President Robert Kelley requesting a month off to study the issue of tenure.

This sort of leave is allowed under North Dakota University System policy 701.2 which grants 30 days of developmental leave to university presidents for every five years of service. In his letter requesting the leave, sent to NDUS Chancellor and fellow university president Larry Skogen on May 19th (see below), Kelley said he study “what role tenure plays…in the future success of the American Research University.” Specifically, Kelley wanted to look at the issue of post-tenure review, which allows for performance evaluations for university faculty who have received tenure.

“The idea of a university president taking a month off to think about something having to do with being a university president sounds a bit like a plumber taking a month off to think about plumbing.”

Skogen approved the request on June 17.

I was critical of the move. Post-tenure review is a decades old concept and it was hard to imagine what Kelley could hope to add to it. But since Kelley received permission for this supposedly working sabbatical taking place in July and August of last year, I was anxious to read what he came up with.

And coming up with something was a part of the proposal for the leave Kelley submitted to Skogen as required by policy 701.2.

Under the “Materials and Methods” section of Kelley’s request letter he writes: “Materials evaluated on subjects cited above will be summarized in a written review…”

Since Kelley’s time off ended in August, about four months ago, I figured he’d have completed his summary of what he did with his month off. Turns out, no such thing exists.

“President Kelley has worked on an administrative (as opposed to academic) report on tenure, but he has held off on that since Chancellor Skogen asked him to chair a System-wide task force to review tenure and promotion policies,” UND spokesman Peter Johnson told me via email. “I suspect the thinking has been to not inadvertently influence the work of the task force. When the task force gets under way, he’ll be able to share the results of his work as appropriate.”

The idea of a university president taking a month off to think about something having to do with being a university president sounds a bit like a plumber taking a month off to think about plumbing. This whole exercise sees a bit ridiculous, but all the more so when evidence that Kelley, you know, did stuff during his time off is in short supply.

Should Kelley be working on this report now that he’s returned to his day-to-day duties? Shouldn’t he have done that, you know, during the sabbatical?

I’m not necessarily opposed to this sort of development time, but shouldn’t there be evidence that the time was used for development and not a vacation?

Of course, we’re talking about a university president here. They’re not really held accountable for anything they do.

SkogenKelly

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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