Enacting institutional values at universities

Continuing the discussion from The Scholarship Values Summit:

This recent report from HuMetricsHSS looks like it covers many issues similar to those that were brought up at the Scholarship Values summit last year.

… The interviews focused primarily on the reappointment, promotion, and tenure (RPT) process. Interviewees outlined a number of issues to be addressed, including toxicity in evaluation, scholars’ increased alienation from the work they are passionate about, and a high-level virtue-signaling of values by institutions without the infrastructure or resources to support the enactment of those values. Based on these conversations, this white paper offers a set of recommendations for making wide-scale change to address systematic injustice, erasure, and devaluation of academic labor in order to strengthen the positive public impact of scholarship.

Traditional processes of RPT do not support the values articulated in mission statements and hiring meetings. The research–teaching–service triangle is heavily imbalanced in favor of research — a certain number of publications in problematically determined “top” or “excellent” journals or university presses is considered a “threshold” for advancing toward or attaining tenure or promotion to full professor, only after which is teaching considered. “Service,” often defined only as participation on ponderous university-level committees, might be taken into account, if necessary. …

The academy must recognize these multiple levels of agency for it to be able to transform itself into what it professes to be. While there are endless ways to potentially bring about this change, this paper identifies a number of specific recommendations for broadening the definition of scholarship and for reducing harm to BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and disabled faculty, students, and staff.

  • Create a university-level committee to support the evaluation of emerging or underrecognized research approaches aligned with institutional values.
  • Rethink expectations for tenure by aligning achievements with opportunity.
  • Align clear expectations of faculty assignments (including job letters or hiring documents) with institutional values and with specific outcomes and indicators associated with the aspirations of the new member of the faculty.
  • Develop a rubric to inform annual review conversations between chairs and faculty members.
  • Reform the way external review letters are solicited, valued, and evaluated.
  • Participate in values-based workshops at the unit level.
  • Revise unit-level governing documents.
  • Shift the categories of the tenure and promotion process from the means to the ends toward which they are directed.
  • Collaborate with provosts to revise university-level statements on promotion and tenure.
  • Increase opportunities for disciplinary leaders to experience evaluation practices and procedures from a wider diversity of disciplines across the mission of the university.
  • Break down silos both intra- and inter-institutionally.
  • Create better and more consistent ways to track what is now often invisible labor to ensure equity.
  • Dedicate resources toward creating an inclusive, anti-racist campus climate.
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This appendix outlines what values of the universities the HuMetricsHSS team found that universities held.

As part of our research, we examined vision and mission statements, strategic plans, and other materials produced by the BTAA universities that state the values each of them hold. Each document was tagged with corresponding values and then analyzed, with more weight given to the frequency of the term as it appeared across the corpus. Find the full list of 108 values in our interactive visualization.

Relatedly, we also discussed enacting institutional values during the Operationalizing value-driven research and identifying partners to support transformation in academia session that several members of IGDORE and Ronin hosted at the AIMOS conference last year. When preparing the presentation I found that the Magna Charta Universitariam also has a Living Values project which seems to cover a similar scope and I made the following word cloud (size by frequency) of values held by the institutions in this report.

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I didn’t read the full document, but something that seems to be missing from these recommendations is anything about Who makes the decisions. It’s hard to imagine anything really changing if it’s the same type of people making these decisions. All of these recommendations seems to be around training for or influencing a singular group of people that has a limited world view and are embedded within rigid environment; the assumption is that this group of people is able to make better decisions, despite being entrenched in a certain way of thinking (hence the need for “training”). Basically, their overall pool of people is pretty limited. I mean, isn’t all of their social diversity already gone before they even start considering how to promote them?

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Good point Arika. I guess this is an incremental approach to institutional reform that isn’t aiming to make any disruptive changes. Pragmatically that may mean they are more likely to get implemented, and I assume that the end-game is for the policies to allow diversity to slowly trickle up the academic ranks. But I agree that the preferred near-term outcome seems to be training the people who make the decisions in the current unsupportive RPT processes to use these new policies.