Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Cherian George gate: La trahison des clercs at NTU?

In the following message from the organizers of the petition concerning NTU's unfair evaluation of Cherian's George's quality of scholarship and teaching, and its unjustified denial of tenure to George, it is clear that George's professional colleagues at the School of Communication and Information value his research and teaching at the school, and endorsed his tenure.

However, for some non-academic reasons (political pressure?), either the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences or NTU refused George his tenure, and thus terminating his services at NTU.

What a disgraceful and despicable act of betrayal of academic integrity (la trahison des clercs) if indeed NTU had kowtowed to Singapore's political masters.

We demand that NTU, which is a public institution and accountable to the Singapore public, be transparent and reveal the exact areas in teaching, research and publication where George is considered deficient, and the relevant supporting evidence.

We will then judge whether Cardiff University professor Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, who has reviewed George's teaching and scholarship as part of the tenure process, is right to be outraged by NTU's denial of George's tenure.

Background: here

NTU professor denied tenure may have to leave job, Yahoo!News (here)

NTU rejects outspoken professor's tenure appeal, Yahoo!News, April 30, 2013 (here)


Message from Petition organizers to the signatories
Dear Signatories,
The petition, signatures and comments were delivered to four key professors yesterday. The organisers of the petition today (February 28, 2013) met with Dr Benjamin Hill Detenber, chair of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information (WKWSCI), as well as Dr Mark Cenite, assistant chair of the school. Dr Alan Chan Kam-Leung, the dean of the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS), was unable to attend the meeting because he was travelling overseas.
The objective of the meeting was for us to reiterate the key limbs of the petition, which are as follows:
- WKWSCI and HASS have to join the signatories in publicly affirming the stellar teaching credentials of Dr Cherian George

- Given claims by Dr Karin Wahl-Jorgensen on February 23, 2013 that the denial of a tenure contract could have been politically motivated, as well as members of the WKWSCI community and the public echoing similar sentiments, NTU is obliged to provide categorical assurances that there is no policy of curtailment of academic freedom or political discrimination in the university.
We also conveyed to the two professors that the petition is wholly organised by students, and does not involve any faculty member, including Dr Cherian George. In addition, we made clear that what was said in the meeting was to be on the record. Dr Detenber told us that Dr Chan and the NTU provost and deputy president Dr Freddy Boey were best placed to comment on the issue of academic freedom in the university. He assured us that the two of them would meet us at a later date.

Dr Detenber then provided us with a brief outline of how the tenure application process works in NTU, and in particular, in WKWSCI. He emphasised that the process does not involve self-nomination or seniority. Instead, it is kick-started by an internal promotions and tenure committee in WKWSCI, who select candidates based on merit. The nominations are then sent to the chair, who eventually decides on who to endorse, with the help of a separate advisory committee.
The endorsed nominations are then sent to the dean of the college of HASS and his own advisory committee, and later to a university-level promotions and tenure review committee. The final approving body for tenure applications in NTU is the Academic Affairs Council, which is a subset of the university’s board of trustees.

Dr Detenber said at the school level, WKWSCI had endorsed Dr George as a nominee for a tenure contract on both occasions, adding that he was making this clarification with the approval of Dr Boey. He said he was unable to comment on whether the nominations on both occasions had been cleared at the subsequent levels. Dr Detenber also said that the school had nominated Dr George to be reappointed as the head of the division of journalism and publishing in 2010, but the university turned this down.
*3+3+1 road to a tenure contract

A tenure contract in NTU refers to a full-time permanent faculty position with no periodic contract reappointments until retirement. Dr Detenber said tenure-track professors employed in NTU first get a three-year contract before they are put up for consideration for a tenure contract. If they fail to get a tenure contract at the first attempt, they would then be granted another three-year contract. If they fail at the second attempt, they would be then allowed to stay in the university for another year, before being asked to leave. This policy essentially means that Dr Cherian George will leave NTU within the next year.
*Teaching credentials
Dr Detenber also affirmed Dr George’s teaching credentials. He said WKWSCI fully recognised Dr George’s quality, and that this was validated by the fact that it nominated him for a teaching award in 2009, which he won (ed. NTU news here). Dr Cenite also pointed out Dr George’s distinction in pioneering the annual Going Overseas for Advanced Reporting (GO-FAR) programme as well as in helming the Asian Journalism Fellowship.

*Further action

We will further apprise signatories on new developments and plans after our meetings with Dr Chan and Dr Boey. Dr Detenber also said he was considering the best way to engage the WKWSCI community on this issue.
Yours sincerely,
Bhavan Jaipragas
Eve Yeo Yu Ping
Mark Tay Hiok Leng
Jasmine Ng Zi Ting

This message is from Bhavan Jaipragas who started the petition "Tenure contract for Dr Cherian George"


Dons alleged bias in NTU tenure process in 2009

The Straits Times, Feb 22, 2009 (source)

A GROUP of professors from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has raised a protest to varsity heads over the process of awarding tenure.

Unhappy about what they call a 'non-transparent' process, the group of about 10 has sent e-mail messages to the heads of their respective schools as well as to NTU provost Bertil Andersson, who has said the claims are baseless.

The group has also sought help from the Education Services Union (ESU), a body affiliated to the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) which was set up to promote good relations between employees of private education institutions and their employers.

However, the group was turned away because ESU can represent only bargainable employees, and university faculty members are considered non-bargainable staff. Instead, the ESU has referred the case to the Ministry of Manpower.

At the centre of the professors' complaint is something called the T65 contract, which guarantees them a place on the teaching staff till they hit the age of 65. It is the most coveted contract among professors.

More than a dozen professors have claimed that the selection process for the contract is 'biased and undemocratic'. Last year, 640 of NTU's 1,500 faculty members applied for the T65 contract. Of these, 55 per cent, or 352 professors, were awarded the contract.

Some of those who missed out are now claiming that they deserved it too as they had more publications to their names or were rated higher on student feedback forms than some professors who received the coveted tenure.

However, the university's administration has defended the integrity of its review process.

Professor Andersson said that since 2007, the process has involved internal committees and external referees assessing T65 applicants on the merit of their research, teaching and service to the university.

He added that members of the Academic Research Council, set up by the Ministry of Education to oversee national research and development efforts, had commented that NTU's 55 per cent tenure success rate squared with international standards.

Prof Andersson also said the unhappy professors were in the minority. Only 5 per cent of the 288 unsuccessful T65 applicants had sent in appeals.

However, 15 or so professors who spoke or wrote to The Straits Times insist they have a case.

Associate Professor Michael Heng, from NTU's School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, is among them.

He wrote to the newspaper last month, alleging 'serious lapses' in the process. He said that in internal school meetings, faculty members were told by their Chairs that only research counted in the tenure review. They were told teaching and service to the university were not important, he said.

He added: 'This is taxpayers' money we are talking about, so this is of public interest.'

The other professors, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they agreed with him. They said they had tried in the past to get their views aired, but without success.

After being turned away by the ESU, they attempted to set up their own union, and went as far as drawing up a draft Constitution. But NTUC advised them against doing this because unions should represent all employees in a organisation, not just its executive-level ones.

When contacted for comment, a Ministry of Manpower spokesman said: 'MOM encourages employers and employees to engage in constructive dialogue through established internal grievance management procedures. MOM will render assistance where necessary.'

Tenure review processes at the National University of Singapore and Singapore Management University are similar to those at NTU.

NUS and SMU spokesmen said multiple layers of checks were in place to ensure transparency, and that tenure review is an accepted practice at the universities.



Anonymous said...

Apprently it was the Board of Trustees who declined the tenure. Go look into its composition and you will find the reasons for the rejection. Too many cronies and wives in there.

Anonymous said...

NTU must clarify the above point. If it is true, it is no longer a peer evaluation.