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About the Program: Promotion and Tenure at Penn State

Beyond its importance to the faculty member, tenure ensures the principles of academic freedom, a prerequisite of our free society. In 1900 when noted economist Edward Ross lost his job at Stanford University because Mrs. Leland Stanford didn't like his views on immigrant labor and railroad monopolies, other professors were watching. The incident particularly influenced Arthur O. Lovejoy, philosopher at Johns Hopkins University. In 1915 he and John Dewey organized a meeting to form an organization to ensure academic freedom for faculty members, and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) was born. Most colleges and universities nationwide, including Penn State, adapted AAUP's tenure process to their institutions.

For the Penn State faculty member who receives a tenure and/or promotion letter in May of their sixth year, it is a long-awaited and most significant event. But the semester is over, summer departures and commitments begin, and no University-wide ceremony celebrates this personal milestone.

Shortly after tenure letters were sent in May 2003, a new initiative by Executive Vice President and Provost Rodney Erickson aimed to redress this situation. Each newly tenured or promoted faculty member was asked to select a book for the University Libraries' collection that would include a bookplate to commemorate her or his achievement. In addition, they were invited to join a celebration with members from Penn State's administration, the Libraries, colleges, and departments in The Paterno Family Humanities Reading Room in Pattee Library, highlighted with a display of the selected books and personal statements.

Former Vice Provost Robert Secor first encountered the idea to honor newly tenured and promoted faculty, during a lunch conversation with his counterparts at a Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) meeting at the University of Illinois, where he learned that the University Of Illinois had initiated such a program.

Secor brought the idea back to Provost Erickson, who, he says, was seeking a way to recognize and praise our faculty for their hard work to obtain tenure and promotion. With Bonnie MacEwan, assistant dean for collections, and other Libraries' staff, Secor and his staff adapted the idea to Penn State's multi-campus statewide system.

Books chosen reflect wide-ranging interests among Penn State's faculty — Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Pnin, Revolt Against Destiny, The Lives of a Cell, to name only a few. The CAT (online catalog) entry for each book will include a searchable field with the faculty member's name.

Written statements about the selections give a personal snapshot of the faculty and have the potential to inspire students and others. Barbara Sims, associate professor of criminal justice, chose The Women's Room, a book that inspired her as stay-at-home mom to pursue a college degree. William Lamont, professor of horticulture, chose Lonesome Dove. He states, "For me it holds many truths that I have tried to follow in my journey through life and my career in academia."

In addition to this Web site, the Libraries host an annual exhibit of the book selections to celebrate newly tenured and promoted faculty.

For more information, contact the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, 814-863-7494.

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