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Facts regarding status of tenure case at Iowa State

Guillermo Gonzalez, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Iowa State University, is appealing the university's March decision to not grant him tenure and promotion. The appeal of the final tenure decision is now with ISU President Gregory Geoffroy, who will evaluate the case and provide a final decision by June 6, 2007.

Tenure is a complex process. It is among the most important decisions a university makes and is never taken lightly. Outside of academia, however, there is little shared understanding of tenure, its rigor and significance.

For that reason, and because Gonzalez's appeal has generated a number of questions, the following "Frequently Asked Questions" may be helpful in understanding the tenure process at Iowa State.

What is tenure?

Tenure is recognition of significant accomplishment in scholarship and in faculty responsibilities in research, teaching and service. Faculty members are made aware of performance expectations as they pursue tenure. They are given annual evaluations and a major, three-year review in a seven-year probation period.

What does achieving tenure mean?

It means a lifetime appointment for the individual being considered. Before granting tenure, faculty and university leaders must be convinced of the candidate's promise of excellence in his or her academic discipline that will last for the duration of his or her academic career. It is a high standard of excellence and achievement -- so high, that many good researchers have failed to satisfy the demands of earning tenure.

How is the tenure review process handled at Iowa State?

Like most research universities, Iowa State has an extensive process of evaluating faculty for tenure. The procedure is prescribed in the Faculty Handbook ( and in each college's and department's organizational documents. The evaluation is based on the candidate's record of teaching, service and scholarly research during the time of the candidate's appointment at Iowa State, using standards and expectations set by the candidate's faculty colleagues in his/her academic department. The review begins in the candidate's academic department, where a recommendation on tenure and promotion is generated by a faculty vote. The process includes consideration of recommendations by reputable persons in the same area of study, but who are not at Iowa State.

What happens next?

In sequence, the department chair, a college-level committee, the dean of the college, and the executive vice president and provost all conduct a review of the candidate's record of teaching, service and scholarly research. They generate recommendations for the next level of review. The candidate's dossier and all of the recommendations are presented to the university president, who makes a final decision.

What if a candidate is not granted tenure?

In the case of a negative decision, the candidate has the right of appeal, using a process prescribed in the Faculty Handbook.

Why was tenure not granted to Guillermo Gonzalez?

Dr. Gonzalez was evaluated for tenure and promotion to associate professor by the tenured faculty in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. That evaluation was based on an assessment of the excellence of his teaching, service, scholarly research publications and research funding in astronomy, using standards and expectations set by the department faculty. The consensus of the tenured department faculty, the department chair, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the executive vice president and provost was that tenure should not be granted. Based on recommendations against granting tenure and promotion at every prior level of review, and his own review of the record, President Gregory Geoffroy notified Gonzalez in March that he would not be granted tenure and promotion to associate professor.

Will President Geoffroy comment on this process before his final decision in June?

This is a personnel matter. Out of respect for Dr. Gonzalez's rights and the integrity of the appeal process, President Geoffroy will not make a public comment while he is reviewing the case.