Head baseball coach Scott Winterburn, whose team won the SCIAC championship last May, accepted a new position as assistant athletic director with mixed feelings, following a failed tenure bid that caused University of La Verne administrative officials to change his job classification from faculty member to administrator.
While enthusiastic about his new role, Winterburn was disappointed that his professor title was changed under dubious circumstances that cited his “lack of research.”
Tenure is a lifetime contract given to a faculty member who has proven himself to the University based on a set of criteria described by the Professional Ethics and Personnel Policies Including Tenure (PEPPIT) standards. When Winterburn was hired eight years ago, his job was described, as understood by him, as a teacher and coach with responsibilities to run all aspects of the baseball program, such as fundraising, keeping up community relations, recruiting and most importantly, helping his players graduate.
In 2004, Winterburn, originally hired on a tenure track professor contract, was promoted from assistant professor to associate professor. His promotion critique from both his department faculty and from Fred Yaffe, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, cited that he had performed admirably in the job, based on his coaching and teaching, which matched his job description, said Winterburn.
Then, three years later, he forwarded his case for tenure. According to Al Clark, associate vice president of academic affairs, in the ULV tenure process there are four recommendations presented to Provost Alden Reimonenq, who then uses these recommendations—whether they are “yes” or “no”—to decide whether a faculty member is awarded tenure. The four recommendations are written by that faculty member’s department, a personnel committee from their college, the dean of that college and finally a faculty personnel committee made up of members of the faculty voted upon by all the faculty at the University. Following ULV guidelines, he first was reviewed by the entire movement and sports science department. At that level, Winterburn received unanimous support from his tenured faculty in the three areas of teaching, research and service.
The MSS department’s positive ranking in all three areas was forwarded to the arts and sciences dean’s tenure review committee.
Winterburn’s bid for tenure was denied at that level, and he says the positive, supportive evaluation of the MSS department was overruled.
The reason cited by the arts and sciences committee was Winterburn’s lack of scholarly research. He did receive favorable ratings in teaching and service from the dean’s arts and sciences committee, Winterburn said.
When he was asked whether Yaffe’s approval was needed, Winterburn replied, “No comment.”
Yaffe did not answer repeated requests for comment.
Yaffe forwarded the results of his committee to the main faculty personnel committee, where Winterburn’s application was again denied, he said, based on the Arts and Science tenure committee’s statement that he did not perform adequate research in his field.
“I signed a contract, understood my job description and did my job,” said Winterburn.
“This is a situation where a decision is not reflective of the way everyone feels, and certainly not people who work in or closely with our department. It is, however, reflective of the way an extremely small faction of the University [feels]. My department was 100 percent behind my promotion, but none of them was included in the decision,” Winterburn said.
Paul Alvarez, department chair of MSS, said, “It’s wrong to change the ground rules on a person halfway through, and if it were me, I would take it as a slap in the face. We are happy to retain Scott. It was wrong not to give him tenure. The University does not understand what we do here in MSS.”
Clark had no part in the decision that was made in Winterburn’s case but, in general, in regards to the University, he said, “We have unquestionably put more emphasis on scholarship across the board over the past five to 10 years.”
According to Clark, there is a proposal this month to make changes to these guidelines but will not affect Winterburn. He also said that Winterburn had the option to appeal the decision by going personally in front of the faculty personnel committee and then to Reimonenq to plead his case.
Alvarez said it was the decision of the people evaluating the situation not to give Winterburn tenure based on the lack of research and publication in his field in such publications as peer review journals. “[Students are] paying for an experience. Do you want faculty spending their time researching papers or in their office available to students or working with students?” he said.
Winterburn added, “We felt that within MSS, we wrote the standards for tenure.”
There are five areas that are evaluated by the different people who review a tenure application which include teaching, scholarship, academic advising, service to to the University and service to the community. In the PEPPIT handbook, the guidelines for promotion and tenure are the same and in that handbook within Article III, Section B.7.C. it is written that “scholarly competence as judged by such items as ... published (or unpublished) articles or books.”
“The real issue is how you interpret the statement,” Clark said.
“I was the first in the MSS/athletics department with dual appointment [teacher and coach] to not get tenure under the set of criteria in place when I was hired. The rules changed, and I wasn’t informed,” said Winterburn.
As for Winterburn’s new position, he will now be taking over the responsibilities left vacant by the retirement of Rex Huigens, who formerly dealt with all compliance issues in addition to being the men’s head golf coach.
“He is the assistant athletic director for compliance and eligibility,” which includes “verifying eligibility of athletes from year-to-year and educating students, coaches and athletic administration on the rules and regulations for the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and NCAA,” Kline said.
Winterburn said, “This is a position I’ve always aspired to be in. I’ve prepared myself and my career for this position, but that doesn’t change my feelings on the tenure process. I’m excited about the opportunity to interact with more of the students in the athletics department.”
Kline said, “He has a great rapport with everyone in the department. He works extremely hard.”
With his new position, Winterburn continues to teach because he loves teaching and working with students, but the number of his classes has been scaled back.
Chris Weedon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.