How the Legislature Can Create a Better Management Tool for Public Universities

Category: State Issues

Unlike other state agency employees, the performance evaluations for public higher education employees are currently a public record.

A bill has been filed this year to change that, and the merits of the measure are plentiful.  The first is an issue of mere fairness—this is a privilege already granted to state agency employees, federal civil service employees and military personnel.  Public higher education employees, who are also state employees, should receive the same consideration.

The second is an issue of having a sound management tool when it comes to performance.  With current performance evaluations being public record, managers have been known to be reluctant to document needed areas for employee improvement.  Without formal documentation of these matters, the institution is left with no reliable evidence of employee performance.

The University of Tennessee supports pending legislation that removes employee evaluations from the public record and helps create an environment where managers have no reservations in documenting employee performance.  To be clear, performance evaluations of key university executives still will be discussed openly and acted upon in public meetings of the state higher education boards.  The bill would not change this practice but would provide more protection for the vast majority of higher education employees.

The House State Government Subcommittee has unanimously passed the bill.  It is calendared for the full House State Government Committee and Senate State and Local Government Committee next week.

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