Letter to the editor: Three strikes rule misused

C. Richard Shumway, Pullman

I agree with your Sept. 15 editorial in which you argue for a clear separation between industry pressure and evaluation of scientific discovery. This is a vital issue facing higher education and is not unique to one college at WSU.
It is faced by colleges throughout the country that have an industry clientele and, like CAHNRS, have a service as well as a research discovery mission to that clientele. The challenge is to establish clear research, education, and service expectations for each position that are consistent with the goals of the university and then ensure that the faculty member enjoys the academic freedom to pursue those expectations in a responsible way without external influence. Faculty must be evaluated based on the quality of their work, not external influence.
However, I would take exception to what seems to be an unqualified denunciation of a “three strikes” policy. Such a policy can be used to incentivize and ensure satisfactory teaching and research effectiveness, and to remediate inadequate performance. I think both faculty and students would support a post-tenure review system used consistently and fairly for these purposes.
But a “three strikes” policy can obviously be misused, as can any other evaluative process, and that concern is at the heart of your editorial and the earlier Sept. 12 article. Use of the three strikes policy used to respond to external pressure despite evidence of otherwise satisfactory research and teaching performance is not in the long-term interest of WSU or its faculty at large.