Popular UAA engineering professor gets tenure, despite recommendation

Posted: Thursday, May 02, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- University of Alaska Anchorage Chancellor Lee Gorsuch has overruled a university administrator and awarded tenure to a popular engineering professor who otherwise would have lost his job.

Grant Baker found out Wednesday that Gorsuch decided to give him both tenure and a promotion from assistant professor to associate professor.

''This is a great result,'' Baker said.

Nearly 80 students signed a letter supporting Baker in early April after UAA provost James Chapman recommended against tenure and promotion. He said Baker didn't meet the university's research requirements.

Faculty members who don't get tenure are terminated after a year.

Gorsuch, in Homer for commencement exercises, issued a statement Wednesday afternoon that praised Baker's teaching and service to the university.

Several lower review panels had recommended Baker get tenure but not promotion, citing insufficient research work. The university's tenure review process weighs a combination of teaching, service and research.

Gorsuch echoed concerns about Baker's research, but credited his teaching ability and efforts securing a $115 million research endowment at UAA using settlement money from the Exxon Valdez oil spill, UAA spokeswoman Lori Keim said.

Gorsuch exercised his discretion to focus on Baker's ''exceptional performance in teaching and service,'' she said. ''And the expectation those exceptional efforts will continue.''

Provost Chapman said even though his recommendation was overruled, ''the process worked as it should.''

Baker said it's rare for a university chancellor to serve as the final word on a tenure decision.

Baker last year won a state Supreme Court case against the University of Alaska Fairbanks that centered on unfair termination. He's taught at UAA for seven years.

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