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Future of tenure - college level

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Future of tenure - college level
Post by biochem   » Wed Sep 10, 2014 8:42 pm

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Back to school again and with that comes the annual tenure controversy. Basically at the college level once tenure is obtained, you have to commit murder to lose it and even then it's difficult.

On the Anti-tenure side:

1. The loony tune crowd. Once obtaining tenure this group of crazies is consistently entertaining with their nutcase positions and theories. At least it would be entertaining if they weren't actually teaching students.

2. The I have tenure and now I'm going to sleep crowd. Once tenure is obtained, some professors coast until well paid retirement.

3. Tenure is based almost exclusively on research and almost always ignore teaching ability. The result - the best teachers are denied tenure and some of the worst teachers get it. Extraordinary teaching ability and extraordinary research ability seldom co-exist.

4. Tenure decisions are based almost solely at the discretion of existing liberal professors. Good luck getting tenure if you are a conservative. (On the bright side if you successfully disguise your conservative leanings until AFTER you have tenure, they are stuck with you FOREVER!)

5. Tenure timelines and female fertility are a poor match and it is high on the list of reasons why there are so few female faculty. Professors are required to work insane hours until obtaining tenure (usually about 40). It's very difficult to spend the time demanded by the tenure committees and have a life outside of work. Starting a family at 40(+) doesn't work nearly as well for women as for men (1/3 of women are infertile by this point).

6. It's almost impossible to get rid of criminals, sociopaths and other deviants. In theory many tenure positions have morals clauses. In practice they are almost never enforced.

On the plus side

1. Most professors aren't loony toons or sleepers and tenure protects them too.

2. Provides job security for college professors increasing the likelihood that the best and brightest will work at universities. Partially true. But there is no shortage of people wanting to be professors.

3. Elimination puts school at a disadvantage in recruiting / retention. Definitely true if a single school eliminates tenure but very few of the rest do not.

4. Protects teachers from being fired for personal or other non-work related reasons. Ironically professors are denied tenure for this sort of thing all the time.

5. Schools can't fire experienced teachers and replace them with less experienced teachers. Ummm. Universities are already doing this. Adjunct professors (non-tenure track) teach a higher percentage of the courses every year and get paid peanuts. Lack of tenure might make the problem worse. On the other hand most tenured professors spend the bulk of their time doing research and don't teach much.

6. And the Biggie. Protects academic freedom, the ability of a professor to be controversial. In practice this hasn't meant controversial, it has meant clinically insane.

So will tenure stay or go? Every year there is another story about the problems with tenure: some loony toons professor going on national news with the latest nutcase conspiracy theory etc. Will it be eliminated? Reformed? Left alone? Eliminated in one state, while left alone in others?

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