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Author Topic: Tenure?  (Read 2343 times)

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Offline TriesteTopic starter

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Tenure?
« on: April 10, 2011, 10:26:20 PM »
I have ridiculously mixed feelings about formal tenure in schools. Many hardworking professors, good professors, of mine do not achieve tenure. Tenure in my school depends not on how the professors teach, but on how they research, even if they don't have student researchers in their labs (or whatever liberal arts professors have for research and whatnot).

Many tenured professors suck at teaching for one reason or other. They are too preoccupied with research (and unavailable to their students), or they do absolutely nothing and pass everyone in the class. Or they don't teach. Or they are nasty, mean, horrible people to their students and their coworkers and their subordinates and they can't get fired.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that there has got to be a way to give good professors and teachers some kind of job security without sheltering bad teachers. Ideas?

Offline itsbeenfun2000

Re: Tenure?
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2011, 11:29:25 PM »
In k-12 its a matter of the administrators doing the jobs as well as the association. If you have a good relationship the association councils bad teachers out. if that doesn't work the administrators have to dot their I's and cross their t's and not make it look like a set up. The purpose of tenure is to protect good teachers from bad administrators not protect poor teachers. I know people don't believe it but many bad teachers are ushered out in the lower levels with out anyone knowing it.

Most bad teachers are still there because the administration doesn't follow the agreed upon evaluation plan. We actually had to have a meeting with new administrators one year to teach them how to do it correctly so there would be no question when it was time to get rid of a bad teacher.



Offline Sure

Re: Tenure?
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2011, 11:43:18 PM »
Tenure was made to prevent political purges. For example, during the English Civil War, when Cromwell was in power, Royalist Doctors were purged from Oxford and Cambridge. When the Restoration occurred, Parliamentarians were in turn purged. Since we're not really in danger of that (what are the chances of the Democrats or Republicans marching up to Harvard and purging people who voted for the wrong party?) it's outlived it's initial purpose, but there are new justifications I'm sure.

Anyway, tenure was not at all made to ensure job security for good professors or to in general encourage the level of academics is better than it would be otherwise. It was basically the academics telling the politicians to GTFO of their ivory tower.


Offline ShamshielDF

Re: Tenure?
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2011, 10:26:04 AM »
Perhaps not on the basis of simply Democrat vs. Republican, but what about matters at the moment such as evolution vs. "intelligent design", or the scientific basis of anthropogenic climate change?  Politics doesn't come down to a simple exercise of purges based on overall political ideology...it could be a matter of specific viewpoints.

Living in Utah, this matter has a come up a number of times at one of our universities in particular: BYU.  Articles from various sources discuss the problems between the LDS church and their private, religious college.  I have no qualms with churches establishing/maintaining/administrating their own schools.  I do start to have problems when we see things like this, though.

Offline Neroon

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Re: Tenure?
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2011, 10:58:41 AM »
I think the problem stems from the dual nature what is expected of university academics; I hesitate to use the term professor as I come from a higher education system in which the title professor is granted only to department heads.  On one hand, they are expected to be researchers, to discover new insights and so forth while on the other hand they are expected to teach.  There is no logical reason to assume that one naturally goes with the other.

Probably the only way to do this would be to open up two possible avenues for such academics to gain tenure.  One would be the research route while the other would be the teaching route.  However, I am loathe to suggest this as it would then raise the potential of a divide between different forms of academics, with the researchers looking down on the teachers and vice-versa.  Moreover, it could mean that university students could lose contact with those at the cutting edge of research in their chosen disciplines.  And then there's the whole can of worms of how one determines teaching ability, which is an issue that really deserves its own thread entirely.

Offline Star Safyre

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Re: Tenure?
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2011, 04:32:04 PM »
I can only speak for the K-12 public system of my state.  Florida recently passed a law stating that all public school teachers are to be one annual contacts and eliminated tenure.  Many people who knew me asked how upset I was at this, and I replied not at all.  My school district, and the vast majority of districts surrounding it, had already done away with tenure years ago and all teachers were on annual contacts.  Tenure at the K-12 level in my state was already a misconception before the law was passed, as I believe it is in most educational institutions.

Now are these annual contracts difficult for administration to break during the year without due process?  Yes.  Are contract renewal difficult to obtain barring severe disciplinary action?  Not at all.  Yet still the majority of new teachers leave the profession after less than five years.  Is it sudden lack of tenure or harsh administrative discipline that drives them away?  Obviously not.  The low adherence rate is inherent in the nature of the profession.  It tends to attract starry-eyed do-gooders who lose their illusions after a few years in the field getting their hands dirty.  I'd almost like to have tenure instated (I won't say reinstated as I've never seen it since I entered the field six years ago) as a means to reward these five year-itch teachers for enduring the realities of their profession.  By no means should it be an automatically given reward, but still I think good teachers should enjoy more than the "don't plan past this year" environment we're currently in.

Offline TriesteTopic starter

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Re: Tenure?
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2011, 05:19:54 PM »
Yes, the local K-12 schools here do that as well. Teachers are hired from September to June. In June, their contract expires and they have no job until being re-hired in September.

It is, however, still very much an institution in colleges and universities. I'm of a mind similar to Neroon's, I suppose. But researchers seldom make good professors, it seems like...

Offline Star Safyre

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Re: Tenure?
« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2011, 05:37:20 PM »
I would be comfortable saying that if tenure were an option at any level, it would be at the university level.  Professors are much more vulnerable to politically based firing and have little in the way of demonstrating student success (unlike public K-12 teachers who have state testing to measure student progress).  I'd agree that researchers don't make the best professors, and I'd rather like to see more of a division between researchers and professors.  I understand the need to remain active in one's field, but there's a conflict of interest there that can't be overlooked.

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Re: Tenure?
« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2011, 05:38:48 PM »
Yet still the majority of new teachers leave the profession after less than five years.  Is it sudden lack of tenure or harsh administrative discipline that drives them away?  Obviously not.  The low adherence rate is inherent in the nature of the profession.  It tends to attract starry-eyed do-gooders who lose their illusions after a few years in the field getting their hands dirty.  I'd almost like to have tenure instated (I won't say reinstated as I've never seen it since I entered the field six years ago) as a means to reward these five year-itch teachers for enduring the realities of their profession.  By no means should it be an automatically given reward, but still I think good teachers should enjoy more than the "don't plan past this year" environment we're currently in.

Strangely enough, both my little sister and I had teachers in our various schools that had also taught our older siblings - almost a 17-year gap between the youngest and the oldest.  Of course, then we had to live up to our siblings' accomplishments... -___-

Offline alxnjsh

Re: Tenure?
« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2011, 05:41:48 PM »
Hmmmm, I agree and disagree with Neroon. In the United States, it depends highly on what type of school you're attending.

If you're attending a teaching school, then the emphasis for tenure is based on your teaching and community service. It doesn't particularly mean that your faculty are any better teachers, but it's how they're "graded." These faculty are rarely required to meet stringent publication goals or even find external data for research. I obtained my BA (private) and my MS (public) from teaching intense institutions.

A Research I institution on the other hand is intended to support the advancement of high quality scientific method and thus tenure is based on a faculty's ability to secure research dollars and publish in peer-review journals. I obtained my PHD from a Research I institution.

Do people still need to learn from faculty at a Research I? Of course! Do people still need to base their learning on rigor and research at a teaching institution? Of course. I've found that at my PHD institution often teaching was done by non-tenure track faculty, adjunct faculty, and PHD students.


Offline DarklingAlice

Re: Tenure?
« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2011, 06:16:38 PM »
I don't think it is necessarily true that the best researchers are the worst teachers. I have, on fortunate occasion, had the best of both worlds throughout my time in academia. However, I feel that tenure is primarily determined based on research as opposed to based on a balance of teaching and research skill (predominantly due to more money coming into the university through private grants and money devoted to encouraging research over teaching). Thus my department contains excellent researchers who are excellent teachers and excellent researchers who are poor teachers, but no excellent teachers who are poor researchers (although it does have one excellent researcher/excellent teacher who has retired from research but not teaching). So research is the primary deciding factor when in truth it should be both.

To my mind the flaw is not with the institution of tenure, but rather with its method of determination. And despite Sure's analysis, I feel the institution is still necessary. It isn't a reward, but rather a protection from political climates at the federal, state, and individual university level. Not to mention the shield it affords against opinion of the masses. Without tenure, we introduce a greater risk of conflict of interest into the system, which it really doesn't need. Who wants all professors stepping to the tune of the department head just because he/she hires and fires?

Offline Jude

Re: Tenure?
« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2011, 08:53:44 PM »
Can we agree then, that teachers shouldn't receive tenure if research isn't in the picture?  Because there are a lot of pre-college teachers in high school, etc. that also get tenured.

Offline Kuroneko

Re: Tenure?
« Reply #12 on: April 11, 2011, 09:21:55 PM »
Not all professors that receive tenure conduct research.  I have tenure at a teaching institution and I wasn't required to do research or publish.  Instead, I was required to have 'sufficient' Scholarly and Creative Activity in my field, which allows for varying professional activities across disciplines and for the inclusion of activities that are equal to the standard of research within one's specific discipline.  As a theatre artist, most of my scholarly and creative work is to design costumes under professional United Scenic Artist contracts, to work as a tailor, a painter/dyer or a makeup artist, to present/speak at international arts conferences or to have other artwork accepted into juried art shows. 

My university also is self governed and requries a significant amount of institutional, unit and discplinary service in order to earn tenure.  All this is in additional to a proven teaching record, with a high emphasis on student evaluations of teaching and student accomplishments. 

So, research is not the determining factor for tenure in all cases or at all institutions.

Offline Serephino

Re: Tenure?
« Reply #13 on: April 11, 2011, 10:30:39 PM »
I agree with Alice on this one.  There needs to be some kind of balance.  Teachers, especially those of college level, need to keep up with new advances in their field at the very least.  Contributing to their field wouldn't be a bad thing either.  However, they need to be available to their students too.  Depending on the area of study, only being there for classes a few times a week may not be enough.  I only studied English in college, but still, it was nice that my teachers had office hours, and were quite willing to help us with assignments during those hours.

And there does need to be some protection for these teachers.  If they have ideologies or theories that go against the mainstream, they shouldn't be afraid to teach it.  However, without tenure, they could be fired if enough people don't like it.  That's censorship, and not a good thing.

However, tenure in K-12 probably doesn't serve much purpose.  They teach what the school district tells them too anyway.   

Offline Torch

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Re: Tenure?
« Reply #14 on: April 12, 2011, 12:35:41 PM »
Strangely enough, both my little sister and I had teachers in our various schools that had also taught our older siblings - almost a 17-year gap between the youngest and the oldest.  Of course, then we had to live up to our siblings' accomplishments... -___-

My mother taught at the elementary school level for 35 years. She taught several children of former students, and just before she retired, she taught the grandchild of a student she had her first year of teaching.

Offline itsbeenfun2000

Re: Tenure?
« Reply #15 on: April 12, 2011, 09:47:20 PM »

However, tenure in K-12 probably doesn't serve much purpose.  They teach what the school district tells them too anyway.   


Tenure in the lower levels has nothing to do with research. It is to protect good teachers from vindictive, poor administrators or school board members that have axes to grind.  With the right to bargain comes negotiations. I have negotiated with administrators/boards that are very good and others that are very vindictive. The vindictive ones would gladly get rid of good teachers that stand up to them if it weren't for tenure.

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Tenure?
« Reply #16 on: April 13, 2011, 12:06:53 AM »
I think the problem stems from the dual nature what is expected of university academics; I hesitate to use the term professor as I come from a higher education system in which the title professor is granted only to department heads.  On one hand, they are expected to be researchers, to discover new insights and so forth while on the other hand they are expected to teach.  There is no logical reason to assume that one naturally goes with the other.

Probably the only way to do this would be to open up two possible avenues for such academics to gain tenure.  One would be the research route while the other would be the teaching route.  However, I am loathe to suggest this as it would then raise the potential of a divide between different forms of academics, with the researchers looking down on the teachers and vice-versa.  Moreover, it could mean that university students could lose contact with those at the cutting edge of research in their chosen disciplines.  And then there's the whole can of worms of how one determines teaching ability, which is an issue that really deserves its own thread entirely.

Just like Neroon I come from a tradition where "professor" essentially means department professor/department head (with their own personal circle of research alumni) , not just any teacher, so it's a highly restricted level. When a university or a college doesn't have enough money to solidly live up to its commitments in teaching and researching (over time, and in a variety of subjects) then its staff, researchers , teachers and professors tend to get in the way of each other. Some of the tenured people plainly won't move, won't consider new directions or posts at another school, because they feel they are safe or they are marking time for when the old professor will retire. In a situation of scarcity there aren't a lot of higher academic posts and very few new chairs getting created, and traditionally tenure at university is based mostly on research. So those who are good at research, or who have become insiders in their research field, look down on those who are good at teaching and who may feel they don't get any further. This is the stuff of academic intrigue, an old discipline.

Where I live (Sweden) nearly all major universities are state-run and the bulk of their funding is from the state budget. In the 90s an avenue was opened up to give the title of professor to people who had showed skill at teaching and had done a lot of it (but who might not be likely to get an ordinary faculty professor's chair, because they would always be outrun by those who had gathered more research time and research kudos). That's worked reasonably, but there's still a good deal of murmur that "so-and-so is not a real professor, the title is just for show, he/she was given it by the government, not by the university". Ironically, those who *are* department professors and fullly responsible for a subject sometimes find themselves up to their necks in administration and grant-hunting: someone who is good at research (or teaching) doesn't have to be good at managing paperwork or at negotiating with bureaucrats and selling the value of your discipline, but that's more or less become part of the job description!
« Last Edit: April 13, 2011, 12:19:46 AM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Jude

Re: Tenure?
« Reply #17 on: April 14, 2011, 03:48:50 PM »
Tenure in the lower levels has nothing to do with research. It is to protect good teachers from vindictive, poor administrators or school board members that have axes to grind.  With the right to bargain comes negotiations. I have negotiated with administrators/boards that are very good and others that are very vindictive. The vindictive ones would gladly get rid of good teachers that stand up to them if it weren't for tenure.
Everybody has to put up with bad bosses sometimes.  It's not as if someone in another field isn't occasionally axed by vindictive upper management.  Why do lower level teachers need special job security protections that most workers don't get?  Isn't the Union protection enough against wrongful firings?

Offline TriesteTopic starter

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Re: Tenure?
« Reply #18 on: April 14, 2011, 04:57:02 PM »
I personally question how much the union itself has teachers' best interests in mind. I am strongly pro-union, but other unions are very strong. Strong enough to get unskilled workers full bennies and 40k/year pay (the Chicago L workers are a good example). So why, if the teacher's union is supposedly so strong, do teachers only make an average of about 50-60k a year? I find it ludicrous.

We hold our teachers sacrosanct, but we treat them as if we have a right to them as well. I think that the teachers in this country need new representation, STAT, and I do think that tenure is an outdated institution that needs to be done away with.

Offline itsbeenfun2000

Re: Tenure?
« Reply #19 on: April 14, 2011, 10:17:41 PM »
Everybody has to put up with bad bosses sometimes.  It's not as if someone in another field isn't occasionally axed by vindictive upper management.  Why do lower level teachers need special job security protections that most workers don't get?  Isn't the Union protection enough against wrongful firings?

Its just not the teachers that suffer from bad administration. The students and community suffer as well. A bad administrator can effect educational outcomes for students more then anything else in a school system. Once the word gets out the community's reputation is tarnished especially in highly competitive markets like the Chicago Suburbs. It took our school 5 years to recover from a very poor Superintendent. It was the association in the end that drove him out. With out tenure that never would have happened.