Tag Archives: Academic freedom

Tenure vs. contracts

I’m on the Promotion and Tenure Committee here, and my two colleagues and I on the committee just finished the first of two solid weeks of reviewing evaluation portfolios of all the faculty up for promotion, tenure, and annual review. It’s great fun. But seriously, I’ve been thinking a lot about tenure this week. In the more exasperating moments, I’ve wished that we were one of those colleges that doesn’t do tenure any more at all, but rather some kind of contract system.

First of all, that would make us rare. According to the blurb for this book on colleges without tenure, 97% of research universities and 99% of four-year public universities offer tenure — and apparently 91% of small private colleges (like mine). The number of colleges without tenure is small, but I think it’s growing. Certainly I hear a lot of rumbling among administrators (although I haven’t ever heard it among my own) that tenure is an antiquated system that does nothing more than guarantee that you’ll end up with a bunch of professors who have precisely zero incentive to improve on anything once they’ve busted their humps to get tenure in the first place; and colleges ought to make it easier to get rid of recalcitrant profs — or simply make it easier to get rid of everybody in case of financial troubles. And as a P&T member, contracts sure do sound easier to deal with than tenure.

But I wonder just how much different things really are under a contract system. Wouldn’t professors still have to put together some sort of case for renewal of contracts that amounts to a post-tenure review? And wouldn’t there have to be some faculty body — a P&T Committee — to review all that stuff? The only difference I can see is that (1) the prof’s job is really on the line every five years, unlike in the tenure system, (2) your academic freedom is never really guaranteed, and (3) under contracts, you have to take on faith the idea that the administrators you work with over the years will not abuse the ability to deny a contract renewal in the future.

If this is really true, then why do some people prefer contracts over tenure, and why are some administrators really interested in replacing tenure with contracts?

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Filed under Academic freedom, Education, Higher ed, Life in academia, Tenure

Retrospective: Truth and consequences for Ward Churchill (7.25.2007)

Editorial: Today we have articles #10 and #11 in the weeklong retrospective series here at CO9s. The twelfth and final one will come tomorrow, and then it’ll be back to regular posting.

This article was written this past summer, just after Ward Churchill had been fired. Even before his firing, I really believed that the main issue in the Churchill saga had gotten lost. People were merely choosing sides — the lefties taking Churchill’s side (see the Peter Kerstein reference in the main article) and the righties reflexively going the other way. But I didn’t believe, nor do I believe now, that this was the right way to see it all. The main point was that the man lied — about himself, about his research, in the research itself that he purportedly — and falsely — claimed he did. That he did so is on the public record and beyond dispute. That some would whitewash the fact by making him a martyr for academic freedom is as shameful as it is predictable.

I see the whole Churchill affair as just an extension of academic dishonesty, which I’ve already expressed my distaste for.

Truth and consequences for Ward Churchill

Originally posted: July 25, 2007

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Ward Churchill has been fired:

More than two and a half years after Ward Churchill’s writings on 9/11 set off a furor, and more than a year after a faculty panel at the University of Colorado at Boulder found him guilty of repeated, intentional academic misconduct, the University of Colorado Board of Regents voted 8-1 Tuesday evening to fire him.

The vote followed a special, all-day meeting of the board, in which it heard in private from Churchill, a faculty panel and from Hank Brown, president of the University of Colorado System, who in May recommended dismissing Churchill from his tenured post. The regents emerged from their private deliberations at around 5:30 p.m. Colorado time and voted to fire Churchill, but they did not discuss their views and they quickly adjourned. A small group of Churchill supporters in the audience shouted “bullshit” as the board vote was announced.

While the firing is effective immediately, Churchill is entitled under Colorado regulations to receive one year’s salary, which for him is just under $100,000.

The university’s Board of Regents got it right by firing Churchill. Continue reading

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Filed under Academic freedom, Academic honesty, Education, Free speech, Higher ed