Tenureship without 'TENURE'

Tenureship without 'TENURE'

by Rodrigo Fernós

Many private universities and higher educational colleges have almost abandoned the tenure system; and for a few decades now public universities seem to have also adopted the model, greatly reducing the percentage of faculty that actually has tenure.  While it might be argued that there are still some tenured positions on the faculty, in some instances they are such a small fraction of the total academic body, that few professors can reasonably and viably hope to obtain tenure.  After years, and in some cases decades, of sacrifice on the 'search for truth' for the greater good, the unfortunate ones are left holding an empty sack, with little to show for.  While tenure is not 'necessary' in a job market, it is improper to compare academic jobs with regular employment, specifically when it is considered the sacrifice that has usually been made to obtain a higher degree.  Absence of tenure tends to stimulate the baser instinct of its victims, having a noxious effect on the long term well being of the institution.

HOWEVER, there is a simple intermediate measure that can be established that helps give the institution some level of financial stability while at the same time recognizing the value and efforts of its academic personnel.  This is the old 'law of doubling'.

Imagine the following.  Instead of having a system where professors are placed on contract on a semester basis ad nauseum, implement a system of 'doubling' whereby the term of the contract is doubled by its previous figure.  We visualize the following scenario: First contract: 1 year, second contract: 5 years; third contract 10 years; fourth contract 20 years.  The four contract would equal in total around 36 years of labor, which is roughly the average time span a professor would spend teaching over his academic lifetime. (Presuming that they obtained a phd at the age of 30, they would finish their employment by the age of 66--about when most professors enter retirement.)  If the academic was a 'genius', entering the academic labor market at an early age of 22, then a fifth contract would basically provide a life-long guaranteed job security--which is partly a factor in the incentive system we call 'tenure'.

The benefits are immediately obviously in this scheme.  

From the point of view of the professor, each yearly investment with the institution will contribute to an 'ever-increasing' reward; they would be guaranteed that at every stage of their career their efforts would not have been in vain.  A professor would not, as is now the case, be subject to arbitrary dismissal after decades of labor in an institution without tenure--certainly the most base insult from institutions are alleged to implicitly hold themselves accountable to a higher moral order than 'ordinary'  social organizations.

From the point of view of the institution, it would be guaranteed a safer investemnt in its faculty. There can be no doubt that there are some professors for which the light of 'truth' turned off long ago and  simply should not be teaching.  Assured of their life-long employment, and for whatever detrimental incidents in life may have befallen them, they have given up being productive members of their communities. They publish little, they read little, and they merely occupy a space.  The method here suggested would allow the institution to catch these individuals at an early stage, and provide them with a chance of renewal before the habit of bitternes becomes a tragedy, for both the individual and the organization.

© 2014 Rodrigo fernos riddick