Post Academic


Broke-Ass Schools: The Tenure Track

Posted in Broke-Ass Schools,Housekeeping by postacademic on June 13, 2010
Tags: , ,

(Programming note: Our regular readers might be expecting the week-in-review we usually do on Sundays, but those same folks might have noticed that that Caroline and Arnold–along with Dr. E. Clair this week!–have been taking turns posting every other day, instead of both posting daily.  That’s because we’re switching to a more relaxed pace for the summer, since our academic audience out there is probably doing more fun stuff during their vacations and there might not be as much news to cover during the next few months–plus, as post academics, we’re also used to a slightly slower summer schedule, even if it doesn’t apply to us any more!  Anyway, it would be pretty lame recapping a week when there isn’t too much material to work with, so we’ll just be offering regular posts on Sundays through the summer.)

Right now, we’re going to try and launch the first “Broke Ass Schools” spinoff–“Broke-Ass Schools: The Tenure Track”.  Here’s where we could use your help too: Please pass along any questions about tenure you might have, as well as news stories about the tenure process you seen online.  Also, any kinds of info you know about the bureaucratic absurdities of tenure would also be much appreciated.  Things we’d like to cover include:

* The differences between how the process works at various institutions

* Quantitative vs. qualitative assessment

* How much crazy documentation do you really have to fill out?

* Is it true that some schools *never* tenure Asst Profs, and what do you do if you’re teaching there?

* What happens if or when you don’t get tenure?

We would prefer that any leads you send our way aren’t too personal or scandalous, because we don’t really want to trade in gossip or get anyone in trouble!  But learning about the process would be helpful in demystifying it as well as maybe possibly practical for folks putting together their tenure files.  And who knows, maybe this series of posts can become a support group for those of you in that stressful position?

"DePaul University's downtown Chicago campus" by Kmf164 (Creative Commons license)

To get things started, we came across this story posted on Inside Higher Ed about some discrepancies about the tenure process at DePaul U in Chicago.  Apparently, what generated the controversy was the tenuring of 2 faculty members who were initially not on the tenure track, but were placed on it and became made men, so to speak.  The beef that other faculty had was not so much with these individual folks, but with a process they viewed as arbitrary, since the tenured faculty in question never had to face the rigorous review that begins when you start on the tenure track.  The quote-of-quotes in this matter belongs to Associate Prof of computing and new media, Robin Burke, who described the decision made at discretion of the Provost as “the Leona Helmsley tenure process”–as in “only the little people are reviewed for tenure”, riffing off the Queen of Mean’s chestnut that “only the little people pay taxes”.

As the story points out, this one-time deal isn’t exactly starting a trend at DePaul where quality adjuncts and contingent faculty are going to get similar treatment.  It’s more a matter of self-preservation and self-promotion for a program to hold onto some valuable contributors.  That does beg the question, though, as to why this can’t happen more often, where people who have offered a lot to a given program and have proven themselves can’t get reclassified and promoted up the ranks or given a chance to do so by the dept opening up a new line for ’em (though I’m imagining that budgets don’t exactly allow for this).  The cynical answer would be that adjuncts and contingent faculty will continue to teach for you because they have to, so why pay more for their services?

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One Response to 'Broke-Ass Schools: The Tenure Track'

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  1. Mackie Blanton said,

    Some universities that do not tenure Asst. Profs. may nonetheless “retain” them indefinitely, and Instructors as well. Retention replaces tenure in these cases, and those retained can be released because of “budgetary exigencies.” Tenure or retention since the mid to late 1980s has been problematic for universities, however, because around this time, younger faculty have argued that if a university has a tenure and or retention process, it must therefore always use it each year procedurally: the department must, in other words, be willing to go through the drill. This has now been a very bothersome point of view for departments, because before his perspective arose, Senior Faculty never thought that the tenure and retention process had to be procedurally considered each year just because these processes existed. that is, they could choose not to open such a procedure, and such a decision was one of the privileges of being members of Senior Faculty. But in time, many senior profs. began to agree with younger instructors and asst. professors, arguing that a process on the books had to be put into thoughtful effect each year that an instructor or asst prof came up for consideration.


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