A Few Thoughts on Tenure
Most of you readers know that I am a strong supporter of tenure and the tenure system. Most of you also know that I believe strongly in post-tenure review. Recent events have made me think of tenure in slightly different ways, so I thought I'd puzzle a few of them out here, rather than working on Syllabi.
Tenure is a Good Thing. It protects, or should protect, one's academic freedom. I think the guidelines of the AAUP are sound, although I am not as clear on their position on post-tenure review. In general, I think tenure is not supposed to protect people who are not doing their job well.
But this means a possible conflict. There's tenure, and there are our annual contracts. Institutions change. We all know people who were tenured when publication requirements were lower, or when accreditation agencies had less power, or even under other administrations whose rules were different. Tenure doesn't mean we faculty are not also employees. When institutions change, it seems to me that, whatever the rules were, whatever the contractual obligations were, when a person was granted tenure, the terms of employment change. This is true in any job. Companies are re-organized, industries and government agencies require new standards or new sorts of reporting, etc. I am not sure how tenure protects one from having to follow new versions of the Faculty Handbook, new requirements for reporting attendance for financial aid, adhering to FERPA, or any other such thing. And yet I know people, some at my own SLAC, who insist that the contract that was in effect when they were granted tenure supersedes any later contracts -- even when those new contracts have different wording that clearly includes new or slightly different obligations (as well as new amounts of money!). This seems to me to be a very problematic situation. I certainly wouldn't want our senior and tenured colleagues to have to go back and produce monographs to keep tenure, or anything like that. But I do expect that tenure not be a protection against increased work loads, service, or any other time-suck imposed on us by external agencies (or even against learning to use new equipment, software like Blackboard, or sim).