This, from the Chronicle of Higher Education yesterday:
“Post-tenure review should be for the purposes of assisting faculty members in improving their performance,” says B. Robert Kreiser, associate secretary of the AAUP. “But the policy that has been proposed would effectively eviscerate tenure as it’s understood at most institutions of higher learning.”
Unfortunately, that seems to be the goal.
One of the options being considered by Saint Louis University would include a process of revoking tenure… that is, moving the professor to a non-tenured position with the looming possibility of dismissal. And that, of course, would make tenure not tenure at all.
Real tenure would remain for, primarily, full professors in administrative positions.
The controversy over the proposed post-tenure-review policy at Saint Louis has been… muted, with many faculty members saying they were reluctant to discuss it. Some said they feared that administrators could use post-tenure review to get rid of tenured faculty members they don’t like.
Of course, the point of tenure is to keep that from happening, but who am I to say?
The article links to the AAUP page on post-tenure review, and I hope readers are clicking on it. They will find this:
Because post-tenure review is used to mean many things, it is important to define our understanding of the term. Lurking within the phrase are often two misconceptions: that tenured faculty are not already recurrently subject to a variety of forms of evaluation of their work, and that the presumption of merit that attaches to tenure should be periodically cast aside so that the faculty member must bear the burden of justifying retention. Neither assumption is true. …
What post-tenure review typically adds to… long-standing practices is a formalized additional layer of review that, if it is not simply redundant, may differ in a number of respects: the frequency and comprehensiveness of the review, the degree of involvement by faculty peers, the use of self-evaluations, the articulation of performance objectives, the extent of constructive “feedback,” the application of innovative standards and principles, and the magnitude of potential sanctions. At its most draconian, post-tenure review aims to reopen the question of tenure; at its most benign, it formalizes and systematizes long-standing practices. …
Post-tenure review should not be undertaken for the purpose of dismissal. Other formal disciplinary procedures exist for that purpose. If they do not, they should be developed separately, following generally accepted procedures.
Tenure has been demonized in the public sphere as job protection forced on educational institutions by unions, as featherbedding for long-term employees. It is attacked to reduce the power and position of an independent professoriate, to bring education structures in line with top-down business ones.
That’s not what we need in education now, not what we ever needed, and not what we will need in the future.
Tenure is the linchpin of shared governance, and it is shared governance, not the business model, that has made American education the best in the world (don’t listen to those who claim “failed” schools and dysfunctional colleges–look, instead, at what American graduates are doing compared with those in the rest of the world).