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I am a tenured associate professor at one of the largest (though, let me emphasize, not one of the highest ranked) public universities in the U.S. How can I explain why it is that this often makes me want to cry?

Don’t get me wrong. I love my work, and, although I am not an academic superstar, I’ve done reasonably well. In economic times when so many are losing jobs, my job is relatively secure. The work that I do has pleasant and meaningful aspects that I value, in spite of sometimes snake-pit politics and bureaucratic burdens that often make it very difficult to focus on the things that are actually my job.

However, the future of public higher education, and especially in my area of the humanities, is truly in question. Even though more than half of all Americans attend at least some college courses, and 30% over age 25 have a bachelor’s or higher degree, what we do in academia and the value of it is still largely misunderstood by the public. When the governor of the state of Texas can blithely call for higher education reforms that include “treating students as ‘customers,’ judging faculty by how many students they teach and how those students rate them, and de-emphasizing research that doesn’t produce an immediate financial return,” it becomes clear that our future is in the hands of people who either don’t know what they are talking about or harbor a truly vile and anti-intellectual agenda. Or both.

There are many angles on higher ed and its issues, and I hope to be able to sort some of these out in coming posts. But today I am inspired by yesterday’s article in the Orlando Sentinel that reported on Florida Governor Rick Scott’s agenda for the coming year, in particular his desire to abolish tenure for public university employees. (He’s already done it in K-12 education.)

Tenure is often resented by people outside the college and university system–because they don’t have it, after all, and therefore it’s unfair that anyone does. The largest complaint about tenure by the general public seems to be that it protects lazy and low-quality teachers. The laziness issue I will have to give its own separate post because it is one of the most offensive and false of all these claims. But part of that is the idea that tenure keeps in place bad employees.

This is an absurd claim on many levels. First, to become a tenured professor at any college or university requires years of investment. At numerous points along the way, those who are bad at what they do are drummed out of the system: they can fail to get into a graduate program; they can fail courses, which, unlike in undergrad programs, gets them booted in fairly short order; they can fail to complete language and other degree requirements; they can fail to finish or defend successfully their thesis or dissertation work; they can fail to get a tenure-track job or any job at all; they can work temporary jobs for a number of years, moving from place to place; and they can fail, after six years at a tenure-track job, to get tenure. If the system has not identified and excluded the poor quality work by this point, then something else is wrong with the system, not tenure.

In addition, the public perception of tenure is that it’s virtually impossible to be fired if you have it. That is simply not true. If a university has cause to fire a tenured person, then the university can do so. If a faculty member doesn’t show up for classes or turn in grades, if he or she behaves in unacceptable or unprofessional ways, if a faculty member violates ethics codes–or for numerous other reasons–a faculty member may certainly still be fired. Granted, it’s harder to fire a tenured as opposed to an untenured faculty member and requires a long process of documentation rather than an arbitrary decision by an administrator. Granted, it doesn’t happen very often. But maybe this has more to do with the fact that most tenured professors have already run the gauntlet mentioned above and have spent at least 9 to12 years on probation (in grad school and earning tenure) before becoming tenured than with the fact that it’s too easy for them.

There are many other reasons why tenure is important to the healthy functioning of colleges and universities, but I’m only going to mention one other here today—and that is the traditionally cited protection of faculty with unpopular or controversial ideas, aka academic freedom. Tenure was designed to protect faculty from arbitrary complaints by parents, students, and administrators who otherwise might paralyze their teaching and life-choice options. It’s only been around for about 100 years, and, I might add, it’s the 100 years when someone other than white men of a certain conservative bent could reach for the intellectual life. One early thing it did, for instance, was to prevent administrators from firing female faculty members who married or got pregnant.

Many in the right wing these days claim that tenure, however, rather than protecting a diversity of ideas and opinions, now is a screen behind which liberal prerogative is preserved. From what I can see in the articles I’ve read, they don’t cite any real evidence for this except that professors are notoriously liberal. How it is that tenure produces this supposed effect, I’ve no idea, but it is certainly true that tenure prevents conservative politicians from exerting pressure on university administrators to just fire professors whose politics the politicians don’t like. And this is exactly why we need tenure right now.

I feel certain that if some radical right politicians have their way, and if they manage to make arbitrary, without-cause firing of faculty possible, they will create an atmosphere in which faculty will become fearful to speak their minds honestly and in which they will be punished if they rise above their fear.

Frequently, these men who speak out against tenure (they’re usually men) have spent some time in academia themselves, but have since moved on to business or conservative think-tanks for their employment. I don’t have access to the details of these changes in their lives, of course, but one of two things seems to have happened: either a) they didn’t get tenure and were thus excluded from further academic life, or b) they decided that the benefits of an academic career were not enough to offset the relatively low pay-scale and demands of the work. Either way, they are out for the blood of those who have made different choices and had different successes than they have had. Their goal is complete eradication of protections of any sort for faculty and the imposition of non-academic standards for academic work.

If I’m being alarmist, and the goal in abolishing tenure is not to clean house based on a political agenda, then the fact is that abolishing it would likely have very little effect at all. Perhaps some increased costs as faculty constantly seek to move to better positions and universities take on increased supervision, expanded evaluation tasks even for long-term faculty, and constant interviewing for new faculty. Mostly, though, we would keep doing what we do.

However, my fear is acute. It’s bad enough as it is right now. Much university funding already comes from private sources and cooperative efforts with private businesses abound. As it is, that’s often a mutually beneficial thing. But if these people get their way, public higher education will become even more a servant of private business interests, not designed for the public good.

Private industry has one goal: profit. It and its CEOs do not have your best interest at heart. That is one reason why running universities like businesses is a bad idea.

Originally posted

Originally posted to on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 10:42 AM PDT.

Also republished by Teachers Lounge, DKos Florida, and Community Spotlight.

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  •  Tip Jar (198+ / 0-)
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  •  I also have tenure (21+ / 0-)

    at a major public R1 class university (ours is quite highly ranked).    Unlike many of my colleagues, I do have a problem with some aspects of tenure.  

    Everything you say is true, but I often see faculty reaching the age of 65, slowing everything down, stopping research, teaching the same-old same-old, and not retiring.  After all, why retire at half salary when you can "retire" at full salary.  By staying in their jobs until their 70s (or even 80s), at relatively high salaries, they completely clog the market for new people.    They are the poster children for many who want to do away with tenure.

    The solution, of course, is to either replace tenure with very long term contracts (contracts which expire at age 65-70), or simply get rid of it above a certain age, with the understanding that productive faculty will be able to stay on indefinitely.   That might be illegal age discrimination, so many institutions are adopting a "post-tenure" review, which lets them get rid of "deadwood".  But that is still a very slow process.

    So I don't have a good answer.   I do worry about conservative professors losing their jobs when the university president is liberal, and vice versa....

    •  This might be true in some places (44+ / 0-)

      I'm a department chair, and I can say that two of my highest producing people in terms of student teaching credit hours, are both over 65.

      I think that it's worth asking why some people end up coasting. The right-wing answer has to do with character, generally - these are bad/lazy people. But I think there are also structural issues that are relevant. I see good people essentially checking out, because of the extreme bureaucratic expectations put on them, or because their department has, in the words of the diarist here, become a snake-pit, or because others have received promotion and advancement for no apparent reason. In some cases, those who fit in with a dysfunctional upper administration get recognized, and those with integrity do not.

      So, that's the case sometimes. I'm not saying it's the case all the time. And, of course, there are some who coast at the end of their careers. But I worked at a cement plant once, and I remember the guys near retirement doing their fair share of coasting also. It's not just in the university.

      I'd be more interested in seeing whether someone's assignment could be changed, so there's something they can contribute still. It might not always be possible, but I'd bet in some cases it would be.

      The issue for me about tenure still is - how do you incentivize the production of something that will take a long time to come to fruition? And, how do you incentivize people to create their own new areas of knowledge, rather than rely on a corporate model, in which people are assigned to work on projects? The university is still a unique structure, and not very much like a corporation, despite the assumptions of those like Rick Scott who only have a passing familiarity with them.

      As American as apple pie. As Canadian as possible, under the circumstances.

      by mitumba on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 11:12:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  An alternative is that extramural funding, the (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mitumba, confitesprit

        lifeblood for an academic at an R1 University, might be less easily obtained by someone who is in an "older" field. For example, people might train and be hired in their field of study and have quite productive careers for some time. But then their field of expertise gets sidelined for what ever reason and they can't get money to run their programs. Many people would not be able to retool themselves with the obvious results their productivity would fall off. For example, in the early 20th century a very hot field was the use of bacteriophage for treating disease. A fair bit of research and development was done in this realm and it supported significant therapeutic options for a while until antibiotics came to the fore. Then the bottom dropped out of the field. So those folks might be seen to be "coasting" whereas they really lacked the funds to contribute with what they could do.

      •  Sewall Wright is one of several examples (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bob Love, confitesprit, Just Bob

        I can think of who retired one university because of a mandatory retirement age and then went on to a second amazing career at another.  University of Chicago and then U of Wisconsin.

        Dr. Wright is certainly in my top five evolutionary biologists of all time.

        Alan Grayson: "In 2010, my district and everywhere else in Florida, Republican turnout was in the sixties. Democratic turnout was in the forties." Think about it.

        by alliedoc on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 12:50:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  agree and disagree (53+ / 0-)

      I agree that there are some problems with university review of faculty and with occasional faculty members slacking off at some point. To me that doesn't mean the problem is tenure per se, however.

      For instance, one reason why many older faculty members stay on past their prime is that they haven't been very well compensated all along and therefore have less to retire on. Even if a person goes straight through undergrad and grad school, he or she will be 34 or older before achieving tenure, and at least 28 before starting a job that pays more than measly graduate student stipends or offers any kind of retirement savings plan. Many also graduate deep in debt for their years of graduate school.

      I myself just achieved tenure at the age of 49 and paid off the last of my (relatively small) student loans at the age of 51. I plan to retire if I can by the age of 67, but what quality of life will I be able to afford by then?

      The life of a fully productive faculty member is quite a challenge, even for the young and middle-aged. There remains in higher education a huge controversy about whether or not women who want families can even manage it, and tenure rates for women are amazingly low. I can't imagine trying to do it at 73 when health and family issues will inevitably have become part of life.

      I don't really think that so-called aging, "dead wood" faculty are really just biding their time collecting pay for nothing. I do think that some of them are worn completely down to nubbins by a system that has underpaid them for long hours of work for many years.

    •  I'm non-tenure track faculty (28+ / 0-)

      but I've been around a lot of tenured faculty in quite a few departments.  Faculty who are genuinely coasting seem relatively rare to me.  What is common is older faculty who have stopped do research and now do extra teaching/research.  In my experience that seems to be a fairly standard expectation.  My boss at my previous job was in her 60s and did minimal research but was one of the hardest working people I have ever seen.

      What is a problem, that has relatively little to do with tenure - is the 'rewarding' of bad teachers.  They get moved to smaller upper level classes where they will have less impact on the students.  While the good teachers get assigned to the really big classes.

      "We are normal and we want our freedom" - Bonzos

      by matching mole on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 12:25:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's fairly common, I think. (6+ / 0-)

        From what I've heard -- and I'm not an academic -- most professors do their best work in their 30s/40s/50s.  After that they've mostly produced and developed their best ideas and tend to focus more on teaching.

        Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

        by Drew J Jones on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 03:26:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think it depends on the field and the person (11+ / 0-)

          I've seen early bloomers and late ones.

          "Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter." (Homer Simpson)

          by mitumba on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 03:38:41 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  True. nt (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ER Doc

            Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

            by Drew J Jones on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 03:45:15 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  It depends a LOT on the field. For example, (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Lisa Roney, mitumba

            mathematicians usually mature and are most productive very early in their careers (Erdos etc. excepted) whereas biologists are often very productive and influential right up to their deaths in old age- T. Dobzhansky etc.

            As for academic deadwood, it exists, but was almost non-existent in my experience. I was faculty at an R1 institution until I moved to Industry and Federal service (and back to Industry) and I knew of perhaps two individuals who one might categorize as "dead wood". There was one additional person who essentially became mentally ill from stress disability and claimed they could no longer work. But these two or three were out of quite a few people. I'll bet few non-academic places can match the work output (or stress levels) of University faculties at the major research institutions. When I left the University, I had 384 hours of unused vacation time. One simply could not take one's vacation and expect to keep up.

            •  Our HR department (0+ / 0-)

              just sent a note to the college, asking why so many chairs hadn't used any vacation time last year. They (and, unfortunately, the dean's office) assumed it was an indication that we were dishonest. I was amazed that it didn't occur to anyone that we didn't use vacation time because we hadn't taken any vacation.

              "Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter." (Homer Simpson)

              by mitumba on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 12:33:49 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  And what is wrong with teaching? (20+ / 0-)

          I am an older faculty member (60) and have opted out of the committee/administration suck-up part of my job, but I still give 100% in my classes.  I like my students and feel like I owe it to them.  And, having taught for so long, I feel that I have a lot to give them.   Experience in the classroom, added to dedication to one's students, makes for a superior "product."

          I have given up writing for publication in academic journals, because--frankly--what's the use?  So few people read these articles.  Peer review is good for judging who has the scholarship skills and the smarts to get tenure and promotion.  But after that?  I still write, but I aspire to publish in more popular genres.

          "I don't want to blame anyone. I just want to know how lowering taxes on the rich creates jobs" --Informed citizen at Congressional town hall

          by Time Waits for no Woman on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 03:40:32 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  There's nothing wrong with it. (6+ / 0-)

            It's where the best teaching is done in my experience.

            Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

            by Drew J Jones on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 03:45:06 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  We need (8+ / 0-)

            more public intellectuals. Unfortunately, in the US it's not a thing people understand. Still exists in Europe and elsewhere. Here we have pundits instead. I certainly understand and respect the choice to devote one's time to students.

            I still publish (as a full professor) because there are things I want to say. I'm not interested in racking up CV lines for their own sake, though. It has to matter. So, the public intellectual stuff has a certain appeal for me too.

            "Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter." (Homer Simpson)

            by mitumba on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 03:45:43 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  I love teaching (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ER Doc, Time Waits for no Woman

            I wish my job allowed me to devote more time to it.

            There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

            by upstate NY on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 05:04:54 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  You've stopped doing research? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I have given up writing for publication in academic journals, because--frankly--what's the use?  So few people read these articles.

            So basically you're taking up a tenure slot while scholars who are hungry to publish and be successful are shut out. Great.

            Anyone can get a position as an adjunct or non-tenure-track lecturer and teach all you want. Tenure means that you are a productive scholar in your field. When faculty get tenure and then stop producing good work, it makes the rest of the tenure system look bad. You should think about transitioning to administration, and free up that TT slot for a younger, hungrier new faculty member. That's what administration is for-- a nice outlet for faculty who have had enough of research and want to find another way to contribute.

            •  Why move an experienced teacher to admin? (5+ / 0-)

              One of my biggest problems with the System is the 'Publish or perish' mentality.

              Yes, publishing is expected and needed, but there are many 'great' professors that bring in millions of dollars in grant money that are TERRIBLE teachers.  Why not balance this by letting the professors who are good at teaching do that, and let the money-makers do what they do best, maybe running labs and dealing with grad students and upper level undergrad classes?

              As a high school teacher, I hate seeing great teachers move to become administrators.  Yes, we need quality admin, but it's ironic to me that we take these great teachers out of the trenches where they can do their best work.

              •  My experience is as a student then and staff now; (3+ / 0-)

                I see great professors who are essentially CEO's of an amazing research group. I also had profs as an undergrad a zillion years ago who are emeritus now, but taught well and god bless them for still being around as emeriti- I don't grudge them whatever resources they "consume" doing what they choose to do, because they are not really a drag.

                One prof in particular had us do an experiment in freshman Physics showing we could detect a single photon interfering with itself as it passed through a slit, and you could see this happen with the naked eye- an inspiring teaching moment I've never forgotten! He's emeritus now and I don't care if he doesn't teach and doesn't publish, he's a treasure for our University; if our state legislature doesn't appreciate him, tough!

              •  At my university, administrators are still (0+ / 0-)

                teaching, quite a bit actually.  Maybe she can do both.

                Alan Grayson: "In 2010, my district and everywhere else in Florida, Republican turnout was in the sixties. Democratic turnout was in the forties." Think about it.

                by alliedoc on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 12:56:48 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  I am going to retire as soon as the university (0+ / 0-)

              allows me to--next year I hope.  It is a little harsh of you to want to push an older prof out onto the street in this difficult economic climate.  

              "I don't want to blame anyone. I just want to know how lowering taxes on the rich creates jobs" --Informed citizen at Congressional town hall

              by Time Waits for no Woman on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 11:31:29 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Ah, no you can't. Many of those positions have (0+ / 0-)

              upper limits on how long you can stay in such a position. There was a limit on the number of years you could stay as a lecturer in the university I worked for and many good people had to leave because of it.

          •  Publications are to stake your claim to your (0+ / 0-)

            area of expertise so you can keep funded by demonstrating productivity and expertise and to get promoted. There's a saying, Deans can't read but they can count.

        •  Not necessarily. Yeah, the most innovative work is (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Athena, Eric Blair

          usually done at that age although that too depends. But most people who were extremely good in their 40s still stay very productive well into 60s.

    •  At the community college level (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      radarlady, Lujane, Nedsdag, susie dow, Shesk

      I encountered a number of ineffective tenured faculty members who kept young vital instructors from being hired into full-time tenure track positions.

      After five years, I decided that I no longer could live a life of indentured service while waiting for a full-time community college position to open.

      I am seeing the same thing presently in public education.  Don't get me wrong; there are a number of wonderful experienced teachers and community college instructors out there who deserve protection from administrators who make arbitrary decisions.  But there is no way to clear the system of those instructors/teachers who stop doing the job that they were hired to do.  This is why tenure bothers me more than union protection.

      "Since when did obeying corporate power become patriotic." Going the Distance

      by Going the Distance on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 01:22:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The other problem with old professors is that (10+ / 0-)

      they cost the schools money in increased health care costs. Better to eliminate them and reduce property taxes.
      And why even have tenured professors? Non-contracted instructors save significant money to the University. Who cares anyway? There are plenty of PhD scientists and mathematicians available on the cheap in India and China, where they take academics seriously.
      I also assume that 1/3 of K-12 teachers will be gone in the next decade, replaced by private companies providing computer and video-based education to classes of 50 or 60, and so there will no longer be any need for liberal arts majors. All you need is more security guards with low-powered tasers.

      "How I hate those who are dedicated to producing conformity." William S Burroughs

      by shmuelman on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 02:36:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  My college has post-tenure review. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      And has had it since tenure was instituted pretty recently (1990s).  It's a pain in the ass, but it does afford you an opportunity to reflect.

      •  I am a tenured professor (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        a wonderful land grant university (in many respects--not highly ranked).

        I fully support post-tenure review--there just has to be on-going review of any employee to help them have outside evaluation of both the quality and quantity of their work.  I think the temptation to slow down is always a concern.  

        Having said that, because I have been constantly involved in P/T over the past 12 years, I really have not faced it.  Perhaps my opinion will change in the future.  

    •  I hear the dead wood argument a lot (4+ / 0-)

      and I have a few problems with it.

      Firstly - and I also have tenure at a large state research institution, although not highly-ranked - I have many colleagues across the institution who are past retirement age and continue to get major research grants, teach both undergraduates and graduates, and are otherwise "productive" by tenure-and-promotions criteria.

      Secondly, age is not an indicator of dead wood status.

      Thirdly, there are all kinds of post-tenure review processes that are not intended to "punish" the old dead wood, but instead to contextualize the contributions of faculty, across age and status, within the institution. Sometimes those contributions are research-oriented. Sometimes they are service oriented. Sometimes they are teaching oriented.

      There are also folks at my institution that would not be tenured now, but in the 30 years since their tenure, the academic climate and expectations of the discipline have changed. Yeah, they're kind of dead wood. So what? Private industry has a lot of dead wood too - usually drawing in some of the higher salaries.

      •  this is what most people don't seem to (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        badscience, Palafox

        be willing to consider.

        Private industry has a lot of dead wood too - usually drawing in some of the higher salaries.

        Matt Damon made a fool out of a person interviewing him by using this exact argument.  

        I originally saw the video in this diary

        Video here.  

        And a slightly different angle here.

        He is teh awesome!!

        "The death penalty is never about the criminal. They've already done their worst. The question is always "will we join them"?" - jlynne

        by Hopeful Skeptic on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 05:45:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  let's apply the dead wood principle (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Palafox, eru, vahana, pengiep

        to Wall St., shall we.

        Nowhere do I understand that national security is a substitute for the law.---Thomas Drake You cannot tell from appearances how things will go.--Winston Churchill

        by SouthernLiberalinMD on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 07:25:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  The solution to that (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Firstly - and I also have tenure at a large state research institution, although not highly-ranked - I have many colleagues across the institution who are past retirement age and continue to get major research grants, teach both undergraduates and graduates, and are otherwise "productive" by tenure-and-promotions criteria.

        My solution here would be for tenure to "end" at 65 or so. If you are still getting major research grants, then great-- that faculty member pays for him or herself. The faculty member can stay on as long as the funding still exists, but the tenure track slot should open up for new blood.

        •  So what about in ALL the disciplines where (0+ / 0-)

          research grants don't exist?

          All English Profs out at 65?

          Why is everyone an Austerian suddenly?

          There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

          by upstate NY on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 09:03:30 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I plan on staying on into my 70s (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      badscience, pengiep

      and being like the 70 year old colleagues I have now, whose institutional memory is invaluable, and who prevent younger colleagues from trying to reinvent the wheel. In general, they're the ones guiding our large department.

      Another reason I'm staying on. After a ton of time spent on multiple degrees, lots of student loans that I've been paying now for 15 years and just signed on for another 25, I got my first real paying job in my mid-30s. I guess I should have become a plumber out of high school, because I'll need to work at least into my 70s in order to get 35 years of employment under my belt. I really think your ideas are bad.

      There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

      by upstate NY on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 04:52:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'm a full prof at a regional campus of (0+ / 0-)

      a major State University. Most of our faculty retire between 65 and 70 and from what I see, those who don't retire work hard and keep up on current research.

      Our administrators tend to be conservative and faculty liberal (other than the School of Business). In our school we voted the most conservative faculty member to be our Dean. Surprisingly, I've not seen promotion & tenure decisions based on politics. They are not always based on research and teaching - personality and interpersonal differences sometimes raise their ugly head but politics does not seem to be an issue.

      While we are not a highly ranked R1 university, we do use U.S. "punctuation rules."

      I don't know what consciousness is or how it works, but I like it.

      by SocioSam on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 07:56:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  As an academic (36+ / 0-)

    I find that I regularly have to explain myself to people outside of academia. I told a student the other day that a 70 hour week is a short week for me. His jaw dropped, and for the next few days it's all he could bring up.

    Other people work hard too. Other professions are difficult, and their adherents for the most part are, well, professional. But the entire concept of the "profession" seems to be under attack. Ideally, a profession is something that is self-regulating, and specialized enough that only those with a certain kind of training are assumed to be able to set the standards for behaviours, apart from fairly general guidelines and, of course, the law of the land.

    But that idea, in an anti-intellectual America, is taking a lot of hits. In the mind of this governor, and others, it should be "the people", by which he means, the market, that regulates things, not people who actually know something. So, medicine should be market-driven, law should, and now, so should academia.

    I'm always both amused and depressed when I see some (usually conservative) writer get a case of the vapours over a strange title at the MLA conference, or a strange topic of study that was funded by a federal agency. It's always directed at the humanities and social sciences, and it's almost always BS.

    At my university, we've just been told to expect a whole new heap of paperwork from the state and accrediting agencies this year. We were once expected to teach and research. Now we're expected to spend a great deal of our time filling out forms, measuring our measurements and having committees about committees. Regulation is fine (I'm ok with it elsewhere, and also in academia), but it's clear that in a radically conservative environment, this is meant to strangle all activity and intimidate anyone who doesn't think of their area as vocational training.

    The points about tenure are well taken here, and a lot more could be said about it. I just have to go and fill out some forms now instead.

    As American as apple pie. As Canadian as possible, under the circumstances.

    by mitumba on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 11:01:05 AM PDT

    •  My day usually starts about 4 am (17+ / 0-)

      catching up on global events and national news of selected states.  As a political economist, both state and market events as well as academic developments in economics and political science have to be covered to stay on top of my fields of study, research and teaching.  Pile on consultative and academic research, writing, teaching, and the usual administrative stuff, and the average day ends about 7 pm.  On weekends, I only "work" about 8 to 10 hours, unless a paper or conference or research report deadline looms, then it's right through.  Some months, there are no "weekends".  I usually pass the 40 hour mark for time at work sometime Wednesday.  I also work in China (Hong Kong).  If it weren't for tenure, I would have been run out long ago by those who are so-called pro-China or right wing anti-regulatory "free" market zealots (and often these folks claim to be both pro-communist party and pro-unregulated exploitation of anybody and anything).  Academic freedom is constantly under threat in every country, from many directions.  Tenure is no guarantee of a lazy life--it is a license to work 80 to 100 hours a week for very little money, doing things one loves to do but most people don't even realize has value until, often, long after the professor doing it is dead.  The big costs at universities are not the professors, tenured or not.  Just take a look at the all the sports programs, industry or defense driven science lab equipment, and layers of measurers, bean counters and pillow fluffers (student amenities and regulatory compliance provision and reporting is enormously costly).  Tenure, like collective bargaining, is a target simply because it gives a little, very little, protection from complete and utter exploitation and intimidation.

      America needs a UNION NEWS channel. We (unions) have the money, we have the talent. Don't buy 30 second time slots on corporate media, union leaders; fund your own cable news channel and tell the real story 24/7/365

      by monkeybrainpolitics on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 03:13:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You said it. (5+ / 0-)

        Markets are lovely things, very good at setting prices in some areas - but horrible at it in other areas. There is no way it can capture the value of the kind of effort you're talking about, until a long way down the road. I suppose academia is a kind of futures market, but even that is not long-term enough to capture how knowledge is produced, and why it couldn't be produced in any other way.

        I'm always amazed by the research someone does, in some cases decades ago, that they didn't even realize could be used in a new way, but someone later on recognizes the significance of what they did to some new thing. I don't think a single one of our disciplines would be what they are now, without that kind of long-term investment in knowledge.

        And, your comment on the real costs at a university is also dead on.

        "Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter." (Homer Simpson)

        by mitumba on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 03:22:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  your sig is wonderful, in case I haven't (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        monkeybrainpolitics, Eric Blair

        told you that yet.

        from your keyboard to Trumka's ear.

        Nowhere do I understand that national security is a substitute for the law.---Thomas Drake You cannot tell from appearances how things will go.--Winston Churchill

        by SouthernLiberalinMD on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 07:27:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I tried teaching after taking early (0+ / 0-)

        retirement from a career in Children's Protective Services , no doubt among the most demanding, difficult, draining burn-out causing fields - especially in a "free-market", low tax, every man/woman for himself/herself  nation like ours (frayed if non-existent social safety net).

        I taught one course at the college level.  It was one of the most difficult things I ever attempted.  I really did not make it 100% through two semesters.  There were mitigating factors including the fact that I was teaching HS seniors taking "Dual enrollment" (their first college course) classes in Constitutional Law and Criminal Law.  I met some magnificient young women and men who worked hard at learning.  I also met some lost souls who did not attemtp to understand anything I was teaching and who cared only about their shoes or blouses or cars.

    •  People don't understand the nature of what we do (9+ / 0-)

      particularly at state institutions.

      I am my own secretary. I do everything for myself. I have no office phone. I am expected to provide my own telephone if I wish to use one at the workplace.

      I have to also do bureaucratic work that staff and other non-teaching people used to do. I have to be an expert in budgets. I have to be an expert at paperwork. I have to be an expert in curricular accreditation. I have to run meetings and write memos and do the things that executives are expected to do (via support staff).

      I also need to remain an expert in my field, produce research in my field, and be able to share my expertise effectively with students, grade all their work, supervise their internships, push them off into the world of work or graduate school or whatever comes next.

      I work 7 days a week. I work during the summer although I am off-contract. I am available pretty much 24/7 for my colleagues, my students and my administrators. I don't calculate my hourly wage because it is too damned depressing.

    •  I'm an academic as well (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      I'm always both amused and depressed when I see some (usually conservative) writer get a case of the vapours over a strange title at the MLA conference, or a strange topic of study that was funded by a federal agency. It's always directed at the humanities and social sciences, and it's almost always BS.

      And I agree with a lot of what you say.  However, I do think we have to expect, and to some extent justifiably so, that the public is going to take an interest in whatever we are doing using tax payer dollars.  That's just how it works in a transparent democracy.

      I'm not saying that some of the public complaints about certain kind of studies are not based on ignorance (they are), but since it is public money being spent, someone along the line there is some accountability to the taxpayer.

  •  Tenure means academic freedom (25+ / 0-)

    And Rick Scott is a Market Determinist.  If there's no profit to be had, there's no value.

    “If you think I can be bought for five thousand dollars, I'm offended." Rick Perry.

    by Paleo on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 11:14:50 AM PDT

    •  Small correction (22+ / 0-)

      Academia profits the public by enhancing human knowledge the application of which enriches many.  Rick Scott is simply against profit that doesn't get directed into his own pocket as can be seen with the new drug testing in Florida, which has greatly enriched his wife's drug testing business but now costs Floridians about $28,000 per month in reimbursement fees.

      The author has it about right, although I can speak from experience that the condition described applies equally well to the sciences as well as the non-sciences, especially in biology where there are tremendous vested interests in exploiting the last of what little of the natural environment remains.

      Nonetheless, Florida faculty would do better to focus on the economic harm ending tenure would do as the best and brightest are either forced or encouraged to seek employment elsewhere, leaving Florida Universities to slide on the scale of competitiveness.

      Sadly, people like Rick Scott won't be happy until they have destroyed one of the few US industries that the US still leads in, namely higher education.  Once that happens, the US will never recover economically as the millions of foreigner's who attend US universities will stop coming and instead put their money and their future effort into building their own university systems, itself leading to more more competitiveness as the US literally disarms intellectually.

      Florida tenured faculty might as well advocate to their students, many of whom probably come from out of state, bringing their dollars and those of their parents with them.  Given the importance of tourism industry in Florida, one would think they might be a natural ally, when they start tallying up the loss that would result as increasing numbers of the well-healed look to travel and visit elsewhere as their children complete their college education.  Florida faculty might well look to their private industry partners, who may well loose valuable input from faculty for efforts to establish and build new businesses, especially those based on new technology and improving the overall desirability of Florida as a destination for travel and retirement.

      No point hiding from the reality that this may well be their last election  to save Florida from the kind of state sponsored parasitism advocated by its governor on behalf of a few special friends.

      •  Thank you... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        buckybadger1988, sdf, Aunt Martha, Matt Z

        for this poignant clarification.

      •  I hate that Floridians (11+ / 0-)

        have to rely on more moderate Republicans to have any real opposition to this governor. And I use the term "moderate" advisedly.

        Making the economic argument is, I agree, probably the best bet. The problem is, the right isn't even consistent on economic arguments. They are, for instance, resolutely opposed to anything that would prevent someone from gaming that market. They're allergic to learning from the past, or from empirical reality.

        This is Plato's Republic all over again. First book: Thracymachus derails Socrates' analysis of justice, by saying that "justice is just whatever is in the interests of the stronger". That's what we have here now. It's just bullies with power, who do not feel bound by reason, compassion, history, or empirical reality. It's tribalism - their tribe is right, in their version of the world, and by extension, anything they do to support their tribe is good.

        Unlike some on this list, I believe there is a respectable version of conservatism. I don't hold it, but I think it exists. It could, and should, be part of the conversation in a mature society. But it is all but dead in this country. There's no maturity here at all. This all reminds me of a precocious, self-absorbed teenager, who thinks that just because he/she holds an opinion, it's the right one, and everyone should agree. This country needs to, in a word, grow up. Most teenagers do. I'm not sure whether this country will.

        Ok, that meandered. But it needed to be said.

        As American as apple pie. As Canadian as possible, under the circumstances.

        by mitumba on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 01:02:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  At one time I also believed that there was a (0+ / 0-)

          "respectable" version of Conservatism. But since what I considered to be that respectable version has happily tried to take advantage of the loonies of the Teaparty and similar ilk, they are just as irresponsible, greedy and evil as the rest of them. There are no good conservatives, because they are equally irresponsible.

      •  Terrific comment (0+ / 0-)

        alas, not enough out-of-state students in FL state university system; in part, this is because out-of-state tuitions are extremely high, while in-state tuition has, until very recently, been kept very, very low.  (All of which was done (supposedly) with the understandable goal of trying to make the state universities here accessible for the children of average taxpayers.)

        If Floridians can be convinced that the tremendous bargain & bang for the buck that their state universities and colleges have represented for their children and grandchildren is been ruthlessly squandered ... (an idea that seems such a daunting, uphill struggle in current electoral atmosphere.)

        -- Stu

    •  Unfortunately too many (3+ / 0-)

      university presidents see things the same way, which is why humanities departments (like Lisa's and my own) find themselves especially subject to catastrophic underfunding ...

      (And, yes, this means that the incalculable -- in both senses of the word -- value of the humanities as Velvetfish describes it in her/his excellent comment above is not taken into account in any but the most superficial ways ...)

      -- Stu

  •  Good luck in attracting academics, Florida (28+ / 0-)

    If this were to come to pass.  Except for the Koch Department at FSU, which I guess could afford to pay top dollar.

    “If you think I can be bought for five thousand dollars, I'm offended." Rick Perry.

    by Paleo on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 11:23:04 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for this, I will follow and look forward (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    to your posts.

  •  I believe John Yoo is tenured (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bernardpliers, agincour

    I think he's evil whether or not he can be fired, but he sure ain't a liberal!.  Doesn't seem to be a way for Berkeley to consider the ethics in his political work (and what he presumably advocates in his teaching) with respect to his law school employment.  Shame.

    'Give away to the rich and punish the poor for the extravagance.....crazy' --LaFeminista

    by MsGrin on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 12:00:22 PM PDT

    •  You're right that there are many "conservatives" (14+ / 0-)

      in higher education. I didn't attack the myth that liberals have some total control over academia this time. Will have to save that for another post.

      But you're right to point out that one interesting phenomenon is that right-wingers will often comment that "conservative" academics need protection from liberal university establishments. But it's not the liberals who are trying to destroy academic freedom protections. We defend John Yoo's right to his opinions, whereas John Yoo's ilk would not do the same for liberals.

      That difference is key.

    •  Berkeley is pretty conservative these days. n/t (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      •  No - it's not (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Hopeful Skeptic, MarkC

        Where do you get that idea?

        "The two pioneering forces of modern sensibility are Jewish moral seriousness and homosexual aestheticism and irony." Susan Sontag

        by Shane Hensinger on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 05:57:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  From a radical professor who works there. n/t (0+ / 0-)
          •  Well to a radical EVERYONE is conservative (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            But Berkeley, despite the token conservative or two on the faculty, is most definitely NOT conservative.

            "The two pioneering forces of modern sensibility are Jewish moral seriousness and homosexual aestheticism and irony." Susan Sontag

            by Shane Hensinger on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 06:21:33 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Perhaps it would be better to state (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Hopeful Skeptic

          that the administration and some faculty members at Berkeley are not as progressive/liberal/radical as the institution's reputation would suggest.

          •  Fair enough (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            But the myth never really jibes with reality. Berkeley is a state school - part of the UC system so that is always a check on how far left it can go. Private universities have a lot more leeway there than do public.

            And Berkeley, the city, is not as radical as some would suspect. For example - public nudity is illegal in Berkeley where it's not in San Francisco.

            "The two pioneering forces of modern sensibility are Jewish moral seriousness and homosexual aestheticism and irony." Susan Sontag

            by Shane Hensinger on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 06:27:47 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  True, (0+ / 0-)

            but listening to recordings of the faculty during the Sixties on KPFK last spring, I realized that the faculty at that time had very mixed reception of the Free Speech Movement.

            As a Berkeley prof, I can say that the faculty are acutely aware that times have changed and that the whole enterprise of public education is in jeopardy. So there is perhaps less attention for some of the classic Berkeley causes because there is a sense that getting involved in skirmishes is not as important as figuring out how to fight the war of continuous de-funding that is now being waged. Let me put it this way, I still want to increase access, fairness, and diversity on campus as much as before, but if there is no campus then what good are they?

            I have heard some faculty who were here during the 1960's say that things have changed. I was born in the 1960's so I can't judge if things have changed. But I'd suggest that since the Draft is gone and the Shock Doctrine is here, both tactics and strategy have probably shifted in the service of the same progressive goals.

            "Stare at the monster: remark/ How difficult it is to define just what/ Amounts to monstrosity in that/ Very ordinary appearance." - Ted Hughes

            by MarkC on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 01:14:36 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Two things (0+ / 0-)

      The standard there isn't whether he takes views that people don't like (that's kind of the point) and in a professional school, taking a job as a practicing professional is part of that.  Getting rid of Yoo requires an indictment, essentially, according to the stance of the administration.  

      I'm not sure how I feel about that, but I think there's some merit to that idea.  After all, it's only the unpopular views that need protecting.

      And remarkably, Yoo keeps his teaching fairly conventional, or at least so I've heard from his students (I went to Boalt, but never took any classes).  For what thats worth.

      Intelligent, passionate, perceptive people will always disagree, but we should not let that disagreement, however heartfelt, lead us to become deaf to those better angels of our nature.

      by Mindful Nature on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 11:43:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  No little effect? Sorry, prof, I disagree. (8+ / 0-)

    Look at how the Teabuggered creationists took over Kansas, Texas, and several other states' "ejukashunal boreds."

    Instead of putting this idiotic monster to bed when Scopes, the first Darwin case went to trial, or more recently, when the federal court showed just how dishonest and deceiving the creationists, their proponents, their experts and their lawyers were, we continue to fight this  fight in many jurisdictions.

    Do you really think that if Walker, Perry, Scott, or any other Teabuggered governor would maintain educational standards and independence, if they could begin the destructive process of washing and rinsing the brains of our teens? Grants would be granted on religious grounds, not scientific or artistic. Class topics would be altered to meet their bizarre fairy tales (which they often ignore when it suits them) and would serve to destroy the research and development that has driven our modern society.

    If they manage to remove this one last moat and castle wall from higher education, our nation is once and truly fucked.

    What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

    by agnostic on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 01:02:53 PM PDT

    •  I agree with you completely... (8+ / 0-)

      Note my "if"--if (as the right would claim) it's not a political agenda, THEN and only then would it have little effect.

      In other words, I meant that it will have huge effect for just the reasons you cite. The supposed reasons that the right cites (faculty are lazy once they have tenure, administrators should have "flexibility," and it would save money) are absurd. All I meant to point out is that if they didn't have a dire political agenda, they wouldn't be doing it because there would be no reason to abolish tenure. (Maybe to improve its processes, but not to abolish it.)

    •  Note that the creationists have been (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      displaced from the State Board of Education in Kansas.  Creationism was removed from the curriculum in 2001.  The theory of evolution is the sole theory for the origin of man in the Kansas curriculum.

      I'm truly sorry Man's dominion Has broken Nature's social union--Robert Burns

      by Eric Blair on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 11:53:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thank you and congrats (0+ / 0-)

        good news indeed. But, then there is Texas.

        What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

        by agnostic on Sat Sep 24, 2011 at 04:58:55 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  T&R the lack of understanding of the academic (15+ / 0-)

    world, on the part of politicians and the public, is epic.

    I can't even recount the number of times that people have expressed to me that they are under the impression that the sole or primary responsibility of faculty at a major research university is to teach.  

    I've even consistently heard this from highly educated people in the 'real world'.  They think that, 'gee, teaching one class at a time sounds really easy.  What a cushy job'

    In fact, the primary duty of a professor is to carry out research and obtain grant funding.  Next would be supervision of graduate students and postdocs. Teaching is basically the tertiary function.  I'm not saying it should be that way, but that's the way it is.  So when you think of a professor, think of someone who had to rise to the top and be the best of the best, and in order to get tenure had to make a significant research contribution to a field, and in the sciences had to pull in more than $1 million in grants.  Then, in the few free moments during that process, they had to teach.

  •  Also, tenure well might be a key motivator (9+ / 0-)

    that structures a pursuit of excellence in academic efforts.

    If anything, tenure might be made more robust to include teaching excellence where applicable--but such reforms will be useful only if tenure continues to be relatively independent of disruptive corporate business concepts like incentive pay.

    Here is a short video that suggests what recent research has to say about motivation in the workplace when intellectual endeavors are at play:

    Your diary already captures so many of the dimensions of the misguided attack on academic tenure! I hope it achieves wide influence.

    The labor of a human being is not a commodity or article of commerce. Clayton Act, Section 6.

    by Ignacio Magaloni on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 01:22:03 PM PDT

  •  For a second... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...I had to do a double take at your diary title...then I realized you said "at" not "for", and the world made sense again.

  •  I wish I could rec your diary 1000 times. (10+ / 0-)

    What you write is so true.

    I went off the dissertation rails years ago because of a severe long-term family crisis, but I by no means have bitter memories of my years in academia.  I know exactly why tenure is an absolute necessity.  If Rick Scott succeeds, he will do incalculable damage to Florida's state university system, and it is by no means certain that the damage would be easily repaired by a pro-higher-ed Democratic successor.

    "Fighting Fascism is Always Cool." -- Amsterdam Weekly, v3, n18 (-8.50, -7.23)

    by Noor B on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 01:31:31 PM PDT

  •  And yet academia is screwed either way (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bernardpliers, BeeDeeS

    Let me preface this by saying I am not a fan of Rick Scott's iniative. Whatever he has planned for university-level education is not good. But that doesn't mean tenure itself is inherently good, either. There are pluses and minuses to the system and I have to point out that tenure is absent in most of Europe. Here in America we have one tenured professor to every few graduate students. It's an unsustainable pyramid scheme that produces many more scientists than will ever find jobs in universities. There's only one job in academia for those prospective professors, but that one job won't even be vacant for decades until after they graduate. How many graduate students will one professor have throughout his or her time as a tenured employee at a university? How many years will those graduate students spend as post-docs and job seekers hoping that their former professor will finally die or retire so they might have a shot at even getting into the tenure track to begin with, to start the cycle over with their own passel of desperate grad students?

    Tenure has created a system where jobs are not created or vacated as normal, but its very existence depends on churning out more and more PhDs to carry out research scut work for tenure track professors. The problem reinforces itself and gets worse every single year.

    •  This assumes (6+ / 0-)

      that the only path for a grad student is back into academia. I don't think that's necessarily true, even in arts and humanities areas, and certainly not in STEM disciplines.

      I'm not sure Europe is a great model to hold up for academia, either. It's all but impossible for a grad student in Germany or France to get a permanent position. There's a lot of contract work, a lot more uncertainty. Having said that, there's probably also more governmental research support per capita than there is here.

      Having said all that, I don't think that a defense of tenure means a defense of every bit of tenure as it currently exists. The issue for me still is - how do you incentivize the massive preparation an academic has to do to be eligible for the profession? It can easily be 12 years before a first job, and another 6 years to tenure after that. No other profession comes even close to that.

      As American as apple pie. As Canadian as possible, under the circumstances.

      by mitumba on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 01:43:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No, academia isn't the only end goal for new PhDs (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        but I don't think it can be denied that it is the goal for a significant number of them, many more than will ever even hope to find jobs in academia. Of course, this is true for all professions -- fewer spots at the top than applicants at the bottom -- but most of those professions don't RELY on producing those applicants at the bottom just to sustain the sunlight at the top, and most of those professions don't cement the top positions into place quite so thoroughly.

        •  The graying of the work force (7+ / 0-)

          is a challenge in many fields, that's for sure. It is by no means only in education that younger people are having a hard time moving up to high quality jobs. This is happening in medicine and law as well, and in other fields, too, that don't have tenure.

          So, you might think that mandatory retirement ages might be a good thing. Based on one lawyer retirement study that shows that only 3.5% of lawyers plan to continue to work after regular retirement age mainly for the reason of income (whereas 40% say they will "to stay active"), we can see a huge difference between that one profession and education. Many educators have never made an income that would allow them to comfortably retire at regular retirement age. Many educators feel a need to continue to work because otherwise they won't have the income to live.

          It's also true that for a complex array of reasons, many universities have developed the habit of relying on grad-student and adjunct labor. I think this latter fact is something that needs to be altered--it is generally bad for everyone including the grad students, the adjuncts, the undergrad students who are taught by marginalized labor, AND the tenure-track and tenured faculty who have to do far more service and advising spread between far fewer of them. The rising percentage of undergrad courses taught by marginalized labor and the wanna-be, never-get-there system are huge problems.

          However, if that system is now abusive to the younger grad students with few prospects for full-time jobs, then abolishing tenure might just inverse the abuse scheme. Then we will have universities firing experienced (and relatively more expensive) faculty to hire cheap, new faculty every ten (or five or twelve) years. Either it would be a system where faculty would accept never getting raises (and we get few as it is) or in which they would be regularly replaced. If the latter, we would have a host of middle- to late-aged faculty members dumped long before their careers should be over. This would just transfer the abuse to a different group.

          We need some other way to even things out.

        •  I'm now in industry. When I first made the move (0+ / 0-)

          from Academia to Industry, I always thought the reason few ever came back to Academia from Industry was that they couldn't. Now that I've been in Industry for a while, I see that very few academic positions would be attractive in comparison to what I've got now. It would take a Full Professor Chaired position at a decent University to get me back into Academia and that's simply not going to happen.

    •  Europe essentially has tenure but only for (0+ / 0-)

      full professors.

    •  You're shooting the wrong target (6+ / 0-)

      You're finding a real problem with academia and blaming tenure for it. Whereas your solution would not ameliorate the problem.

      The reason there are no jobs is because of cutbacks, not because of tenure. if you got rid of tenure, there would still be no jobs.

      There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

      by upstate NY on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 04:56:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  i don't have a problem with the tenure system... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gffish public universities, but don't try to tell me it's not a very sweet deal for those that make the cut - it absolutely is (and i'm happy for them). i've worked just as hard over just as long a period to get where i am in my career, and yet i don't get my future employment essentially gauranteed for life provided i don't commit a fireable offense.

    the real issue is of course the right's longstanding and oft admitted goal of infiltrating and reshaping academia though constant attacks on institutions of higher learning paired with wingnut affirmative action efforts. this is certainly one prong of that attack. it's disgusting and i'm glad you diaried about it.

    •  Hard to know (8+ / 0-)

      I'm ever so grateful that you see the problem with the political agenda of the right-wing in "infiltrating and reshaping academia." It's hard for me to address your concern about the "guarantee" that you perceive tenure to be since I don't know much of your situation. I suppose the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

      There are many people in many careers who work very hard, and I believe that you have. There are few, however, who delay significant income and take on significant debt the way those in academia do. Other professions that rely on graduate degrees and long years of apprenticeship, such as medicine and law, usually pay much higher financial dividends in shorter periods of time.

      I got tenure at the age of 49; my friend the attorney retired at the age of 49, financially secure and able to pursue whatever interested him.

      Most of these professions also are much wider and more accessible once a person has credentials. If a nurse, for instance, loses a job at one hospital, she can usually go across town to another hospital or find a job in a doctor's office or clinic, rather than having to relocate to some far off place that happens to have one of few job openings.

      There are many aspects of academic life that are good--that's why it continues to attract people and rate as one of the "happiest careers" in spite of poor financial prospects, significant attempts at harassment and misguided "oversight," and dissing of what we do.  It would be hard for me to agree, however, that tenure is always a "sweet deal." I'm sure it sometimes is, and sometimes it is very much not.

    •  You're ignoring the reason tenure exists (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      demway, poco, MarkC

      It's to preserve independence and academic freedom. Is there an equivalent need in your profession? There might be... And call it "cushy" if you want, but these are jobs that have a very special place in society, just as the job of high level judges, also protected by tenure, do.

    •  Why is it a very sweet deal (0+ / 0-)

      In what way is it a sweet deal?

      I constantly want kids to stay far away from the profession precisely because I don't think it's a sweet deal at all.

      There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

      by upstate NY on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 06:23:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I have tenure at a major research university. (18+ / 0-)

    Without tenure, I likely would have been fired at several key points in my career, for reasons having to do with my personal life.  My son became sick and I had to take care of him intensively while I was working, which meant that for about 3 years I wasn't as "productive" in terms of articles and travel to conferences and giving lectures, though I did teach and do committee work and advising and all the other responsibilities that go along with the job.  But because of those years in which I didn't have as many articles published each year as is expected usually, I could have been sacked without tenure.  I am more productive than ever now and doing good work and making connections for my department with departments overseas.  

    My work pushes boundaries and goes against the grain of what is done in the wider field.  I have won a national prize for my work.  Without tenure, I could have been sacked by those who did not like the direction of my work or just didn't like me, or had a grudge... whatever personal reason.  But they couldn't sack me, and I have done work that is internationally respected and has changed paradigms in my field.  Tenure made that possible.

    That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

    by concernedamerican on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 02:03:05 PM PDT

    •  And this is why (7+ / 0-)

      taking a long view pays off. Just not with this governor and his ilk. If you can't monetize it on a quarterly basis, it doesn't mean anything.

      I'm glad you found your way through all the challenges. I would bet that that experience has made you a better academic.

      As American as apple pie. As Canadian as possible, under the circumstances.

      by mitumba on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 02:11:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks. In several ways I think it has, but I (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        also think that it made me lose some opportunities.  Colleagues are more likely to think of others, not of me, when it comes to assigning certain responsibilities.  I resented this, and still somewhat do; though now that I am super productive again, I try to take the view that it's for the best given that I have more time to do what I do well for the university.

        That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

        by concernedamerican on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 02:43:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  One of my graduate committee members got (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      "crossways" with a state official over a scientific matter on which he differed from the politician. The pol wanted this excellent faculty member fired in the worst way, but my committee member kept his job because of tenure. THAT'S the sort of thing tenure is for. And what happened to my committee member happens more often in more ways than people would ever realize.

  •  thank you for the diary and comments (6+ / 0-)

    It's always good to know what is happening elsewhere - Florida worries me less than Wisconsin -- if tenure and higher education take a huge hit there, it can happen anywhere. I work at a very large midwestern R1 university, and I've heard no talk about tenure being endangered. However, what IS happening is that as tenured faculty retire, they are either not replaced at all or the positions become non-tenure track. In my department right now, we have two full profs on phased retirement, 3 term hires, teaching one course each, and me. We've already been told that the full profs will not be replaced with equivalent tenure lines -- if we get to make hires at all. And who suffers from this? The students who are paying more and more each year to get an increasingly expensive education that is not what it used to be. Our three term hires are great people, and they mean well, but they don't have deep roots in our discipline, and they have no say in departmental matters or  governance. So, it may be that tenure vanishes eventually in this insidious way.

    •  I experience this problem daily. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      annetteboardman, binkaroni

      I am responsible for a program within a fairly large department (900 or so majors) with 300 majors in a professional sub-program. I have 2 tenured/tenure track colleagues. Every semester it is a scramble to hire people to teach and then to mentor them through their courses and then to have to replace them after 1 semester.

      It is unsustainable, but it is "cheaper" than hiring even a full-time staff person, not to mention a tenure-track colleague. These staff people can't (and shouldn't) do any service or administrative work, so we have the extra burden of constant training, constant hiring and more non-teaching responsibilities because the tenured pool shrinks every year.

  •  Thanks for posting this, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nespolo, gffish

    the desire to eliminate the last vestiges of a decent living and work life for everyone seems powerful these days, which is why the resentment against public unions.  Tenure's roots go back to Mr. and Mrs. Stanford wanting to fire the innovative hippie professor Scott Nearing more than a hundred years ago for purely political reasons.  It's a clumsy system but that doesn't mean it should be wiped out.  We have to stop electing clowns.

  •  I considered a teaching job... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gffish, annetteboardman a for-profit college in my field and was horrified to find that every teacher's job description involved drumming up more business for the Company, and to find out that the Company's board of trustees consisted mostly of former Goldman Sachs and Department of Defense officials.

    My field is the arts.  We will be very sorry to lose what we now have.

  •  Nazis turned the University of Berlin, one of (10+ / 0-)

    the greatest Universities in Europe, into a vet school with dozens of classes on "racial studies." Here in Denver, the debate has raged for years at Metro State College on why there is a philosophy department. I mean, after all, you can't show a relationship between philosophy majors and employment. Many people want to turn it into a vocational school, I suppose because the heritage of mankind and the continuity of Western Civilization is is not important compared to being an accountant.

    "How I hate those who are dedicated to producing conformity." William S Burroughs

    by shmuelman on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 02:27:03 PM PDT

  •  Just something to consider.. (13+ / 0-)

    I work at the same “one of the largest, but not highest ranked” university as you do.  I am not a tenured associate but an instructor.  As someone who was partially responsible for that largest thing, adjuncted through the 90s teaching 7, 8 or 9 classes a semester to cover anything and everything that needed to be taught while that growth took place, I am also appalled at Scott’s actions.  It needs to be mentioned that Scott is not a Floridian, he came to Florida (like Jeb Bush) to pillage and he was very successful at it bilking medicare of millions.  Scott has no regard for the state, he does not care about Florida, he is here purely to make money.  Period.  As to tenure.  As someone who is not in a tenure earning position I can argue without reservation that tenure is a fundamental necessity if universities are to remain a place where students can be exposed to how the world really works.  For example, I am currently reading David Graeber’s “Debt: The First Five thousand Years” and thinking of how I can work this into my classes, and also thinking about the consequences if I did.  I can be discharged relatively easily and using such a text is not the way to give students what they want to hear.  If I did have tenure this would not be an issue.  There are also other reasons that people become less productive post-tenure that have not been addressed.  Gaining tenure is not easy, it is an arduous and often demeaning process that takes a lot of work and time.  Many put other commitments on hold until after tenure such as family.  I can attest as someone who is married to someone with tenure that if there is a child someone has to step in and do the domestic stuff that seeking tenure does not allow.  Post-tenure some may then do the family values thing the kill tenure people say (but often do not really believe in) is so important.  An academic salary does not allow for nannies.  Another aspect to post-tenure productivity, at least in the current post-Bush period, is the lack of funding for research.  Basic research money from NSF and NIH have been cut.  I have a brother at another university who got tenure by the skin of his teeth but now has problems getting grants in chemistry, crystallography, three dimensional shapes of proteins to see how they really bind with other molecules.  Basic research.  No funding.  I tell him to go after the DOD funding, think death, chemists can do death.  So far he has resisted.  Without his basic research and from those like him there will not be new drugs as the drug companies will not have the basic research to seize and turn into a profit and so they will continue to have to create new diseases through advertisements for the drugs they already have.  Sigh… So it goes….

  •  As terrible as this is... (10+ / 0-)

    ... and it is terrible, it will also come back to bite the right-wingers in the arse. Academia, and especially the humanities and social sciences, draws the work and attention of a huge group of very intelligent folk with generally left-leaning politics. We're willing to dedicate our lives to seemingly esoteric pursuits because, despite making considerably less than we could in the private sector, we find social and personal satisfaction in teaching and in the work.

    When the right wingers make academic careers less attractive they push those very intelligent and driven folk into fields, such as law and business, where the articulation with politics is more direct and forceful.

    Speaking from personal experience, I have a Ph.D. in the humanities from a school where most of my colleagues landed cushy tenure-line jobs. I decided not to do that in no small part because of the politically motivated attacks on the academy. Instead I went to an incredibly powerful law school where I made political connections and am now in a position to influence policy to a much greater degree than I would have been as a tenure-track professor.

    Essentially, people like Scott should prefer that brilliant leftists spend their time researching 12th century French Literature than that they spend their time figuring out how to bury the political careers of people like Scott . . .

    •  Yes, I've often thought (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      virginwoolf, Matt Z, gffish

      that what you say might end up happening. And, I totally support your goal of burying Scott's political career. It shouldn't have started in the first place, but hey, this is Florida.

      "Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter." (Homer Simpson)

      by mitumba on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 02:51:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Right wingers like Scott are simpleminded (0+ / 0-)

      Their view of the economy is simpleminded.  Their view of the world is simpleminded.  They do not let contradicting facts get in the way of their simplistic theories of how the world works.  Of course they royally screw things up.  The Reagan-Thatcher view of the world has screwed up the world economy big time.  Screwing up academia will accelerate the decline of the US, but Scott and his ilk are too freaking stupid to realize it.

      I'm truly sorry Man's dominion Has broken Nature's social union--Robert Burns

      by Eric Blair on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 12:04:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  American Legislative Exchange Council (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mitumba, eru, vahana, MarkC

    ALEC has a whole raft of bills aimed at undermining academic freedom in public higher education.  It is truly chilling.  Check out the website  It has links to the K-12 and higher education bills as well as ALEC bills in a whole array of other areas.  

    "Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance." Samuel Johnson

    by Rona on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 03:10:43 PM PDT

    •  I see there's a version of ABOR (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      or Academic Bill of Rights on this page. That's a really chilling one. Here's a page that deals with an earlier attempt to institute one of these in Florida. This bill is a wolf in sheep's clothing, or maybe a wolf in wolf's clothing, I don't know.

      "Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter." (Homer Simpson)

      by mitumba on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 03:54:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Not only this: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    In addition, the public perception of tenure is that it’s virtually impossible to be fired if you have it. That is simply not true. If a university has cause to fire a tenured person, then the university can do so. If a faculty member doesn’t show up for classes or turn in grades, if he or she behaves in unacceptable or unprofessional ways, if a faculty member violates ethics codes–or for numerous other reasons–a faculty member may certainly still be fired.

    But if a department is eliminated, they will "do their best" to place a tenured faculty in another dept., but there's no guarantee you'll have a job.  

  •  "liberal prerogative" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gffish, eru

    Well, duh.  As in, say, the "liberal arts"?  And how many "conservatives" even believe in anthropology?

    What we need is to start making these authoritarian cretins explain what they mean by liberal.  Because as you know, the word means "free."

    A "moderate" in this environment is a person who splits the difference between half-assed government and a total shitpile.

    by Dinclusin on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 03:32:37 PM PDT

  •  The Orlando Sentinel should... (3+ / 0-)

    publish your should every major newspaper/website in order for people to better understand this issue. I certainly have a much more rounded comprehension...but I was on your side already. While it's true that enlightenment is a longshot when dealing with emotional prejudices, your insights and first-hand knowledge need to be promoted.

  •  The government has been bought and paid for... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gffish the proprietaries.  Phoenix and DeVry don't have tenure, so the rest of us must not need it either.

  •  Most people don't realize (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mitumba, susanala

    what is required to become tenured. They just think of it as a reward for time served.

    When I explain all of the requirements for tenure people tend to take notice. Especially when I get to the part about up or out.

  •  They already got rid of tenure through the (3+ / 0-)


    15 years ago, 75% of faculty in America were either tenured or on the tenure track.

    The Chronicle reported that as of last Spring, 32% of faculty in America have that distinction.

    I guess when we're down to 10% tenure lines we'll still be fighting to save tenure.

    There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

    by upstate NY on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 04:58:46 PM PDT

  •  The univesity is the Profesors (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Blair, pengiep

    When General Eisenhower was in charge of Columbia University he held a meeting with the faculty.  He said, " gentlemen lets get down with running the university."   One of the senior , tenured, faculty said "we are the University."
    The collection of Professors, tenured, are the University.  Not he building, students, athletic fields, etc..
    to destroy tenure you dissolve the university.

  •  The firing of Edward A. Ross (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gffish, vahana

    By Jane Stanford - of Stanford - is a good place to start regarding academic freedom and the reason we have - and need - tenure.

    That's when the notion of tenure took hold. Intended to safeguard intellectual freedom, it was a direct response to efforts by wealthy industrialists (who were underwriting elite universities) to suppress their professors' populist ideas. Arthur Levine, president of Teachers College at Columbia University, likes to cite the case of a Stanford University professor, a radical sociologist named Edward A. Ross, who called for railroad systems to be owned by governments instead of private interests. The trouble was, Leland Stanford's widow headed the university's trustees; and Stanford himself, a former California governor, had amassed great wealth as a railroad builder. "The obvious remedy was to have Professor Ross fired," Dr. Levine said.

    And he was fired.

  •  Wow, zero discussion of adjuncts and the (0+ / 0-)

    fact that tenure is an apartheid system that cannot be ethically justified in any way, shape, or form (if one believes at all in fairness and justice, not to mention the Humanities)  Of course, this has not been the argument made here. Instead, the argument has been about "academic freedom." Of course, there is no acknowledgement that this freedom only applies to (as others have noted) what is now a minority of teachers, with the vast majority of educators systematically excluded from every benefit of tenure, but many of whom have the same training, the same research credentials, but who do 3X the workload of their tenured colleagues while earning 30% of their salary.

    And none of you have a problem with this?

    And none of you even pose it as a problem (except as an attack on the privileges you already have).

    There are radical, left critiques of tenure, something this diary seems unaware of and unable to even articulate (btw: your argument for "saving" tenure would have been stronger had you at least acknowledged the inherent unfairness and inhumanity of the tenure system, which is all about separation and exclusion). Had you acknowledged these problems--problems that it doesnt take a rocket scientist to acknowledge come from within the Humanities itself--I may have taken your diary more seriously. But, instead, I'm left with the negative task of articulating what you exclude, which is that who does and does not get tenure has nothing to do with merit and is completely and totally arbitrary. And that the system itself is ethically unjustified.

    I believe passionately in "academic freedom," and respect that argument for tenure. But, at the same time, this doesn't blind me to the very real problems with tenure, particularly as a system that mirrors the state of exception that is our present (and is the real basis of these conservative attacks). Of course, the fact that you don't actually defend tenure as exception, but take it for granted as unproblematic, tells me everything I need to know. This diary is not really about "ideas" of tenure, but the experience of privilege.

    The truth is, tenure goes against every idea in the Humanities of economic and social justice. Only people who are themselves radically separated from what is happening around them, the exclusion of lives and work on which their job is based, systematically ignore this injustice.

    •  every adjunct I know would love to have tenure (6+ / 0-)

      and some academics I know have not gone into the profession because adjunct teaching, with its rotten pay and no benefits, was all that was available.

      to me, this is not much different than attacking unionized workers' pay and benefits b/c non-unionized workers don't have them--  bottom line is, tearing down the pay and job security of other workers is not going to  improve the situation of adjuncts by any means, which should be obvious given who's doing it.

      MORE people should get tenure, not fewer people.

      Nowhere do I understand that national security is a substitute for the law.---Thomas Drake You cannot tell from appearances how things will go.--Winston Churchill

      by SouthernLiberalinMD on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 07:45:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Agreed (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SouthernLiberalinMD, Eric Blair

        In my ideal world, there would be no adjuncts, only people with full-time jobs, with a fair living wage. This issue has nothing to do with tenure.

        One step toward that - a national adjunct's union. There would be problems, of course - Florida is a "right to work" state, which really means a "no right to work" state. Unions might not gain certification. But right now, I know that adjunct rates are set in the colleges in my university, and they can differ markedly between colleges. I know that the teaching load can also differ. We actually try to keep ours down for adjuncts - I give far larger sections to full-time people than I do to adjuncts.

        Adjunct work isn't just. I did it for awhile, at the end of grad school. It sucked. But this is not about tenure, it's about states and universities not supporting education as they should. Florida is down around #48 or so in state funding for education, and at least one of its universities has had the highest student/teacher ratio in the country in recent years. It thinks that the solution to all problems is growth, while at the same time cutting back faculty positions of all sorts. That's the real problem.

        "Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter." (Homer Simpson)

        by mitumba on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 08:22:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Mitumba, it is the only job I have. To suggest (0+ / 0-)

          that Adjunct labor shouldn't exist (which I get from colleagues all the time)  is to say I shouldn't have a job, and again we are back with an exclusionary perspective (not saying you said that, but there is a hint of it). My entire point is that this is much more complicated than what is being presented here.

          Sounds like you're in a good Dept. I have 420 students a semester, four courses, and must grade 10 pages of writing personally for all 420. I also teach intensive summer and sometimes winter sessions, so I have no time off.

          I'm not trying to be personal here, just passionate. It's a mistake to exclude us from the discussion or relegate us to: "that shouldn't exist" status. It does and has and continues to exist. And, again, I would add, many tenured people would prefer not to have to deal with it at all precisely because it challenges the whole system.

          •  No, it's to say you should have a *better* job (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Eric Blair

            with decent pay and benefits.

            What's wrong with that?

            We are not trying to exclude you, we are trying to say you are worth more than being categorized as a glorified temp worker with no benefits and crappy pay.

            Why would you want to keep those things?  That's what "adjunct" means to a university--and trust me, I've spent a lot of time in universities!--it means "we don't have to pay these people as much and we don't have to worry about benefits at all.  Cheap teaching on the hoof, woo-hoo!"  It's no different than the way corporations hire "independent contractors" so that they can cut costs.

            Nowhere do I understand that national security is a substitute for the law.---Thomas Drake You cannot tell from appearances how things will go.--Winston Churchill

            by SouthernLiberalinMD on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 07:09:39 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  I never said we should tear down the pay and (0+ / 0-)

        security of others (show me where I say that or even imply it?).

        Many people with tenure share my critical point of view about it. This is not about me not having tenure, but rather what tenure means within a system of exclusion.

        Moreover, I have to point out that you are arguing to expand inequality in the workforce and feel it is justified due to "freedom." claims which are of a very dubious nature.

        My point is that I just wish 1) adjuncts were not so obviously excluded from this conversation (we are all in this together) 2) those with tenure would at the very least acknowledge it's obvious unfairness (as many do).

        Ultimately, the entire institution and profession is under attack by the right wing. we need to be together on this. Some acknowledgement that 1) adjuncts exist and 2) the system is arbitrary, unfair, and exclusionary. To ignore both of these things is just wrong.

        •  Dear god, I am not arguing to expand inequality (0+ / 0-)

          in the workplace--I am trying to eliminate it, or at least, severely reduce it.

          Nowhere do I understand that national security is a substitute for the law.---Thomas Drake You cannot tell from appearances how things will go.--Winston Churchill

          by SouthernLiberalinMD on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 07:10:17 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Dear Mindtrain, (3+ / 0-)

      I agree with some of what you say, but not with the attack on tenure (or on me, for that matter).

      I do say in my post that there are many different aspects of higher education that I would like to discuss--the brutality of reliance and poor conditions for adjuncts is one of them. I can't do it all in one short post, but you're probably right that I should have mentioned it.

      Still, there are a few comments that do mention it and to which I responded--see, for instance, duck152's comment "Just something to consider" and upstate NY's comment "They already got rid of tenure."

      We are not all heartless, privileged bastards who think that taking unfair advantage is right. In fact, I have a number of friends who have gone from instructor positions or community college jobs to tenure-line jobs who have told me that they would go back if they could. One friend even did go back to a community college job; she had a 3-2 load and tenure, but left to go to a 4-4 and required summer teaching because of the unholy pressures for tenured faculty. It's not as clear as it may seem to you.

      And perhaps if academic freedom could be preserved in a different system, there would be a better alternative than tenure. However, I'm afraid you have no idea what the implications of the abolishing of tenure would be.

      Recently at my university a new department was established with a new, business-model structure. It does still have a few tenured faculty, all of whom have now also received course releases and perks for handling administrative tasks as well. The new department did convert several adjunct positions into "permanent" (meaning renewable yearly) instructor jobs.  Many of those adjuncts felt this an improvement in their lives. But I look at this department and see a permanent structure where the majority of those spending the majority of time in the classroom have a curriculum dictated to them from above, have little choice in what they teach or even the books they use, and who are involved in governance only to the extent that the administrators are in the mood to allow it.

      We are not talking about the abolishing of tenure allowing more equal space at the table. We are talking about a practice that will take away even more of your and my stakes alike.

      I agree that we need much more conversation about the gaps between tenure-line and non-tenure-line faculty, as well as the many injustices perpetuated in academia. But let me tell you that if the tenured faculty falls as such, then there will be fewer and fewer people around who can defend that cause without being summarily fired.

      •  Rec'ing for most of what you say (0+ / 0-)

        though I'm flabbergasted, as a former academic, that anybody would choose to go back to 4-4 untenured faculty position over a 3-2 tenured position.

        Pressures of tenure notwithstanding, I have a hard time feeling like tenure is a burden.

        Nowhere do I understand that national security is a substitute for the law.---Thomas Drake You cannot tell from appearances how things will go.--Winston Churchill

        by SouthernLiberalinMD on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 09:31:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, (0+ / 0-)

          it is rather amazing. The only thing I can really figure out is that the job of an adjunct or instructor has clearer boundaries, whereas the job of a tenured professor morphs into a million different things these days. I think that sometimes people long for boundaries.

          There is some burden in responsibility. I'm not saying that adjuncts don't have their own burden, but there is a burden  in some of what tenure implies if not in tenure itself.

          That is not, however, justification for the low pay-scale of adjuncts and some instructors. I don't actually think the workloads are all that different (in type, yes, but in quantity, no), but the pay scales are, and that is the main issue.

      •  I nowhere said we should abolish tenure. Only that (0+ / 0-)

        it was unjustifiable from the position of the work most of us in the Humanities teach. And that people (with tenure) never acknowledge that (at least in this diary). I am not blaming tenured faculty for this system, but for (in important ways) repeating it's exclusion in the ways they speak about and discuss tenure. And this exclusion is existential. These are real people, your colleagues, who clearly are not even part of the conversation or included within it (and, on a daily basis, this is the dominant practice with regard to tenure vs. Adjunct labor: you wish we would go away). Not that long ago, we were at the very least treated as faculty, with dignity and respect that all faculty are accorded. That is now no longer the case. In my department, we're somewhere BeHIND graduate student (non-degreed) labor in the hierarchy (these students bring in money for the grad program and are potential future tenured faculty). Never mind that adjunct labor is the backbone of my Department and that over 50% of educators in my system are adjuncts.

        What I object to is the way in which we are systematically excluded from your thoughts and beliefs about tenure. Something is missing here in this formulation, in this diary, and in many/most of what is being presented here.

        I'm sorry, I wasn't aware that I had personally attacked you or anyone. And I don't believe I have. Rather, I've tried to explain to you that what you've done here does a disservice to all of us in the fight we are all engaged in. I have tried to provoke you to thinking beyond the comfort of your frames of reference and to do so in a way that takes the lives of the excluded seriously.

        Exclusion seldom happens because people are "heartless" and "cruel." it happens because it's something that is eluding people's thoughts, lives, experiences. When there is a system of complicity with an injustice built into the system, then there is an automatic "out" for people with tenure (who can explain all of these issues away as personal attacks, jealousy, resentment, etc rather than face the reality of their complicity in this system and how it distorts their perception of tenure.

    •  You're looking at this the wrong way (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Tenure should be the norm, not adjuncting.

      Or, at the very least, what are now adjuncts should be regarded as full-time "teaching faculty."

      Tenure is a great system, to the point where if tenure didn't exist, there would be basically no reason to pursue a faculty position at a university in the first place.

    •  A discussion of the abuse of (0+ / 0-)

      faculty through adjunct appoints would be a worthy discussion.  It is a terrible thing the way this army of instructors provides a huge amount of teaching for so little commitment.  But it makes no more sense to blame tenured professors for this treatment than it does to blame the salaries and benefits of public school teachers for the lack of resources for healthcare and other public services.  

      •  I'm not blaming them for the system. I am blaming (0+ / 0-)

        them from excluding us from a discussion about that system (as if we did not exist).

        I disagree that tenure is a "great system" (from a selfish and personal perspective I can see why anyone would say that, but from a perspective consistent with much of what people in the Humanities teach, it is antithetical to those values and beliefs). Tenure is not just an idea. It is a material reality that affects people's lives, some more than others.

        •  We do need to recognize (0+ / 0-)

          that we are all in it together and that the system has many problems. However, my original post was in response to our governor's explicit attack on tenure. That's what I dealt with. You went on to suggest that I (and other posters here) don't care about adjunct and other issues, which is a misinterpretation, and I hope it's a rousing discussion we can have another time. I'm glad you didn't mean your words as a personal attack, but a misinterpretation can feel very much like a personal attack. (For me, I have to admit, especially late at night--I'm a morning person.)

          Please, though, take a look at the history of education unions and tenure. These did not arise from some sense of exclusion, of "we're better than you." In fact, negotiations for tenure began because without it, teachers at every level were subject to arbitrary decisions, poor pay and working conditions, and disrespect of their expertise. People's ideas in their responses to you speak to an ideal where everyone would be included in protection from those things. You seem, on the other hand, to speak from the brutal reality that they are not. But your assumption is that you would never be eligible for a tenured position. If more were available, you might be.

          It is true that in some places adjuncts and instructors are not well respected. That's not true, fortunately, in my department, where adjuncts and instructors are invited to meetings and to participate on most committees if they want to. In fact, we have two non-tenure-line instructors who are on our graduate faculty, and one of them is teaching a graduate course right now.

          I have mixed feelings about this. First, it concerns me that adding other responsibilities to a heavy teaching load might be unfair. Second, while I have little doubt of most of their competence, I know that our adjuncts and instructors (some of whom got their degrees here and have not made their life choices based on their academic careers) don't have the breadth of experience that some of us bring to the classroom and that is part of the grueling process of earning tenure.

          I very much respect what my adjunct and instructor colleagues do. But it is true that there are differences in their job responsibilities from mine and other tenure-line faculty. Trust me, we'd like to share some of these responsibilities. As the tenured portion of the faculty shrinks, we each get more and more non-teaching duties. Adjuncts and instructors get heavier teaching loads; we get heavier service and research loads, and sometimes even heavier teaching loads ourselves.

          Last year I had 11 service assignments, including chairing two of them.  In the previous year, I had revamped the undergraduate curriculum in my field and developed two brand-new from scratch courses for 100 or more students (in a field where workshops are the agreed-upon pedagogy), and I was still in the process of teaching one of these new courses, for which I developed all the material. I had about 50 undergraduate advisees, directed one master's thesis, and served on six other thesis committees. In November of last year, I had a sudden brain hemorrhage, so my fellow tenured faculty members had to take over my courses for the last month of the term. I was given one course release to help me recover (for which I am very grateful), and so I only taught about 170 students in my four courses over the year and only graded 130 mid-terms and finals, 30 huge editing projects, and about 500 pages of writing.

          If you want to talk about heavy workloads, I can join in quite freely. We really are in it together.

    •  You must be in some ivory tower bubble to write (0+ / 0-)

      that dismissively of a defense of teachers that way.

      there are three trends that are assisting the right wing attack on tenure and the professional educators in general.

      1)The abuse of the adjunct system from being a overflow or patch to fill some positions that overenrollment or more than expected students arriving on campus creates. The abuse is systematically adding many more adjuncts than can possibly be streamed into tenure tracks for the aspiring university professors. substituting liberally  all sorts of adjuncts for full professors wherever possible.

      2) the import of grad students from other countries as simply cheaper immigrant labor in colleges, only for mental tasks instead of physical tasks like field labor or construction.

      3)the reduction of tenured track positions creating more competition, and allowing attacks on all teachers to increase thereby.

          Just as the NCAA  Division 1 milks athletes for billions of dollars to add to their little empires, so to, do the decreasing opportunities  for tenure reflect the commercialization, the profit seeking and the commodification of higher education.  Non tenured faculty are cheaper and more pliable.  This has become a classic case of oversupply as in earlier times college was a small part of the educational spectrum and persons wanting advanced degrees were a desired item by schools needing to replenish their professionals.

      Nowadays, there is an abundance of educated and qualified academics. There is great competition for jobs in nearly every area and in every sort of school. This allows tenure to be rolled back as we see the advantage to the administration as to how they wish to manage.

      They are at the administrators mercy.  It parallels to a remarkable degree the political backwardness in America and the loss of unions, rollbacks in protections for our citizens.  This is another face of the attack on the middle class.

    •  I've always thought that there can be a (0+ / 0-)

      good tenure system that includes adjuncts as well.
      It would promote the same kind of excellence in discipline development and, if designed properly, promote and reward teaching excellence as well.

      The labor of a human being is not a commodity or article of commerce. Clayton Act, Section 6.

      by Ignacio Magaloni on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 12:10:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  got my BA in English from UF (0+ / 0-)

    so I feel you.  do you guys have a plan for fighting back?  

    Nowhere do I understand that national security is a substitute for the law.---Thomas Drake You cannot tell from appearances how things will go.--Winston Churchill

    by SouthernLiberalinMD on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 07:20:21 PM PDT

  •  Chomp Chomp! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    beach babe in fl

    Since Rick Scott isn't a Gator, he's Gator bait.

  •  Tenured and retired. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ZsteveM, BeeDeeS

    I had tenure at a Calif. State Univ. campus. I am now retired.
    I find the original post on target. She has it right.
    I would add, eliminating tenure is a part of a long range effort to take control of the universities by corporate and conservative interests.  They do not want tenure and academic freedom, and free inquiry getting in their way.
    At the same time.
    First, they came for the Communists.  But, I wasn't a communist, so I did not say anything.
    Then they came for the union activists. But, I wasn't in a union so I did not say anything.
    Then they came for the Gays and Jews, but I wasn't a Jew, so I did not say anything.
    Now, they come for the tenured faculty.
    and there are few remaining to join me in protest.

    •  The original (0+ / 0-)

      First they came for the Communists but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists but I was not one of them, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews but I was not Jewish so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.
      Martin Niemoeller

  •  Whoa, Scott's on the Koch Bros. turf (0+ / 0-)

    and he'd better watch out. They've spent good money for their influence on the hiring of righty professors and the promotion of an anti-science curriculum. They don't want some puny governor sticking his nose into their plan.

  •  My favorite complaint (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mitumba, eru, Eric Blair

    From right wingers is that  so called "P.C." prejudice keeps self-identified conservatives from faculty positions in the humanities and social sciences.

    I don't think so.

    In my 25 years in higher ed I've never met a single self-identified conservative who was interested in jobs that pay less than $50,000 after 12 years of non-stop work and privation.  Every one that I met wanted only a high-paying, lavishly-supported academic career in business, engineering, etc.----especially one that provided many opportunities for double-dipping/moonlighting with consulting gigs.

    I earned tenure at one institution and left so my wife could take a job elsewhere.  I'm now going up for tenure for the second time at a new institution.  I've been teaching non-stop in tenure-line positinos for 12 years, directed an honors program, a comp program, excelled at online teaching, hybrid teaching, and televised teaching (in addition to traditional), I created and ran entire programs, invented and reinvented at least 25 courses, served on important committees task forces, advised thousands of students, published and presented continuously at professional conferences.

    I haven't had a raise in five years and still make less than $48,000.  I work in a building that has no bathrooms and I must buy my own supplies, including, at times, copy/printer paper.  

    Hey Rightwing think-tank boys------how many of you want my job?  Is the reason you are at the Heritage Foundation and not busting your ass teaching at-risk first generation college students (many of whom are extremely conservative) PC discrimination?

    Dulce bellum inexpertis [War is sweet only to those who have no experience of it].

    by Fatherflot on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 08:12:55 PM PDT

    •  Oh and (0+ / 0-)

      My conservative students haven't the foggiest notion of my politics, since I am scrupulous in keeping that out of my teaching----not out of fear, but out of a commitment to help them develop their own minds, on their own terms.  You have no idea how many times I've labored to help a student construct a well-supported argument that I personally disagreed with.  The most "P.C." thing I've done recently is to advise a student to write a paper arguing carefully against gay marriage instead of one condemning all gays as AID-carrying child molesters.

      Dulce bellum inexpertis [War is sweet only to those who have no experience of it].

      by Fatherflot on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 08:24:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  instead of "those who can't do, teach", its' (0+ / 0-)

    "those who can't teach join conservative think tanks"

    i think i like that meme

  •  seriously: thank you for your service-- (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lisa Roney, BeeDeeS, MarkC

    actually, thanks first to everyone who rec'ced this diary -- I'm not sure I've ever seen this topic on the rec list before.

    Second, I want to step back a bit from the granular discussion and simply thank everyone who sticks with higher ed as a profession/vocation, despite the increasingly lurid disincentives detailed in this thread.  I always think it's an appropriate gesture to thank people in the military for their service, but it's no less appropriate here.

    Now, I don't know if its within the rules for someone IN the service to thank someone else -- but I'm not sure if there's anyone else better positioned to appreciate the job that's being done.  In any case, I've done the traditional tenure-track route (but aborted after 5 years for family reasons), then I did a 12-year sabbatical in the corporate world, and now I've come back for 3 years (and counting) of hyper-exploitation as an adjunct.   Among my galaxy of one-time academic friends, the quarter who got tenure certainly had to work like dogs to do so, and they're still working like dogs (albeit mostly dogs with smiles); the half who ended up as adjuncts work like dogs with no smiles; and the quarter who bailed out of academia have had various trajectories which have often taken them, by wide loops, back in the direction of academia.   Like me.    

    I find this kind of loopy trajectory has a clarifying effect.   My engagement with teaching was never about $$, of course, but these days it's not about academic ambition either.  Or job security, or benefits, or a living wage.  It's like -- we have to teach because it's important to Keep the Great Darkness at Bay.   And, weirdly, I see that kind of service now as a species of privilege, even from within conditions of patent exploitation where i now find myself.  I may have to go back to corporate in a few years, we shall see.   Meanwhile... I deplore the attacks on tenure from outside the system, I also deplore the creeping attack on tenure from adjunctification; and I appreciate everyone who is (nevertheless) committed to teaching in whatever capacity.   As someone said upthread regarding the FL state system in particular, once our US higher-ed system is eviscerated, there is no recovery for the larger economy or culture.

    Semper Fi.

    •  Your post helps me clarify something... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ignacio Magaloni

      It does indeed seem that the right found the perfect way to divide and conquer--after years of eroding the percentage of tenure-line positions, we now have this perceived division between tenured and non-tenure-earning faculty. While they chip away constantly at the field of higher (and el-high) public education, we spend at least some of our time scrabbling with each other over what's left.

      I too feel a great deal of gratitude to everyone who keeps teaching and to all who have posted here. You all have helped me clarify my thinking so much.

    •  Due to a glitch (0+ / 0-)

      I am unable to recommmend comments on this Diary.  That happens to me sometimes.  I want you to know I honor you for this insightful and well reasoned comment.

      And, as a Floridian who moved to Tampa in 1978, I have seen things go downhill for so many years I have almost no hope this state will make it much longer as a viable place to live for intelligent human beings.

  •  Everything you said is true. I have a few things (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    to add.  I have tenure at a mid size school in Pittsburgh.  Catholic.  I think that what most average people don't get first is that they count the number of contact hours and assume that that is all a university faculty does.  

    I teach a full semester 3-credit class one semester and a lab the other.  Yes, I only have 3 contact hours in the first semester and about 8 the second.  That doesn't count all of the other stuff I do professionally, way more than 40 hours per week, all well described by you.

    Plus, the salary is very low relative to people who have had far less education that I have.  After being here for 20 years, I have finally made it to $70,000 per year, below starting salary for many of the undergraduate I educate.  I would bet that if Rick Scott got his way, they would have to pay far more for a hire.

    Alan Grayson: "In 2010, my district and everywhere else in Florida, Republican turnout was in the sixties. Democratic turnout was in the forties." Think about it.

    by alliedoc on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 05:49:33 AM PDT

  •  We are playing Whack-a-Mole (6+ / 0-)

    with the corporatists and the right wing extremists.  The evangelical/dominionists are standing with them in attempting to mold our society, our culture, our nation into some asinine religious, private enterprise heaven where every man and woman is for himself/herself.  I cannot think of a more repulsive way to live.

  •  is a political move against Academia (0+ / 0-)

    and part of the GOPs agenda to destroy government

    •  yes (0+ / 0-)

      Republican governors and legislatures are witholding money from universities forcing increases in tutition to cover expenses.  Colleges have made drastic cuts over the past decade in most states so there is nothing left to cut except positions.  

      Elizabeth Warren points out that corporations, who take advantage of a well trained work force, need to step up and pay their fair share.  It's part of the social contract. And a broad, liberal arts education is part of it.  

      Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity. Horace Mann (and btw, the bike in kayakbiker is a bicycle)

      by Kayakbiker on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 08:55:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The Koch Connection (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mitumba, Eric Blair

    Google for details: The Koch Brothers of Tea Party fame have undertaken to re-shape higher education nearer to their hearts' desire.  In specific, they want to replace "liberal" Economics with uber-conservative economics. They have bought an Economics professorship at the University of Kansas and have donated $1.5 million to Florida State University with the condition that their representatives must vet and sign off on any new hires in the Economics program (60% of candidates recommended by the University were nixxed by the Kochs).  The Kochs have long been using their multi-billions to defeat government regulation and organized labor; one of their first triumphs has been putting Governor Walker in Madison, Wisconsin. How does all of this connect with tenure? Easily.

  •  There isn't much mention here of overpaid... (0+ / 0-)

    under-qualified, politically connected hack administrators who ultimately make academic hiring decisions.  Two university presidents where I once worked turned out to be crooks.  Another was a governor who decided he needed a job (term limits) and appointed himself to the university presidency.
    Of course, if you really want to earn a good salary, become a football coach.  They make five to eight time what the President makes.  Guess who is more important in the corrupt scene of present-day US universities.

    Republicans hate government. Help keep them away from it.

    by djohnutk on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 09:58:01 AM PDT

  •  As another Florida university faculty member... (4+ / 0-)

    I'm even more scared by the concept of tying pay to student evaluations.  Maybe the tenure thing scares me less, since I don't have it yet (only in my 4th year).

    Tying pay to evaluations is ridiculous to me.  We are here to educate students, not necessarily make them happy.  I understand that these are not mutually exclusive goals, of course, as making students miserable is not the way to get them excited about a subject.  However, I can guarantee that I can increase my evaluation scores very simply by removing all the visible math from my big intro science course for non-majors which I teach every spring.  Combining that with earning a reputation for grade inflation, and I would be well on my way to stellar student evaluations every time.  However, there is no question that the students would get less useful knowledge out of the course.  

    Rick Scott makes me very unhappy.

  •  I smell the anti-intellectualism in the air (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    around these discussions. Red meat, as they say, for the base, from people who do not grasp how tenure works, for people who do not understand how tenure works.

    To put it simply, I do not understand why people who aren't qualified by virtue of academic credentials and rank think that their often uniformed opinions on the matter should carry much weight.

    When I was an undergrad at Iowa, state legislators occasionally picked up a book from someone on the faculty - say, Writers Workshop legend Frank Conroy, because his is the example I remember at the moment. Someone with some sort of beef with Conroy, or the workshop, or the U of I would complain to one of our notoriously anti-intellectual state legislators, who would then put on a show of being greatly offended at the content of a novel or short story published by said member of faculty, finishing, predictably, with a lament that THIS is what they're teaching our children?!

    A living, breathing executive haircut such as Rick Perry has no idea why he doesn't like tenure, except that he isn't in charge of it and can't fire the people whose politics he doesn't like - a problem the diarist mentions more generally about politicians with this problem. It's an issue of people who aren't qualified trying to run the institutions of higher learning anyway.

    With luck, Rick Scott will give up after he slams into a few brick walls on this particular windmill tilt.

    So he says to me, do you wanna be a BAD boy? And I say YEAH baby YEAH! Surf's up space ponies! I'm makin' gravy WITHOUT THE LUMPS! HAAA-ha-ha-ha!!!

    by Cenobyte on Sat Sep 24, 2011 at 05:26:00 AM PDT

    •  I wish... (0+ / 0-)

      You're right about the politicians. Granted that many of the politicians have no qualifications for making these judgments. But they regularly trot out those who seemingly are qualified--ex-academics whose credentials might look okay on paper. Most of them seem to have  left academia (by choice or not it's impossible for me to glean), but they rely on their two or four or five years in academia as giving them the supposed expertise needed.

      I can surmise that these individuals had bitter experiences with academia, and they are supported by many other embedded, disappointed academics. You don't hear this kind of grousing from people who failed at or chose to leave many other professions, and I surmise that this has to do with the long years and heavy financial sacrifices that people sometimes make to pursue an academic field that they then give up. It's very common for these folks to carry grudges--and who can blame them? Failure after such a long effort must indeed a painful thing, and there are indeed many flaws in the academic system.

      I just hope that people like Rick Perry and Rick Scott will indeed slam into brick walls. But they are so good at snow jobs and they tap so well into petty resentments that they convince a lot of people. Alas.

  •  This is ALEC (0+ / 0-)

    Scott is a fucking moron.  He is a front man for the Kochs, Rove, Armey, and the rest of the right wing capitalist vultures who want to destroy the American middle class.  We can analyze, discuss, and give him undue credit for having some kind of political philosophy if we want.  I contend he is an empty lizard brained fool with about as many brain synapses firing as the ex 1/2 term governor of Alaska.

    Where is Bob Graham?

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