Before You Eliminate Tenure . . .

Allow me to ruffle some feathers.

As a professor on the tenure track, I agree with all of the critiques of tenure. I operate with the understanding that at some point, tenure may go away. If it did, I’d just play that new hand; I’m not married to my profession because of the tenure possibility. I like being paid to think.

But here’s the rub. Let’s say we wake up tomorrow and tenure is wiped of the face of the earth. What evaluation system would take its place?  

I haven’t seen or heard of many colleges that are prepared to properly assess faculty. If tenure goes away, how will this new majority of professors on “multi-year contracts” be assessed? By student teaching evaluations and number of pubs (regardless of quality)? That’s the system we have now. With professors repeatedly fighting for their reappointment, there will be even greater incentives to play it safe, which will only make the classroom experience worse for students.  

 

The current system rewards looking good rather than being good. I’d like to see deans and P&T committees sitting in classes to assess the art of teaching. I’d like to see them reading every word of a professor’s scholarship to separate the meaningful from the fluff.  

 

Of course, there is the position of blowing up tenure and letting the system sort itself out. It’s fine to advocate that, but don’t think that there would be an immediate positive ROI.

 

I’d welcome any change that helps students, but let’s not forget that the best is the enemy of the better. 

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More
Elections

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More
U.S.

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More
Film & TV

Black Panther’s Circle of Hype

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first infantilizes its audience, then banalizes it, and, finally, controls it through marketing. This commercial strategy, geared toward adolescents of all ages, resembles the Democratic party’s political manipulation of black Americans, targeting that audience through its ... Read More