Abolition and reformation are the two keywords associated with
tenure. Abolitionists, spearheaded by administrators and politicians,
claim tenure lowers educational quality while increasing costs.
Reformers, advocated by educators, argue tenure is the program which
ensures the highest form of academic freedom while providing security for
those who endure the long pre-tenure trials. Meanwhile students, who tend
to be neither for nor against tenure but rather for education, are being
pulled in a political struggle between the two opposing factions.
Ironically, it is the students whom the two parties are targeting.
Is elimination the most promising solution to the considerable
disadvantages tenure incurs? At first the dissolution of the tenure
system may seem ridiculous, yet many colleges have chosen this option.
While most of these schools tend to be liberal arts schools, some
technical institutes such as the Florida Institute of Technology and
Oregon Graduate Institute of Science & Technology have decided not to
grant tenure (Brennan).
Instead of offering tenure, these schools offer renewable
contracts to their faculty. Contracts are offered for terms of one to
four years, depending on the faculty member's goals and qualifications.
The short terms of the contract allow young professors the opportunity to
interact with the college without the imposing pressure of the seven year
'crunch' associated with tenure. Administrators support contracts because
they allow the administration a more efficient way to continually evaluate
their staff. Some schools, such as Hampshire College, offer contracts as
long as ten years on subsequent contract renewals (Brennan). This long
contract provides the same security which tenure offers, without the
exhaustive beginning demands.
The problem with renewable contracts is, no matter what the length
of the term, academic freedom is still limited. With a tenured position,
professors have the leisure to explore long range projects and attack
sensitive issues without fear of breach of contract or immediate firing.
Contracts imply a firm set of rules which must be adhered to, a different
form of rigidity which is detrimental to higher education. Additionally,
schools which only offer renewable contracts are not as attractive to
prospective faculty members due to these negatives, resulting in a lower
talent base for the college (Smith 90).
Despite its problems, renewable contracts are a sound financial
investment for administrators and younger faculty. Without tenure some
high level specialty courses can be eliminated to reduce overhead, while
faculty can easily take leave to pursue other research or family
objectives (Brennan). However, for those who are highly dedicated to
their academic life, renewable contracts are too unstable.
It is our belief that renewable contracts could be integrated into
the existing tenure system along with other reforms. Tenure has long been
criticized for inflexibility. As a result, we have incorporated several
existing alternatives into a large program which promotes diversity,
academic freedom, financial freedom, and job security.
Every college is different, so a tenure system must be able to
accommodate each college's needs. Research, liberal arts colleges,
medical schools, and other colleges all require a different set of
criteria for achieving tenure. Our job is not to define exactly how each
college will determine tenure, but to provide a framework which allows
every college the opportunity to achieve its goals. To this end, a
combination of the various alternatives and reformations have been
included into a hierarchical system.
The progression of faculty member, as well as the length of the
contracts, would be at the discretion of the institute. With this system,
the advancement of personnel would be a smooth transition to full tenure
with clearly defined levels, each level having its own advantages and
Level III is the logical continuation of the renewable contracts,
allowing a form of short-term tenure with all its associated benefits.
This level combines the flexibility to leave for other research or to
raise children, which renewable contracts provide, but also the security
and academic freedom inherent to tenure. Level III also provides a
transitory period where faculty members would receive mandatory review
before reaching full tenure status. It is recommended that a limited
number of contracts be offered at this level to prevent disharmony between
full tenured professors.
Level IV is an attempt to model tenure after industry. In
industry, a good percentage of employees are offered the choice to receive
hourly wages or a set salary. The majority choose salary, which is most
likely what would happen in education. However the option would be
available for truly outstanding faculty to be properly rewarded for their
services. As a tenured professor's status increases, so too would his or
her base salary. It is entirely possible that a school would choose to
only implement Option A in order to motivate its faculty members, thus
addressing the much criticized stagnation of tenured personnel.
Once fully tenured, the professor would still be reviewed
periodically to ensure the maintenance of high educational standards. If
a professor is found to be lacking, the structure of the system allows for
different measures. The first step would be to place the professor on
warning. If the professor continues to be a problem, then Level IV tenure
could be replaced with Level III tenure, thus granting a temporary
performance-based tenure without removing any benefits. The professor
would have job security granted for the period of the contract and then
undergo review. If the professor is still found lacking, the university
has now offered ample opportunity for improvement and can either release
the professor or reduce him to Level I or Level II status.
The proposed solution offers a high degree of flexibility to
administrators and to faculty. The opportunity for different career paths
are at the discretion of both parties involved. Teachers are allowed the
chance to stop advancement on any level if it suits their own personal
goals more than full tenure status would. Administrators are allowed the
chance of continual review and protection against underachieving
professors while maintaining a reconfigurable economic environment. As a
result of the constant review of staff, administrator's would also be able
to examine the minority content in order to prevent discrimination.
- Level I - Non-tenured base faculty members who do not plan on
seeking tenure or remaining on a long term basis.
- Level II - Renewable contracts. Offered to beginning faculty who
wish to seek tenure. Contracts would range from one to four years,
depending on the person's experience and desires. At the end of the
contract term the faculty member could be offered either an extension of
the contract or a tenured position. Level II would serve as the
intermediate step to tenure.
- Level III - Contractual tenure. All the benefits of tenure, but
with job security only granted for a specific period of time.
- Level IV, Option A - Full tenure with a performance based salary.
There would be a base salary with bonuses added for achievements.
- Level IV, Option B - Full tenure with a set salary.
Introduction and Background
The Current Tenure Situation in America
Advantages and Disadvantages of Tenure
References and Related Links
Last Modified 12/6/96 --
Jon A. Preston