Tenure Debate Team Project-1

Possible Solutions

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 disadvantages.

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.

Introduction and Background
The Current Tenure Situation in America
Advantages and Disadvantages of Tenure
Possible Solutions
Concluding Remarks
References and Related Links

Last Modified 12/6/96 -- Jon A. Preston