Concerns, and Consensus
Lilienfeld, Associate Professor of Psychology, Guest Editor
could gauge the health of a university community by how well it
handles the unconventional individuals. Its an unhealthy university
that cant tolerate or deal with those sorts of folks.
John Snarey, Professor of Human Development and Ethics, President
of the Faculty Council
tenure process doesnt have to manage you; you can manage it.
Sandy Jap, Associate Professor of Marketing
in the Medical School
What is it, and
what does it mean?
By Robert Pollack
(To the tune of Señor by Bob Dylan)
Review and the Public
The thorny question of post-tenure review
Mark Bauerlein, Professor of English
Tenure and Research at Emory
A view from the inside
Claire E. Sterk, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Public Health
Conceptions and misconceptions at Emory
Robert McCauley, Professor of Philosophy
a Criterion for Tenure?
Why its not all politics
Ann Hartle, Professor of Philosophy
For this issue of the Academic
Exchange, Scott Lilienfeld has asked me to address a straightforward
policy question: Should Emory require post-tenure review? The answer
is, of course it should. That the university debates the issue at
all, and (in the humanities at least) so rarely conducts such reviews,
betrays a disregard of academic duty. We usually think of duty in
relation to students, but part of our standing rests upon a wider
responsibility. The moment we claim to be professionals, earning
a doctorate and taking a faculty post, we assume a public trust
and promise to mind our subjects. In practice, that means we exercise
community vigilance, examining each others work, judging it
by scholarly criteria, and censuring cases that dont measure
It sounds harsh, but guild judgment is a constructive processand
a mode of self-preservation. Rigorous peer review sustains not only
the intellectual integrity of the field, but also the esteem the
field wins from the outside. Scholarship and teaching have their
broad social effects, of course, but peer review is the crux of
the professionalism of the profession. Internally, it keeps standards
high and training programs selective. Externally, it ensures the
disciplines status and warrants the extraordinary privileges
that professors enjoy.
The first of these privileges is academic freedom. Academic freedom
is neither a right nor a matter of conscience. It is an entitlement,
one guaranteeing that inquiry shall be secured from threats by the
state and citizenry, but only on condition that inquirers maintain
a discipline-based self-surveillance. Political objections may not
jeopardize the livelihood of professors as long as they observe
standards and submit their work to colleagues.
Another privilege is tenure. On campus we take the reality of tenure
so casually that we often forget how it appears to others. Tell
a layman that you have a lifetime paycheck as long as you teach
six hours a week twenty-eight weeks a year and you attend the occasional
meeting, and the responses range from astonishment to awe. People
wonder, what could justify such leisured security? Only that professors
improve their teaching and pursue meaningful research, working as
hard as they did pre-tenure.
Finally, many professors get to work with the highest products of
human endeavor. Scientists explore the mysteries of life and matter,
rehearsing the discoveries of the past and conceiving the future.
Humanists talk about Falstaff and Phèdre, Berninis
four rivers and Churchs Niagara. Again, however, closeness
to beauty and truth entails a responsibility. Professors dont
just study art and principlethey are stewards of them. Humanists
are charged with the maintenance of culture. They keep Homer and
Milton alive and well. Scientists are charged with explaining nature
and society and reducing the suffering caused by them. The public
honors academics for that, but it expects them to safeguard their
These linked privileges and obligations set up an uneasy relationship
between academe and the public. Outsiders recognize the professors
knowledge but envy their working conditions. Professors acknowledge
their comforts but bemoan the publics indifference to their
ideas. In the last thirty years, ever since the adversarial culture
of the 1960s spilled into the faculty ranks, tensions have increased.
Many have accused professors of forging an insular, accountability-free
environment, and certainly the culture wars revealed how mismatched
the professoriate is to the general population. Whereas Leftist,
progressivist ideologies form but a small portion of the national
spectrum, they dominate most campuses, especially the humanities
and social sciences, and the range of opinion on such controversial
issues as racial preferences is more narrow and strict than it ever
was during the Bad Old Days. Most professors dont realize
their biases because theyve spent their careers among the
like-minded. At this point, their liberalism is like water to a
Safe and self-assured, the faculty isnt likely to admit outside
criticism and adjust its politics. On these grounds, because of
tenure and academic freedom, their posts are intact. But they are
vulnerable on other grounds, namely, their adherence to peer review.
If professors are lax in their self-scrutiny, they will have broken
the compact that maintains them. If negligent faculty are not cited,
then why should the public trust and tolerate the profession at
All of this is to say that post-tenure peer review is essential
to the standing of academics. The objections to it ultimately hurt
the profession. When the aaup criticizes post-tenure reviews, it
cites threats to academic freedom, scarce resources, and loss of
collegiality. But this is more of a union statement than a principled
opposition. Yes, in some cases post-tenure reviews might be abused
by administrations, and it could lead to bad feelings among faculty
members and strain department staff. But the AAUPs main objection
paradoxically makes the case for post-tenure review. It says that
we already have many traditional forms of continuous evaluation
utilized in most colleges and universities (e.g., student
evaluations, manuscript submissions, annual salary determinations).
Would that it were so! In truth, in the humanities evaluation has
become a lax and loose process, filled with corruption and cynicism.
It is precisely because the traditional forms of assessment
have crumbled that post-tenure review has become necessary.
If we dont do it, somebody else will, and a few blocks from
where I now work legislation is pending in Congress to demand greater
Federal scrutiny of university practices. Cases of professors lying
to students, of favoritism in the manuscript review process, of
colleagues praising work that turns out to be fraudulentsuch
episodes damage the entire field and embolden outsiders. The correct
response is to announce, We blew it, and to do better
next time. That doesnt mean that post-tenure review should
ever involve a revocation of tenuretenure once granted is
permanentor even apply the same criteria as for tenure review.
Departments may decide that there are other ways to improve education
than to publish research, especially in the humanities in which
almost all work sinks into oblivion soon after it appears. But
today we live in a climate of accountability, and departments need
to exert some form of assessment if they are to shore up their credibility
beyond the campus walls.
Editors Note: Professor Bauerlein is currently on leave
from Emory and serving as an adviser on arts education for the National
Endowment for the Arts. John Bugge, head of Emorys AAUP chapter
and professor of English (who is on leave) declined to be interviewed
for this issue of the Academic Exchange.