Desperately Seeking Tenure

Collegiality” a Criterion for Tenure?
Why it’s not all politics

Ann Hartle, Professor of Philosophy

Desperately Seeking Tenure
Controversies, Concerns, and Consensus
Scott Lilienfeld, Associate Professor of Psychology, Guest Editor

You could gauge the health of a university community by how well it handles the unconventional individuals. It’s an unhealthy university that can’t tolerate or deal with those sorts of folks.
John Snarey, Professor of Human Development and Ethics, President of the Faculty Council

The tenure process doesn’t have to manage you; you can manage it.
Sandy Jap, Associate Professor of Marketin

Tenure in the Medical School
What is it, and what does it mean?

By Robert Pollack
(To the tune of “Señor” by Bob Dylan)

Peer Review and the Public
The thorny question of post-tenure review
Mark Bauerlein, Professor of English

Exploring Tenure and Research at Emory
A view from the inside
Claire E. Sterk, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Public Health

Teaching and Tenure
Conceptions and misconceptions at Emory
Robert McCauley, Professor of Philosophy

“Collegiality” a Criterion for Tenure?
Why it’s not all politics
Ann Hartle, Professor of Philosophy

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The Statement of Principles Used for Appointment, Promotion, and Tenure in Emory College begins with the principle that “teaching, research, and service encompass the primary activities of the faculty of Emory College.” These activities are “essential to the College,” and that is why they constitute the criteria for appointment, promotion, and tenure. Emory’s principle is in accord with the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure issued as a joint statement of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the Association of American Colleges (now the Association of American Colleges and Universities). The 1940 statement (itself a restatement of principles set forth in 1925) has served as the standard for the profession for more than sixty years. That document asserts a necessary connection between academic freedom and the activities of teaching and research, and it maintains that tenure is the means for securing academic freedom in teaching and research.

In recent years, the aaup thought it necessary to address what it perceived to be an increasing tendency on the part of faculty and administrators to add collegiality as a fourth criterion for tenure. In 1999, the association issued a statement, On Collegiality as a Criterion for Faculty Evaluation, in which it takes a position against adding collegiality to the traditional criteria of teaching, scholarship, and service. This statement concludes that the addition of collegiality is both redundant and dangerous. I agree with these conclusions, and I will attempt to
set out a more complete argument than the statement provides. In what follows, I am indebted to Nino Langiulli’s article, “Academic Freedom, Faculty, and Tenure,” in Measure, no. 80 (June/July 1989).

The addition of collegiality as a criterion is redundant, according to the aaup, because “collegiality is not a distinct capacity to be assessed independently of the traditional triumvirate of scholarship, teaching, and service. It is rather a quality whose value is expressed in the successful execution of these three functions.” As Emory’s first principle rightly states, teaching, research, and service are the primary activities of the faculty. Collegiality, however, is not an activity; it is a relationship. Webster defines collegiality as “the relationship of colleagues.” Since teaching, research, and service are the primary activities of the faculty and thus constitute and define what a faculty is, the faculty member is a colleague only in the performance of these activities. Collegiality is not something over and above the performance of the primary activities of teaching, research, and service.
In evaluating performance in these three areas, we are evaluating collegiality in the only relevant meaning of that term. In other words, collegiality, properly
understood, adds nothing to the already established criteria because collegiality just is the fulfillment of those criteria.

The AAUP regards the addition of collegiality as dangerous because collegiality may be confused with “a constructive attitude” or with displays of deference to administrative or faculty majority decisions. “Such expectations are flatly contrary to elementary principles of academic freedom, which protect a faculty member’s right to dissent from the judgments of colleagues and administrators.” The effect of such a misunderstanding of collegiality would be the suppression of dissent, debate, and discussion (“going along to get along”), a result that is inimical to the vigor and health of academic institutions.

For these reasons, it is surprising and unfortunate that the definition of “service” in the Statement of Principles Used For Appointment, Promotion, and Tenure in Emory College concludes with the assertion that “the idea of ‘service’ includes
displaying a collegial spirit of cooperation and avoidance of disruptive behavior.” This confusion of collegiality with congeniality is precisely what the aaup condemns as contrary to the principles of academic freedom.
The AAUP’s opposition to collegiality as a distinct standard, then, is based on the effect this would have on the integrity of faculty governance. Academic freedom and tenure as the condition for academic freedom exist for the sake of faculty governance. Discussions of tenure and academic freedom, however, often betray a fundamental confusion about the meaning of these practices and prerogatives. Tenure is mistakenly identified with job security. Academic freedom is
confused with the right of free speech enjoyed by all citizens and protected by the First Amendment.

Tenure does indeed guarantee job security, and this is undeniably a great personal benefit to the individual. But job security cannot be the reason for the practice of conferring tenure. Tenure has emerged as a status in only two institutions, the academy and the judiciary. What can make sense of this? These institutions are such that the practice of conferring tenure on those who engage in their constitutive activities is desirable for the attainment of the purpose of the institutions.

The university exists for the sake of the pursuit of truth within the disciplines of the liberal arts and sciences. That is what makes the university different from a school of professional training. We often lament the fact that so many of our students are narrowly focused on preparation for a career. If we pursue the logic of that lament, it reveals an implicit understanding that a university is distinguished by its foundation in the liberal arts and sciences. The pursuit of truth must be, by its very nature, free from external and internal constraint and
interference, especially from the pressures of politics. Hence, the university must be self-governing. The faculty, which is that part of the university that engages in its constitutive activities, must then have principal responsibility for the self-governance of the institution.

It is here that tenure and academic freedom come into play. Tenure ensures that external and internal pressures, especially social and political pressures, can be resisted. (This is obvious in the case of judicial tenure.) Tenure and academic freedom are completely unnecessary and could not have emerged in institutions devoted to career training. Career training programs are properly subject to social and economic pressures and can be run efficiently by managers supervising a group of part-time trainers. There is no question here of the pursuit of truth as there is in the disciplines of the liberal arts and sciences.

Academic freedom makes sense only in relation to the disciplines of the liberal arts and sciences. Academic freedom is not the same as the right of free speech. We acknowledge that distinction when we acknowledge that no professor, under cover of academic freedom, has the right to use his classes for anything other than the subject matter of the course. Academic freedom refers to the rights of inquiry in a teacher’s discipline, not to the expression of personal or political views. For example, we would not find it acceptable for a biology professor to turn his course into a Bible study or for a professor of literature to use his lectures to campaign for
a political candidate. We recognize these as abuses. Similarly, we would resist any attempt to require that same biology professor to teach the Bible in his courses or that same professor of literature to endorse a political candidate in his classes.

Academic freedom and tenure exist for the sake of institutional integrity and for the integrity of the academic disciplines. We jeopardize and even destroy that integrity when tenure decisions are made on the basis of considerations that are not academic. Adding collegiality as a fourth criterion for tenure is a sign of the increasing politicization of the academy, a corruption that is evident in such policies as speech codes and the enforcement of politically correct attitudes and behavior.

Now some may find this account of the university and this defense
of its traditional practices to be restrictive and outdated at best. Current intellectual trends would have us believe that there is no such thing as truth and that “everything is political.” But, if so, then we have no grounds on which to
justify the prerogatives of tenure and academic freedom that we hold so dear. And if we permit political considerations to determine tenure decisions, then we have no grounds for asserting institutional autonomy.

Editor’s Note: Professor Hartle is president of the Georgia chapter of the National Association of Scholars. The NAS has taken no position on the question of collegiality as a criterion for tenure.