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
exact meaning and intent of this so-called tenure policy eludes
us. Its vaporous objectives, purposes, and procedures are lost in
a fog of nebulous verbiage.
Worzella v. Board of Regents,
77 S.D. 447, 93 N.W. 2d 411, 412
(S.D.S. Court, 1958)
Aside from the perennial dearth
of parking space on campus, no issue is more likely to arouse the
ire of the inhabitants of the academy than tenure. For if there
is one thing on which faculty members can agree, it is that tenure
is one issue on which faculty members cannot agree. Few topics in
academia are as controversial, and few are as poorly understood.
Yet despite the often acrimonious disagreements surrounding tenure
and its implementation, precious few faculty members seem willing
to abandon it. Instead, the view of most academicians toward tenure
seems to parallel Winston Churchills view of democracyit
is the worst system in the world except for every other system.
Criticisms of the tenure system have been plentiful, but constructive
alternatives to it have been hard to come by.
Moreover, few experiences so
universally evoke the angst of young faculty members as does the
frequently grueling tenure process. Like veterans swapping war stories,
recently tenured faculty members revel in sharing their tales of
tenure. The song lyrics in the sidebar on page 2, composed by Brandeis
University associate professor Robert Pollack and modeled after
Bob Dylans classic song Señor, embody many
faculty members attitudes toward tenure.
Tenure is a distinctively twentieth
century institution and, with the exception of the judiciary, a
distinctively academic one. Most historical analyses trace its origins
to several high profile cases early in the century, including the
infamous case of economics
professor Edward Ross at Stanford University. In 1900, Ross criticized
Asian immigration to the United States on the grounds that it could
dilute the gene pool; the Stanford administration, mindful
of the Stanford familys heavy reliance on Asian workers for
their lucrative railroad business, forced Ross to resign. A number
of Stanford professors in turn resigned in protest over the sacking
of Ross, and a formal investigation followed. For the first time,
the concept of academic freedom received widespread recognition
in the halls of the academy.
In 1915, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP)
was born, one of its earliest missions being to safeguard academic
freedom. And, in 1940, the aaup issued a formal statement outlining
a dual rationale for tenure: (a) protection of academic freedomthat
is, an impenetrable firewall ensuring that faculty members can pursue
controversial research topics and present controversial viewpoints
in the classroom without fear of retribution, and (b) provision
of sufficient economic security to entice intellectually talented
individuals into academic settings.
Still, many critics charge that the tenure process is broken or
at least in need of a full scale overhaul. A few even believe that
it should be abolished and that academia should adopt the ruthlessly
Darwinian model of the business world, in which only the most productive
survive. This small but vocal band of critics seems unlikely to
prevail in the foreseeable future. Still other critics, who have
gained momentum in recent years, believe that
all institutions of higher learning should adopt formal procedures
for regular post-tenure review.
For these critics, tenure is a valuable protection that is all too
often abused by complacent
or irresponsible faculty members. Over the past decade, an increasing
number of institutions, especially state universities, have instituted
post-tenure review systems. In this issue of the Academic Exchange,
Mark Bauerlein mounts an impassioned defense of such systems. Nevertheless,
the precise shape that post-tenure review should take remains in
dispute. When, if ever, should the tenure of unproductive or indolent
faculty members be revoked? If tenure should be revoked only under
extraordinary circumstances (such as gross dereliction of duty or
sexual harassment of students), what should be the consequences
for poor post-tenure performance?
For the substantial majority of faculty members who believe the
future of the academy depends in part on preserving the concept
of tenure in some form, significant questions remain. For example,
how should the three great pillars of academic performanceresearch,
teaching, and servicebe weighted in tenure decisions? When,
if ever, should exceptional performance in one domain compensate
for suboptimal performance in another? In this issue, Claire Sterk
examines the question of how research quality should be evaluated,
and how meaningful it is to compare candidates scholarship
across widely disparate areas of research, such as comparative literature,
theoretical physics, business, and cardiology. Sterk touches briefly
on at least two other difficult questions. To what extent should
external funding be considered in tenure decisions? As Emory and
its peer institutions strive to increase their international prominence,
what are the implications of raising the bar for scholarship?
Bob McCauley next asks the question of what constitutes good teaching,
and to what extent student evaluations of teaching, which some critics
regard as scant more than proxies for instructor popularity, should
be weighted in tenure decisions. Ann Hartle addresses an increasingly
controversial question: What makes a faculty member a good academic
citizen, and to what extent should collegiality receive weight in
this determination? More broadly, in an era of shifting standards
and shrinking budgets
in which certain faculty positions can effectively be eliminated,
what does tenure really mean? Well examine this question with
particular reference to medical schools in a brief interview with
These and several other unresolved questions regarding tenure came
to the fore in 1999 during a series of Emory Town Hall meetings
hosted by then-President William Chace and then-Provost Rebecca
Chopp. In many respects, this issue of the Academic Exchange can
be thought of as continuing and expanding this university-wide discussion.
Our goal in this issue is not to answer any questions concerning
tenure, but rather to stimulate healthy debate. We will not attempt
to present all sides of all issues. Instead, we will present a sampling
of informed opinions from a range of qualified Emory faculty members.
For readers who disagree strenuously with any of the opinions voiced
here, we encourage you to share your views with us in writing. We
hope to publish at least a subset of alternative points of view,
either in a forthcoming issue of the Exchange or on our web site.
We very much look forward to hearing from you.