Tenure and Post-Tenure Review: Annotated Bibliography
The issue of tenure is a matter which is reflective of many of the broader issues and debates in the context of higher education. This institution, designed to protect the academic freedom, political objectivity and job security of educators, has become a battleground whereupon philosophical differences are sorted out between personnel in administration and in education. To the point, the notion of post-tenure review has been introduced into many higher-education contexts with the intent of applying some measure of regulatory oversight and control for administrators over educators. Its intention is to prevent some of what administrators view as the ‘dead wood’ created by tenure, where job security is said to encourage lesser efforts and a diminished focus on the responsibilities of teaching. To its opponents, frequently tenured and tenure-track professors, post-tenure review is simply a policy designed to undermine the freedom, objectivity and security of the educator. According to educators who oppose post-tenure review, this is too often used to carry out the politically and personally motivated terminations that tenure generally prevents. To date, this remains a highly debated subject with emotionally charged rhetoric driving much of the discussion. So denotes the range of perspectives reflected in the sources discussed here below.
Article such as that by Custer et al. (1999) demonstrate that this debate permeates most dimensions of higher education. With a focus on industrial and technology education, the article by Custer et al. illustrates that the battle which is often seen as conceptually related to the quality of education is in fact a battle predicated on a struggle for power. Between educators and administrators, vast disagreement serves to separate schools from their ultimate goal of education. The article by Custer et al. demonstrates that much of the discourse that proceeds from administrators on the subject of tenure has given educators cause for disagreement. According to Custer er al, “post-tenure review is one of the salient issues in higher education today. Legislators, boards of trustees and academic administrators have called for more frequent and comprehensive assessments of faculty performance. Often, these calls are accompanied by unflattering characterizations of the quality of faculty (e.g., “deadwood”), our workload (e.g., “seven hours a week”), our priorities (e.g., “too little teaching and too much questionable research”) and our perceived unwillingness to monitor our own academic performance and accomplishments.” (p. 1)
Such is to say that the nature of the discussion on post-tenure review is almost inherently hostile toward educators and the institution of tenure. Texts such as that by Horn (1998) strengthen this perception by characterizing tenure not just as something which is flawed and in need of reform but as an institution the value of which has fully run its course. This suggests that while the discussion is often couched in notions of quality education and effective stewarding of a teaching workforce, the nature of the discourse between parties implies a much more biased set of interests. Particularly for administrators, it is evident that the ambition to levy some measure of control over veteran instructors has a direct bearing on both the nature of post-tenure review and the sentiments which are used to endorse this policy orientation. The events described in the text by Wilson (2002), which denote that a tenured professor was ultimately dismissed for criticizing his department head through the channels of post-tenure review, suggest that this is quite often the case.
This condition is problematic because post-tenure review has achieved mainstream status. We can concede, just as does the very balanced article by Elias (2001), that some form of evaluation and oversight is both useful and justified in light of many of the flaws in pedagogy which may be connected to the granting of tenure. However, the discussion above noting the bias and hostility proceeding from administration demonstrates the need to reign in the approach taken toward post-tenure review. This is so because, at this juncture, there is little realistic hope for educators that the institution might be dismantled. According to Elias, “post-tenure review has been likened to the “elephant-in-the-room syndrome” in psychotherapy where the patient ignores a central reality in his/her personal situation (Applbaum 1997; Livingston 1992). Currently, at least 28 states have mandated some kind of post-tenure review in all their public institutions (Morreale and Licata 1997). Many private institutions have also mandated such review. Andrews and Licata (1991) reported that 70% of surveyed institutions have some form of post-tenure review.” (1) And according to the text by Licata & Andrews, post-tenure review tends to be most commonly executed in more innovative, private, four-year colleges where resources are plentiful and educational standards are high. This suggests at least some concerted interest in a high level of education quality.
As the article by DeGeorge (2003) contributes, it would be naturally counterproductive and arguably even destructive to proceed toward a policy orientation that would dismantle the cherished freedoms that allow educators to inspire, innovate and challenge young learners. According to DeGeorge, there is a clear argument in favor of a post-tenure review policy that is designec with proper protection and insulation for those dimensions that make tenure necessary. DeGeorge makes the argument that any policy which is designed to improve educational outcomes through greater oversight must also be intended to improve educational outcomes through a continued encouragement of academic freedom. As DeGeorge argues, “academic freedom protects those at the university who are pursuing knowledge or truth within their area of expertise. It is not license to state one’s views of any topic or in any way. Its justification is not the right or good of the individual researcher, but the good of society, which is the expected beneficiary of the development of knowledge. The obligation of administrators of institutions of higher learning of the type I am describing have as an essential part of their job to ensure that those who develop knowledge and push it forward — primarily the faculty — are able to do so.” (p. 12-13)
The text by Wriston (1940) offers some philosophical grounding to this idea, positing the argument that the creation of limitations on academic freedom will often come with certain dogmatic institutional principles and will thus come at the expense of more balanced and ethical discourses in the educational context. Indeed, to Wriston, a prevention of such freedom threatens to carry highly unethical consequences. (p. 341)
This idea is further endorsed in the text by Fuchs (1963), which connects academic freedom to certain inherent civil rights as well. According to Fuchs, “exclusion from the academic community because of race has, also, been stated of late to be a violation of academic freedom;’ and exclusion of students or teachers from public institutions on this ground or discrimination against them for this reason, is, of course, a violation of federal constitutional right.” (p. 432)
This perspective demonstrates the degree to which instructors are opposed to post-tenure review in its current form. For DeGeorge, Fuchs and others, criticism of pedagogy is misplaced and proceeds from a misconception of the functions of a college professor. The article identifies professorial research as being of fundamental importance to society. While there is a case to be made for this, DeGeorge seems almost to bypass the question of creating quality teachers and instructors, suggesting as do many tenured professors that these responsibilities fall well behind the research which is meant for “the good of society.”
In one regard, this helps to strengthen the argument not against tenure but against a mode of tenure which is fully unrestrained. As DeGeorge shows in his embrace of the idea, an unrestrained tenure may produce a population of educators with little to no interest in educating. Moreover, warns the text by DiLeo (2005), there is a risk that this type of focus on tenure can produce a culture of inequality throughout the university. With the rising proportion of adjunct and part-time professors at all universities, DiLeo’s text warns of a diminishing collegiality, indicating that “collegiality, in its most ideal and significant sense, concerns what might be called ‘collegial power’: a power structure whereby each member of a college or university is vested with an equally proportion of power. One sense of collegiality limits the range of power to the institution with whom the individual is employed, whereas another sense of collegiality broadens the range of power to span colleges and universities in general.” (p. 100)
As we can see, there is this fundamental disagreement on the impact of collegiality on the institution as a whole. According to Knight (2010), “colleges and universities send mixed messages when they espouse the value of collaboration among professional colleagues; yet, in reality, they value competition over collaborative work.” (p. 85) Knight goes on to indicate that such competition is often used as a way to maintain certain hierarchies
This notion also returns us to the idea of post-tenure review as an intent to levy some type of authority over a staff of educators. The interest shown by universities in greater collegiality suggests that this type of campus culture produces a greater latitude of control for administrators. Indeed, regardless of how the discussion is framed, this power struggle between administrators and educators remains a constant and relevant force. Still, some research comes to support this idea that tenure helps to promote inequality across certain lines. For instance, Evans et al. (2008) remark on the gender and race lines that permeate the educational hierarchy. According to Evans et al., “sixteen percent of faculty in undergraduate and graduate pro- grams are of ethnic minority decent. African-American men make up 2.6% and African-American women make up 2.7% of all faculty (U.S. Department of Education, 2003). These startlingly low percentages are mirrored in most psychology departments where women and ethnic minorities continue to earn less than men on average and are still underrepresented in most academic departments (APA, 2000b; Wicherski & Kohout, 1996).” (p. 50).
This suggests that to an extent which has little to do with administrative power, tenure has been used to advance and protect educators who identify with the hegemonic order of higher education while diminishing opportunities for those in the minority. The text by Williams & Williams (2006) points out that many African-Americans who do rise to the status of part or full-time professors tend to experience a sense of cultural isolation within the profession. (p. 288) And according to the text by Modica & Mamiseishvili (2010), while some changes have occurred which have increased the population of African-Americans in graduate educational programs, their numbers still remain highly disproportionate from their white counterparts. This alone seems a sufficient cause for some measure of intervention. However, there is little evidence that post-tenure review in its current form is the type of intervention which is called for. According to Montell (2002), “post-tenure review has not translated into significant firings of either lazy professors or controversial ones. But this extra layer of evaluation continues to split academics. Some credit it with single-handedly saving tenure; others suggest that it has quietly watered down faculty authority, eroded tenure, and encouraged scholars to focus on quantity over quality.” (p. 1)
Ultimately though, this back and forth still leaves us with a firm sense of the importance of tenure as an institution improving the output quality and organizational culture of a university. The eventual findings in the research by English et al. (2009), for instance, show that beyond a reasonable doubt, tenure is connected to certain positive institutional realities. According to its surveys, the article by English et al. finds that “although the findings of earlier studies investigating the relationship between tenure and affective commitment have been contradictory (see Gellatly, 1995; Rhoades and Eisenberger, 2001; Lok and Crawford, 2001), the present research showed employees with more than nine years’ tenure had higher levels of affective commitment than those with less than one year’s tenure, suggesting that affective commitment strengthens with tenure.” (p. 403).
This helps to feed an overarching assumption of the present research endeavor, which is that tenure must at least to an extent be protected as efforts proceed to give it administrative oversight and regulatory control. In proceeding forward from this discussion, compromise will be a strong recommendation.
Custer, R.L., Foster, T., & Martin, E. (1999). Post-tenure review in industrial and technology education. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 37(1). Retrieved from http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JITE/v37n1/custer.html
De George, R.T. (Ethics, Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure. Journal of Academic Ethics, 1, 11-25.
DiLeo, J.R. (2005). Uncollegiality, Tenure and the Weasel Clause. Symploke, 13(1-2), 99-107.
Elias, R.Z. (2001). Accounting Faculty Opinions on Post-Tenure Review. Accounting Educators’ Journal, XIII.
English, B.; Morrison, D. & Chalon, C. (2009). Moderator Effects of Organizational Tenure on the Relationship Between Psychological Climate and Affective Commitment. Journal of Management Development, 29(4), 394-408.
Evans, G.L. & Cokley, K.O. (2008). African-American Women and the Academy: Using Career Mentoring to Increase Research Productivity. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 2(1), 50-57.
Fuchs, R.F. (1963). Academic Freedom — Its Basic Philosophy, Function, and History. Law & Contemporary Problems, 28(431).
Horn, J.M. (1998). On the Ineffectiveness and irrelevancy of Tenure. Academic Questions.
Knight, W.B. (2010). Sink or Swim: Navigating the Perilous Waters of Promotion and Tenure: What’s Diversity Got To Do With It. Studies in Art Education, 52(1).
Licata, C.M. & Andrews, H.A. (1990). The Status of Tenured Faculty Evaluation in the Community College. Community College Review, 18(3).
Modica, J.L. & Mamisheishvili, K. (2010). Black Faculty at Research Universities: Has Significant Progress Occurred? The Negro Educational Review, 61(4).
Montell, G. (2002). The fallout from post-tenure review. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 1-8. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/The-Fallout-From-Post-Tenure/46063
Williams, B.N. & Williams, S.M. (2006). Perceptions of African-American Male Junior Faculty on Promotion and Tenure: Implications for Community Building and Social Capital. Teachers College Record, 108(2), 287-315.
Wilson, R. (2002). Court upholds Kansas State’s use of post-tenure review to dismiss professor. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 49(14), A10.
Wriston, H.M. (194). Academic Tenure. The American Scholar, 9(3).
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