Tenure: Everything You Need to Know
This is a well-respected position earned by faculty members who have been beyond excellent in the delivery of their services. This position enables them to remain in their given position without any risk of losing the position at the institution; after demonstration of brilliance in their roles of teaching & research. The tenure status has its benefits and risks, which are expatiated upon below:
Pro: Tenure Safeguards Academic Independence
When the topic of tenure is discussed, the budget required to keep staff on tenure is what is often emphasized. However, one salient factor that must never be overlooked is the fact that it provides significant academic independence and freedom for university staff. When a significant portion of college and university staff are not considered to be qualified for the tenure track, then it impacts negatively on staff’s desires to go the extra mile in delivering their duties and their freedom of expression. Alongside this lack of freedom is a perception that they aren’t free to educate students in the most advantageous ways.
In the absence of security in the institution via tenure or even a multi-year contract, teaching staff feel they are walking on eggshells as any perceived mistake might be met with dismissal. Hence, they work all year round to keep students happy, regardless of whether this is the best course of action or not. Yet, they remain on the job market, consistently contributing to research and publishing papers- as required of them, with no hope of tenure track in sight.
Another important role of the tenure track is to shield teaching staff who are doing good work from the harmful side effects of brutal politics. It is commonplace for election cycles to result in the tweaking of local, state, and national policies, and those not on tenure track can sadly become victims of a political war they aren’t even engaged in.
Con: Tenure Impacts Negatively on Novel Research
While the hope of tenure reminds upcoming teachers and researchers to play their parts excellently, it also hurts them because those in the current tenure system might not be willing to embrace these new researchers. Since older professors on the tenure track mostly remain there till either retirement or death—whichever comes first—it blocks the opportunity for younger researchers with more innovative ideas to fill that space.
In addition, tenure requires the splitting of time between teaching and research, forcing excellent researchers out of the lab and into classrooms while simultaneously making good teachers languish in the laboratory, as the system is also very much fixated on research income.