Comics & Tenure Discussion 4

Now it is just getting silly. 🙂

The discussion is here. One of the better posts included this quote:

The juvenile sea squirt wanders through the ocean searching for a suitable rock or piece of coral to cling to and make its home for life. When it finds its spot and takes root, it doesn’t need its brain anymore, so it eats it. It’s rather like getting tenure. — Michael Scriven

However, someone offers this warning:

*Google nerd alert!* It appears that quote is attributed most often to Daniel Dennet (in Consciousness Explained) but he in turn gives credit to Rodolfo Llinas.

For the record, I am in favor of tenure, and not just because I have it! In the humanities it is particularly important. There are always abuses but if you remove tenure (and tuition discounts/waivers) for faculty while continuing to pay salaries that are relatively low then there is little incentive for people to go into these fields.


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4 thoughts on “Comics & Tenure Discussion

  • The Professor

    Hmmm perhaps, if tenure is removed, and the perks are removed, then, as you point out, people will stop accepting such low paying jobs.

    Perhaps, just perhaps, Universities will have to either a) pay humanities faculty more for their job, or b) acknowledge that they never have really valued those positions, anyway, and leave them unfilled.

    On the other hand, what other jobs only require you to be actually at work, oh, say, 6 hours teaching a week (2 3hr courses) and then, say, another 6 for office hours? 12 hours, in a 40 hour week–actually having to be at the office? Not a bad gig–if you can get it! *smile*

  • Cb

    Ah, I wondered when you would reply to this post. It didn’t take long. 🙂

    It is true that those of us in the humanities are partly to blame, being willing to settle for lower salaries and so on. But tenure isn’t just about those few things I mentioned. There is still the security of free speech. I know that I have certainly felt that I am able to be much more open about certain aspects of my politics, religion, and research now that I have tenure. I don’t use my position as a bully pulpit, it is just that now I have much greater freedom because I have job security. (Well, so long as we don’t have another hurricane….)

    As for those jobs that are only 6 hours of teaching, etc. well, judging from your username I would guess that you have found one too. 🙂

    I cannot give you national figures, but I know that on my campus the majority of our humanities faculty who have been granted tenure remain extremely active in research, commit more time to university and community service, or both. We have some, but very few true cases of “dead wood” and I think that is true nationally as well. I will try and do some research on that…

  • Terry Solez

    Tenure is a scam. Freedom of speech is the last thing you see in academia. Before tenure, faculty do not dare say ANYTHING slightly controversial for fear of NOT getting tenure. Those who have a conformist mind get tenure, those who don’t are denied tenure, usually. Of those few with a non-conformist mind who get tenure, none of them will say much even after tenure because there are obvious ways in which your colleagues and administration can still make your life hell. Therefore, tenure is just a perk academics want to award themselves for reasons of job security, certainly NOT to guarantee free speech.

  • Chris Brady Post author

    Terry – better late than never! Welcome to the conversation. As you might expect from what I have already said, I disagree with your conclusions. Yes, it is true that most of us when working our way towards tenure are more cautious (thoughtful?) about what we say and publish, but I can say with complete certainty that in general those who get tenure are anything but conformist minded. Sitting through a faculty senate meeting of any college or university will make that clear. Faculty in general and tenured faculty specifically are rarely shy about stating their views, especially when it is in opposition to administrations. And that is a good thing, that is how we ensure that the best ideas are the ones that survive. “Iron sharpens iron” and all that.

    Now tenure is certainly NOT a guarantee of free speech, but nothing is, in fact, a guarantee. The best we can do in this country is guarantee that you will be able to fight for your freedom to say what you want. But of course that usually means that someone at some point kept you from saying it. If you are interested in more recent conversations along these lines check out this post from this week.

    Finally, tenure is a “perk” but it is one that requires very hard work to acquire and is reasonable compensation for forgoing other perks that the private sector might offer (like a higher salary).