Tenure Myths: Talking Points for
By Keith Hardeman, Westminster College
Myth #1: Tenure insures lifetime
Fact: Any number of reasons will suffice to
revoke tenure. A financial exigency, or a finding of cause — poor performance
in carrying out assigned duties, poor teaching performance, excessive unexcused
absences from class, absences from faculty meetings, low enrollment in classes,
undocumented research, refusal to teach specified classes, unprofessional
conduct, moral turpitude, drugs, conspicuous disregard of standards, willful
failure to perform duties when they are lawful, reasonable, and
nondiscriminatory — are among the many factors which legitimately justify the
release of a faculty member (Conrad & Trosch, 1998).
Myth #2: Tenure causes professors to become
complacent and less productive
Fact: Tenure-line faculty consistently
outperform contingent faculty in teaching, professional development, and service
Tenure-line faculty vs. Full-time
Contingent faculty –
Tenure-line faculty publish twice as much
Tenure-line faculty work 50 hours per week,
Contingent work 46
Tenure-line faculty spend 3% more time
toward teaching (Benjamin, 1997).
Full-time faculty vs. Part-time –
Full-time work 30-40 hours/week more at any
Full-time spend considerably more time
teaching in the classroom
Full-time dedicate two to three times as
much outside-of-class instruction to students.
Full-time faculty publish five to ten times
more than part-time (Benjamin, 1997).
(Some of you asked me afterward about the differences between probationary
and tenured faculty. Benjamin does indicate that probationary faculty probably
are a little more productive. But we must also keep in mind that tenured
faculty do pursue promotions, so the drop-off isn’t all that significant. At
Westminster College where we have developmental post-tenure review, there is a
portion of raises that are merit-related. Our full professors are allowed to
keep applying for promotion every six years as they did prior to attaining the
full professor rank. We label it as “significant merit increase.” I believe
this keeps full professors productive. And as Bill Burling pointed out to me at
the end of the day, some professors may indeed “check out” of writing or college
service, but they may then compensate by channeling the extra time they have
into teaching, and therefore, they are still very productive.)
Myth #3: Most college faculty have or are
in line to receive tenure
Fact: Part-time positions have increased by
43 percent in the U.S. since 1995. Full- and part-time faculty not on tenure
track “now account for 65 percent of all faculty in degree-granting
institutions” (Bradley, 2005).
*University of Missouri-Columbias tenure
lines have been reduced by nearly 30% since 1995. During that same period, the
schools student population has risen by nearly 5000 (Adamson, 2005).
Myth #4: Reducing or eliminating tenure saves
money (and lowers tuition) without reducing instructional quality
Fact: Not only does tenure conclusively
provide students with better instruction and more commitment to the institution,
tenure is more cost-efficient than its lack of availability.
Problems with a majority of an
insitutions faculty as part-time:
likely suffer the consequences of reduced educational continuity.
faculty tend to not be as available for office hours and outside help.
faculty are less likely to attend faculty meetings or serve on faculty
committees, both important components of faculty governance.
4) Since most
part-time faculty are not evaluated on professional development, there is less
incentive for research and writing, two exercises that obviously enhance ones
knowledge in a respective discipline.
faculty research notoriety, the institution (depending on its type) can suffer
from a community relations standpoint.