Abolish Tenure?

<p>When Tenure Jumps the Track </p>

<h1>The system locks universities into dysfunction.</h1>

<p>To see where the balance of power lies in American academia, look no further than the University of Colorado, where the Ward Churchill scandal has claimed its first victim. No, not Churchill, the professor who gained national notoriety for describing the victims of the World Trade Center attack as "little Eichmanns" who basically deserved what they got. He's stepped down as chairman of the ethnic studies department, but he's still teaching classes and earning $94,242 a year, in spite of the university's attempts to sack him. </p>

<p>It's the university president who's heading out the door. Elizabeth Hoffman tendered her resignation on March 7 because of the Churchill controversy and more familiar problems of hanky-panky in football recruiting and excessive debauchery at student parties. Whatever Hoffman's alleged failings, they are dwarfed by Churchill's. </p>

<p>Since the original controversy over his essay justifying the 9/11 attack, a gobsmacking litany of accusations has been leveled against Churchill. He has been accused of plagiarism, of falsely claiming Indian ancestry and a Vietnam War combat record, of threatening faculty members and punishing students who disagreed with him, of fabricating historical evidence and of getting tenure under suspicious circumstances (he lacks a PhD). If even a tenth of the allegations are true, Churchill deserves to be thrown out on his ear — not for his pro-terrorist remarks but for all his other transgressions. </p>

<p>Easier said than done. </p>

<p>Churchill and his professorial colleagues are beneficiaries of the most ironclad protection for mountebanks, incompetents and sluggards ever devised. It's called tenure. </p>

<p>To fire a tenured professor requires a legal battle that can make the Clinton impeachment seem like a small-claims dispute by comparison. Even if there is clear evidence of wrongdoing, professors are entitled to endless procedural safeguards against being fired. The University of Colorado wanted to offer Churchill a generous financial settlement to leave voluntarily, but that idea has been torpedoed by regents angry at the idea of buying off this buffoon. An epic struggle looms in which Churchill and his numerous faculty defenders will nail their colors to the mast of "academic freedom." </p>

<p>One wonders whether so many savants would be rushing to defend Churchill from supposed "McCarthyism" if he had tried to justify the deaths not of the 9/11 victims but of the victims of AIDS ("little perverts"?) or the Holocaust ("little Shylocks"?). It's a safe bet that if Churchill were a loony right-winger, rather than a loony left-winger, his colleagues would be forming a lynch mob instead of a defense committee. </p>

<p>Harvard offers a good illustration of how harshly transgressions against liberal pieties are punished within academe. President Lawrence H. Summers has been censured by his own faculty after daring to suggest that innate differences in ability, not discrimination, may explain why there are so few prominent women in math and sciences. Only weeks of abject groveling have prevented his ouster — so far — for the crime of committing free thought in public. </p>

<p>The rigid ideological intolerance of American universities makes a mockery of tenure's primary justification: It is supposed to allow scholars to pursue their work without outside pressure. Professors like Churchill are all too happy to take advantage of this freedom to mock off-campus pieties. But few dare to disagree with the received wisdom of the faculty club, where the political spectrum runs all the way from left to far-left. </p>

<p>The primary practical effect of tenure is to make universities almost ungovernable. Those ostensibly in charge — presidents and trustees — come and go; the faculty remains, serene and untouchable. This helps to explain some of the dysfunctions that mar big-time universities, such as the overemphasis on publishing unintelligible articles and the under-emphasis on teaching undergraduates. Armies of junior faculty and graduate-student drudges have been enlisted to assume the bulk of the teaching load because most of the tenured grandees think that instructing budding stockbrokers and middle managers is beneath them. And there is almost nothing that administrators can do about it because mere laziness is no grounds for removing someone with a lifetime employment guarantee. </p>

<p>The solution is obvious: Abolish tenure. Subject professors to the discipline of the marketplace like almost everyone else. But of course this is an idea too radical to be seriously entertained on campus. Comparing the United States with Nazi Germany, as Ward Churchill routinely does, doesn't raise an eyebrow among the intelligentsia, but suggesting that there may be something fundamentally wrong with a system that rewards a Ward Churchill is considered too outre to discuss. </p>

<p><a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-boot17mar17,0,5767505.column%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-boot17mar17,0,5767505.column&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>So do you have direct quote ( not out of context) to back up your allegations?</p>

<p>So is your beef with tenure, with lazy professors, or with the intelligentsia's supposed devotion to the "liberal pieties"? Your strong feelings--both about professors and about the left--are bleeding into your argument against tenure, leaving the logic of your position flawed. I recognize that tenure, like any system, can be abused, but I also see its logic: to promote the free exchange of ideas by protecting people from recriminations because of their intellectual postitions. This may not be capitalisitic, but it is deeply democratic. I support tenure wherever it is practiced: Harvard, Berkeley, or Bob Jones. One last point: Just because tenure is difficult to revoke does not mean that lazy professors cannot be dealt with. At most universities, the administration determines raises and promotions on the basis of performance.</p>

<p>I think the charges against Churchill have been widely reported and documented.</p>

<p>I really doubt that there will be a protracted legal battle endorsed by of "many Churchill supporters" if he is found to be a plagiarist and liar. Churchill may choose to sue, but I don't think the AAUP or anyone else is going to defend a man whose tenure was awarded based on outright fraud.</p>

<p>The L.A. Times writer is profoundly ignorant if he thinks the abolition of tenure "can't be discussed." Does he ever read anything but his own paper? There have been stimulating discussions about the topic--but I suppose accurately informing onself about issues really spoils the effect of one's vitriol. It's so much easier for the writer to froth at the mouth if he just pretends to know the issues and states them in a way that will win people over to his side.</p>

<p>Is tenure pretty entrenched? Yes, it is. Is tenure going to protect someone like Ward Churchill? I highly doubt it. It would protect someone who is being attacked over an academic freedom issue. It will not protect someone who lied, plagiarized, and violated copyrights. </p>

<p>What I'd like to see a careful review of the exact process used to review Churchill for tenure. Did they skip steps? If not, who are the people who evaluated his body of research? Were they credible? Were they careful in their review? Why were they believed by the committee? Those are much more important questions to me as an academic.</p>

<p>Wow, Is this college confidential or is it the Bill Orielly web site. The whole Ward Chuchill thing was created by right wing nuts to divert attention away from Tom Delay, Gas prices and a Bad War gone worse.</p>

<p>Egads! is no place on earth safe from right wing/ left wing drivel?</p>

<p>When we did the tour this past week to select among the colleges S was admitted to, The one college who had abolished tenure was the most difficult to obtain a straight answer from professors we interviewed. The profs were obviously covering their butts.</p>

<p>The tenured profs at Universities came right out and said what they thought.</p>

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<p>That was the original purpose of tenure.</p>

<p>I beleive in freedom of speech even for people I disagree with
I would rather have tenure for profs who have gone through the process than I would have profs who were worried about their jobs from year to year( even though I see that lately they are having fewer profs with tenure to save $$$)</p>

<p>I do not profess to completely understand all said in the first post, but I saw ward churchill on live time with bill maher. for anyone to deny he is of indian descent would be absurd. however, he is an idiot. He did get to tell his side of his story, and without ever making any eye contact or truly trying to defend his position, he, and bill maher, said there has to be some understanding by americans of why so many other countries hate us. I don't know what to think of that, have thought about it and can see it both ways. churchill never truly answered any of maher's questions, went off in tangents. I have not read what he has said, nor do I care to after seeing him on television. he had not one tangible thought other than we as america have to start thinking about what we do regarding other countries. now regarding tenure, I think it is an outdated privilege that needs to be abolished. not just at colleges, but at high schools and anywhere people who educate can be protected to do and say what they want by that little word. freedom freedom, great. how about some responsibility. how about thinking about the words that come out of your mouth before uttering them to a roomfull of impressionable people who look up to you. tenure should not provide a free for all forum for anybody to say as they please. I can't do it in my job as a nurse, (come right out and say what I think), and neither should anybody else without truly thinking about how it might affect others. and if you want to be radical in your thinking, that is just fine, that is why we have the constitution. but you don't have to be a college professor. you can be something else. one of my college professors didn't think aids was spread by a virus, and taught that in our class. I think she should have been fired. she had tenure. thank god we were all smart enough to not listen to her. but what if somebody wasn't.</p>

<p>The same tenure system that protects wacky lefttists like Ward Churchill also protects outspoken conservative professors and well known commentators such as Thomas Sowell and Herb London. I prefer to hear all opinions from all sides and decide for myself. I don't need the" marketplace" to decide for me what I should hear.</p>