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Post Tenure, Job Peformance, and the Commercialization of the University
Created by John Eipper on 05/15/19 4:02 AM

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Tenure, Job Peformance, and the Commercialization of the University (Sasha Pack, USA, 05/15/19 4:02 am)

My impressions of the "tenure effect" have been similar to JE's as well as to those borne out in Henry Levin's comments: where the tenure evaluation process is taken seriously, faculty remain active, engaged, and effective in advancing the mission of the university.

Of course, we enjoy such great latitude and independence in choosing how we want to advance that mission, so why shouldn't we? Most of the time we are more constrained by our own limits than by any limits imposed by our employers. But the university's mission is not the same thing as its bottom line. In terms of the latter, how productive are well-paid tenured professors teaching small upper-level and graduate courses as compared with adjuncts or term clinicals teaching required courses to hundreds of students at a time? As many public universities move toward the tuition-driven "butts-in-seats" financial model (as it is universally known), there answer may be: not very.

If tenure is dying a slow death, it is not so much because it is obsolete or counterproductive as it is because the university's business model is increasingly misaligned with its mission. The commercialization of many non-profit and public universities is unpopular with seemingly everyone but yet pervasive. It may be a necessary response under the duress of many pressures facing universities, I don't know. One side effect is the consumer mentality of many students. They come to view their tuition as payment for services rendered--the delivery of knowledge, cultivation of skills, and conferral of a degree. The "customer is always right" principle cannot work in education, and I have sensed its gradual creep.

Maybe Henry or another specialist of education can calm my nerves by telling me that what I've said is perception and not reality, or that it has always been thus and we've muddled through. I'd be glad to be wrong about this.

JE comments:  Greetings, Sasha!  We Academics have been decrying the commercialization of Higher Ed for a generation--but as Sasha Pack asks, has it always been like this?  Are we really lamenting that a university's money tends to be spent on things (and people) other than what we'd prefer?

I'd still like to see some hard statistics on the costs of academic tenure.  Of course it is inefficient for the "butts-in-seats" model, but what about other factors, such as student retention, grants, alumni giving, and institutional recognition/prestige? 

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  • The Rise of Non-Tenure-Track Faculty Appointments (Henry Levin, USA 05/21/19 6:44 AM)
    I have checked with colleagues, and they tell me that with the increase in the use of adjuncts and part-timers, it seems likely that tenured faculty have decreased.

    However, this is different than the elimination of tenure at institutions. It seems to mean that a smaller proportion of faculty at individual institutions are hired on "tenure-track" appointments. There seem to be no direct answers to changes in tenured appointments in terms of actual numbers. But the consensus among my colleagues is that there are fewer tenured positions.

    See below:


    JE comments:  The authors, Daniel Maxey and Adrianna Kezar, conclude that non-tenure-track faculty appointments "are inefficient and misaligned with stakeholders’ common commitments to student learning and the health of the academic profession."  Amen.  But are the academic Powers that Be listening?

    On the decline of tenure, Roy Domenico also weighs in (next).

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