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De-tenuring

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A disturbing proposal out of Tennessee. In response to continued decreases in state funding of higher education, the Board of Trustees has announced cost cutting and revenue raising plans that are terrible for both students and faculty but fairly expected. And tacked on is something very weird and upsetting:

Tenure and post-tenure review process: To be conducted by UT System Administration and with involvement by the Faculty Council, to look at awarding of tenure, post-tenure compensation and enacting of a de-tenure process.

A de-tenure process? First, what on earth does that have to do with the funding crisis? The answer is of course nothing but a university shock doctrine, with the Board using financial problems in order to gain power over professors. What would call for the loss of tenure? It’s unstated at this time, but one assumes the answer is anything that a provost or professor doesn’t want professors to say would be one likely category.

More here as the war on faculty continues.

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  • efgoldman

    See the thread downstairs. They’re just afraid North Carolina might win the race to the bottom, and don’t want to lose it.

    • Would this not kill their accreditation?

      • efgoldman

        Would this not kill their accreditation?

        I honestly think either they don’t understand or don’t give a shit.

      • Davis X. Machina

        Change the criteria, eliminate the process.

        NEASC, etc. aren’t self-funding. They have clients, who pay the bills.

        • Lee Rudolph

          I have my doubts about the whole “accreditation” process, given what (little) I’ve seen of it.

          However, having even the one that exists is undoubtedly better than having none. And having one that exists, but is self-funded, would be better yet.

          Wouldn’t it be nice (therefore) if one of the not-bugfuck-crazy more-or-less-liberal multibillionaires (or multibillionaire corporations, like Google) would set up a hands-off endowment of a billion or so to fund the various accreditation agencies?

          There’d still be plenty left of the present quis custodiet nonsense, and plenty of room for financial corruption as well; but I can’t help but believe it would be better than what is otherwise coming to an ivory tower near you. (Not near me: I’m in the ivory oubliette.)

  • howard

    my guess would be – and this is not my world, of course – that tenured professors probably make pretty good money in comparison to untenured faculty (are they faculty if they don’t have tenure? or just “teachers?”), and that therefore the idea of de-tenuring is more or less like the idea of the salary cap in pro sports: we got here an experienced offensive tackle making $4.7M and over there we got a second-year tackle making $650K and is there really that much of a gap between them kind of thinking.

    • Tenure and faculty don’t really have anything to do with each other. I’m faculty even though I don’t have tenure. It’s possible that the state will use this to force out older faculty.

      • DrDick

        That was my thought as well. Get rid of the highly paid full profs and replace them with cheap and disposable adjuncts.

        • Brett

          Some of them. The ultimate idea might be that you’ll end up with some “superstar” professors who draw people in to the program and help sell your institution’s prestige value, while everything else gets the cheaper end of things as long as it doesn’t affect program quality so bad that enrollment and donations tank.

          • Davis X. Machina

            This was part of the bright shining MOOC dream, and TPTB seem to be figuring another way to get there if MOOC’s turn out to not be all that and a bag of chips.

    • wjts

      (are they faculty if they don’t have tenure? or just “teachers?”)

      The usual term (at my institution) is “lecturer” vs. “professor”.

      In my neck of the academic woods, the mean salary for full professors is around $120,000, for associate professors about $85,000, for assistant professors about $70,000 and lecturers are in the $45,000-$50,000 range. Turfing classes out to adjuncts is where the real money is, though, as they get paid $1,000 per credit hour with no benefits.

      • MAJeff

        Which is exactly the point. At our CC, adjuncts get just under $900/credit (which is, admittedly, the same we tenured/tenure-track faculty get for our overages/summer teaching).

        However, last year the admin put in place a new hiring criterion: no tenure-track employee will be hired above the “Instructor” level. We’re also not replacing several TT lines from a recent structured retirement.

        And we’re creating three new Vice Presidential positions….

        • wjts

          And yet my advisor recently assured me that I could “always get a job teaching at a community college”. Actually, his exact words were, “Que tu manges de la brioche“.

          • MAJeff

            If you want to get a max of three courses, ensuring you stay under full-time load and remain ineligible for health insurance, then, well, you might be able to get a job teaching at a community college.

            Heck, you might be able to get such a job at three community colleges!

        • Davis X. Machina

          And we’re creating three new Vice Presidential positions….

          Those core competencies aren’t exactly self-leveraging, you know.

  • MAJeff

    It appears that it’s not just de-tenuring, which would be the removal of due process rights for faculty. They’re not being transformed into at-will employees. Based on DiPietro’s quote in the last link, this is about firing tenured faculty who aren’t “productive enough.”

    • Though of course, who decides what production matters in this case? And is that the only limit to who can get fired? Once you make tenure meaningless, where does it stop?

      • MAJeff

        Exactly.

      • efgoldman

        Though of course, who decides what production matters in this case?

        Wasn’t it college professors who thought up time and motion studies [ptooie!] in the 1950s?

        • wjts

          Pretty sure that goes back at least as far as Taylor in the early 20th century.

          • howard

            Taylor and others, including the cheaper by the dozen couple.

  • Phil Perspective

    And where is the Tennessee Democratic Party in any of this? Does it even exist anymore outside of Memphis? Watch for this to spread like wildfire all over Dixie now.

    • Yes, clearly this is the point you should be making here.

      • wjts

        This kind of shit would never happen on Tennessee Governor Bob Avakian’s watch!

      • efgoldman

        Yes, clearly this is the point you should be making here.

        I dunno’. He’s got at least a kernel of a point. Stopped clock and all that….
        Of course, if he had even the most rudimentary knowledge of politics in the Confederate states in these times….

        • Hogan

          Whenever the Democratic party loses, it’s because they want to. What else do you need to know?

          • Scott Lemieux

            Liberal Democrats would be running the Deep South if not for that meddling Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

      • Phil Perspective

        Why not? Isn’t the BoT’s actions political? You’re certainly not going to get any sympathy from GOPers on this issue. And since the TN Democratic Party doesn’t exist anymore, for all intents and purposes, this will not be turned back any time soon.

        • efgoldman

          And since the TN Democratic Party doesn’t exist anymore, for all intents and purposes,

          True.
          I blame Obama.
          He should take that dadgum Green Lantern right down to Davey Crockett territory, maybe with a coonskin cap on his head.

    • BCC

      Nashville is quite Democratic. The mayor is even the city’s former Public Defender.

      • Phil Perspective

        Democratic meaning what exactly? Jim Cooper/Rahm Emanuel Democratic? Something better?

    • Scott Lemieux

      Yep, the fact that the 5 (out of 33) Democrats in the Tennessee Senate aren’t able to unilaterally stop this is a real mystery.

  • UncleEbeneezer

    Unfortunately, it’s TN, so Glenn Reynolds is safe.

    • Halloween Jack

      Uh, isn’t he a University of Tennessee professor?

  • Atrios

    There are those who think that tenure is some lavish perk. And, yes, it is a pretty good perk for those who manage to get it. But without tenure there isn’t anything resembling “academic freedom” in any form. So…

    • They’ve convinced a lot of people that the proper response to realizing that unionized employees have better benefits is to destroy unions. So…why should professors have freedom that everyone doesn’t have?

      • Davis X. Machina

        Hop in the crab bucket, people — we’re riding it to the future.

  • Unemployed_Northeastern

    Anyone else see an impending merger with Walker’s attempt to jettison the WI Idea with “workplace needs?” As in, if you don’t teach a subject conducive to the state’s workplace needs, you will be de-tenured?

  • Paul Campos

    This is just the institution of so-called “post-tenure review,” which has already been adopted in various places, notably Colorado and Texas.

    It is a completely benign process for weeding out faculty deadwood. It would never ever be used to try to fire trouble-making faculty, such as for example somebody who caught his dean lying about graduate employment statistics and confronted him about it, and then started writing about the issue in the popular and academic press.

    • efgoldman

      It would never ever be used to try to fire trouble-making faculty

      “What, never?”
      “No, never!”
      “What, never”
      “Well hardly ever.”

  • GFW

    Was there a typo in “… anything that a provost or professor doesn’t want professors to say”? Is that first professor supposed to be president?

  • Gwen

    You know who won’t get detenured? Glenn “Instahack” Reynolds.

  • So, they just are revoking tenure.

    Thank god for contract law which will protect the contractual rights of wait a minute.

  • LosGatosCA

    More here as the war on faculty continues.

    Just one more skirmish in the war on humanity that’s not them.

    The unifying factor on the right is their shared outrage that anyone other than them have any agency whatsoever.

    My freedom’s just another word for my tyranny over you.

  • JimRobbington

    As a non-tenured faculty member at a TN CC this makes perfect sense under the current HigherEd culture. There has been a huge drive to replace FT faculty which much cheaper adjuncts (at our CC adjuncts can get paid $600 max per TLC, most are at the $475 level). No one has been hired tenure-track for at least ten years and those wanting to convert to tenure-track have been told to only bother trying if no other faculty in the disciple has it. Even then, you need to have a substantial publication and/or research record. They now are phasing out the 3-year contract options, opting for everyone being on 1-year term contracts. This all boils down to administration wanting the ability to terminate faculty when enrollment numbers dip to recoup some dollars and to be able to terminate “problem” faculty who point out the illogical decisions being made at the top.

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