Academic Tenure dissertation

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Tenure -- Literature Review

Academic tenure is a system that many universities and colleges use to protect a senior academic's contractual right to a lifetime job unless terminated for just cause. It is typically reserved for academics who have made Assistant or Full Professor, and requires following a strict hierarchical rubric that demonstrates a strong record of published research, teaching, and administrative services. Most institutions allow for a certain period of time to establish this record; although there are a number of non-tenure track positions still available within the university system (Adjust Professor, Lecturer, Research Professor, etc.) (Amacher, 2004). The idea of academic tenure, at least in the United States, is primarily intended to guarantee the right to academic freedom, in that it protects the academic when they publish or dissent from prevailing or common opinion, or spend time and research on topics that may be politically unfashionable or controversial. With tenure (e.g. job security), the academic knows that they can peruse any line of inquiry that interests them and as long as their research is robust and publications peer reviewed, can safely exhibit academic freedom. Additional, with tenure, a professor cannot be pressured by the administration or others to mitigate grades or curriculum simply to satisfy certain student enrollment objectives or pressure from alumni (Chait, 2002)

In the early 19th century, university professors had no employement rights, serving largely at the whim and pleasure of the university's Board of Trustees. They were expected to hold certain political and academic ideas, and most certainly to create an atmosphere in which sons from wealthy alumni were able to succeed academically. It was a 1903 case from the University of Texas, in which Professor G.B. Halsted was dismissed after 19 years of service that accelerated the adoption of academic tenure (DeGeorge, 1997). Halsted was a supreme intellectual, some say a mathematical genius with degrees from Princeton and Johns Hopkins. He began teaching at the University of Texas at Austin in 1884, explored the foundations of geometry and advanced mathemtics. However, in 1903 he was fired after publishing several articles critical of the university for hiring a candidate less than qualified as his assistant. While he completed his career at smaller colleges, the national attention brought to the case became a public debate on the issue of tenure (School of Mathematics University of St. Andrews, Scotland, 2006).

The tide in academia was certainly changing, Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Chicago had enough meddling from donors and the board and by 1915 the American Association of University Professors' (AAUP) adopted a standard of principles that eventually led to a tenure program designed specifically to protect academic freedom. This continued to evolve throughout the war years and beyond; but became quite problematical during the late 1940s and early 1950s, when many academics found themselves at odds with the House Un-American Activities Committee and the policies of Senator Joseph McCarthy. Since universities are often the bastion of liberalism, academic ideals often found themselves in conflict with the Vietnam War, as well as policies of the 1960s and certainly the Nixon years (O'Neil, 2003).

However, it was two landmark Supreme Court cases that changed the way academic tenure was viewed from 1972 to the present day. Board of Regents of State Colleges v Roth (408 U.S. 564) and Perry v Sindermann (408 U.S. 593). Both of these cases held that an academic's claim to entitlement is, but its very nature, more than a subjective expectancy of continued and uninterrupted employment. Instead, a contractual relationship must be a part of the relationship. Further, these two found that tenure is a property interest in the academic institution, so due process applies

(Beerman, 2006). Whether a result of these decisions or simply a gradual change in both the expectations and cultural views on the contributions of academia, there has been a steady decline on tenure track positions in the United States. In 1975, for instance, tenured positions made up about 60% of the total faculy positions in America's colleges and universities; while this number was down to 30% by 2005. In essence, in 2005, 68% of college and university instructors were neither tenured nor eligible for tenure and almost 50% were part-time employees (Percent of Teachers with Tenure, 2008).

Tenure is usually awarded for instructors hired in tenure-track positions. Over the…[continue]

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