Friday, February 05, 2010

Tenure: Gordon Gee Espouses Time for Change

by Daniel L. Bennett

Gordon Gee, one of the most influential university presidents, has recognized that the model used to grant tenure - mainly quantity of research - is outdated, suggesting that
a new approach to tenure is needed to ensure the university stays relevant to students and the outside world.

The universities of the 21st century are going to be the smokestacks of the century...The notion of the large, massive public university that can exist in isolated splendor is dead
Dr. Gee recognizes that the quality of research is more important than the quantity, and that teaching and other service to the college are also important criteria for performance. By saying so, Gee recognizes that diminishing returns have set in for academic research, something that CCAP has been saying for quite some time. He also likely recognizes that public support for higher ed is waning, as the cost of college continues to rise without a comparable increase in quality. Not to mention that the public largely supports education for the purpose of providing just that, education, and not dubious research.

Hopefully, Gee takes the lead with his university. US higher ed often plays follow the leader, so I'm sure that if OSU were to mandate higher average teaching loads and make teaching evaluations (or some other measure of teaching performance) a greater emphasis during contract extensions, then many colleges would begin to follow suit. Better yet, why not eliminate tenure altogether and replace it with a series of long-term renewable contracts of say, 5 or 7 years, to give colleges the flexibility to reallocate resources from time to time, but also the option to dispel the deadwood. While this is likely wishful thinking at this point, I do applaud Gee's comments and think it is a step in the right direction.

1 comment:

right-wing prof said...

Just keep in mind that the job security of tenure is a benefit and a substantial part of a faculty member's compensation. Without tenure, ceteris paribus, faculty salaries will have to be considerably higher. Yes the dead wood will be gone, but total salary expenses will rise considerably.