Happy Tenure Games

23 May 2014

Discussing the issue of tenure in our universities often ends up in a heated debate without any agreement on how to fix the system. The fact is that tenure is nothing more than a system of entitlement that allows professors to ride through most of their university careers without answering to anyone. Considering this, most would have to agree that it is an anachronistic, dysfunctional system that hurts not only the students involved, but entire departments, universities, and our system of higher education as a whole. The time has come to do away with, or at the very least, overhaul the tenure system. We must bring employment at universities into the 21st century, seeing to it that professors are not immune from repercussions due to their incompetence and disregard for their colleagues and students, and making it clear that if they wish to keep their positions they must show that they are fit to do so. Accountability must be the final word.

Accountability at universities can be easily achieved. It requires a few simple steps which will undoubtedly have even the best of professors striving to do even better. My simple recommendation for the repair of the tenure system is outlined below.

Once every spring all professors will be required to take part in a mandatory review of their performance. This review will be overseen by a body separate from the university, from the capital of each state, and will take into account peer reviews, employer reviews, and most importantly, reviews submitted by students. In the end the names of all professors with review grades below 95% will be considered on “academic probation”, which is grounds for eventual dismissal. Some may consider 95% a high number, but it is intended to make all university professors aim for the highest standards possible, and to recall a time when the majority of professors didn’t care, and thumbed their noses at all who questioned the power given by tenure.

All professors with review grades below 95% will be entered into a mandatory lottery, with each department having its own separate lottery. One male and one female will be chosen from each of the university’s departments. They will then have a chance to redeem themselves and teach for one more year, merely by passing a simple, pass/fail test.

The chosen professors will be released into a closed, controlled environment replete with cunning obstacles and traps to test their will and intelligence, and where they will be pitted against each other in a fight to the death. There will be only one victor. The victor will be awarded his or her job for one more year, until the next review period, we trust with a better view of how to be a proper university professor. The contest will be known as The Tenure Games. And to all professors: may the odds never again be in your favor.

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