Staff Editorial: Mills Faculty Tenure

By and
April 21, 2014

An example of a bad tenured faculty member...sort of. (Bad Teacher GIF from http://www.howlatthemoon.com/)

An example of a bad tenured faculty member…sort of. (Bad Teacher GIF from http://www.howlatthemoon.com/)

Is tenure a good thing for colleges or should it be abolished?

Tenure has some major advantages and disadvantages, but what’s obvious is that there’s no clear answer whether it should be chucked as a institutional practice or kept around; it seems as though tenure is awarded less frequently and after it is, the professor has employment, for good or bad.

Tenure has its clear advantages. It means professors will have job security, which in the current times is on the closer side of remarkable – especially since teaching is not considered extremely lucrative.

It gives professors the freedom to voice opinions without the concern of being fired. This can be wonderful and life-changing when professors can safely challenge injustices within and outside of the school. Conversely, it can be disastrous when tenured professors commit acts of microaggressions or (un)consciously perpetuate harm.

Once tenured, professors are staffed basically until death. This multiple-year engage- ment gives room for possible performance degradation, ultimately impacting students’ educations.

If the tenure system stays, it needs to be improved so that professors who perform poorly do not jeopardize the quality of their students’ education.

Many students are not taught about tenure in schools; self- education and research is necessary to even be involved in the dialogue at all. While writing this article, we came across a lot of unclear information and tenure systems seem to vary at different institutions. Students do not readily have the tools to question schools’ decisions because they are not educated about tenure for the professors they interact with. How are tenured professors chosen? How long do they have to be a Mills professor to be considered?

Tenure is awarded between 5th and 7th years of employment and requires extensive review of a professor’s teaching and scholarship, letters of support from department members and approval by Mills’ APT (appointment, promotion and tenure committee), which is comprised of faculty members. Assistant Professors are reviewed after three years and if they are not making enough progress in the three areas of evaluations (teaching, service and research) they can be let go. If a tenure track faculty member doesn’t get tenure, they are considered fired. When someone receives tenure, they are made an Associate Professor and after multiple years can apply for Full Professor status. If you are denied Full Professor status, you do not lose your job.

But the fact that we’re losing Edith Kinney, one of the best Social Science professors at Mills, to San Jose State University (because they offered her tenure and we did not) is abhorrent, especially since she has provided invaluable guidance to PLEA Legal students.

Though we understand the the number of tenured professors has to do with our resources–to have all the staff tenured would not be economically possible for Mills as a college– it is ridiculous how hard it is for professors to receive job security in the form of multiple-year contracts or titles that acknowledge their scholarships.

[An earlier version of this article contained inaccuracies concerning the distinctions between Associate, Visiting and Assistant Professor titles, which has been corrected in the current version.]


Staff Editorial: Mills Faculty Tenure was published on April 21, 2014 in Editorial, Opinions

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