Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Thu Mar 21 10:31:07 EST 1996

On Wed, 20 Mar 1996, L.A. Moran wrote:

> In article <Pine.SOL.3.91.960320144041.8999A-100000 at mcmail.
CIS.McMaster.CA> you write:
> >Being a tenured prof and having 13 years till retirement it
> >is rather tough to say 'no I don't want [like] tenure'. But 
> >looking from the distance, I believe system in its present form 
> >is unsustainable for much longer (my wife does not have
> >tenure and hates the idea of it). 
> At most universities tenure is a means of ensuring academic freedom. It is
> not the same as job security. Just because you have "tenure" at most
> universities doesn't mean that you can't be fired for incompetence or
> for lack of money. "Tenure" means that you can't be fired just because
> your chairman or dean doesn't like you or what research you do. It also
> means that you can't be fired because you hold unorthodox or unpopular
> views that you present to your students. Is it this "tenure" that you
> think is unsuitable in today's world.

> I didn't think so. I suspect that what you really object to is the high
> level of job security that professors enjoy. 

On the contary. Job security is the best protector of
good and dedicated work. Now, despite huge profits,
companies are loosing the loyalty of their employers
due to threat of laid offs. Same happen with Universityis
if tenure system is dismantled.

> You probably object to the
> fact that professors are rarely fired evn when they are unproductive.

I don't know of a single professor (or ever heard) who
would be 'unproductive' in any meaningful sense. Yes,
there is quite a lot of mediocrity around, but I have
not witnessed real 'incompetence' at the faculty level. 
All cases I know of when people get fired from tenured 
positions involved some misappropriation of research funds, 
usually to benefit personal companies.
> Fair enough. But please don't confuse this with tenure and the protection
> of academic freedom. 

> Does your wife like that idea that she can be fired
> simply because her boss doesn't like her? 

Highly deplorable aspect of N.American university 
research system is in preciesely this: that 
tecnicians, postdocs, res.associates are
employed by the 'boss', ratheer been being employers
of the university directly, so they do not depend 
on the whims of their bosses (this of course should 
not be taken to indicate that all bosses are 
necessarily 'bad').       
> I'm not familiar with the situation at McMaster but I doubt that it is
> very different than Toronto or other Canadian schools. If you have been
> reading the CAUT bulletin recently you will see a defense of tenure as
> I have stated it. 
    [ CAUT = Canad.Assoc.of University Teachers bulletin ]   

I read all CAUT stuff on tenure and especially appreciate
the point which was made that in a system of a 'free
competition' ('hire-fire') in academia, faculty positions
will be deliberatedly filled with lower quality applicants
to minimize chances they (new people) will later kick out 
those same people who hired them by accusing them to 
be 'dead wood'.

> I find it very surprising that even university  
> professors don't understand the concept of tenure and academic freedom.
> It's bad enough that the general public thinks that tenure means a job
> for life without professors agreeing with them. 

I am pretty sure that main reason why 'professor' is
quickly becoming an almost dirty word is in all the
aspects I discussed before (exploitation, grantsmanship,
secrecy, elite funding cliques, etc).

> Look up the terms of
> your employment - I'm sure you will find plenty of grounds for dismissal
> even though you are tenured. The fact that few are dismissed is not due to
> tenure per se but to other impediments.
> Please don't encourage Mike and the boys at Queen's Park. If they abolish
> tenure you (and your wife) will soon find out what it really meant.

[ Mike Harris: present premier of Ontario, who dislikes tenure ] 
We should not blame Mike for what we can (and must) fix
ourselves. It is always easier to blame 'them' than to 
clean you own hourse. 
Alex Berezin

> Larry Moran

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