Tenure...Chronicle story about tenure?

Linden Higgins linden at MAIL.UTEXAS.EDU
Mon Dec 23 16:30:29 EST 1996

>In article
><Pine.A41.3.95b.961221143630.29674A-100000 at dante15.u.washington.edu>,
>Sarah Boomer <sarai at u.washington.edu> wrote:
>>         Anyway - I'd like to see a little discussion of this issue because
>> I am, frankly, of the opinion that tenure isn't really promoting the
>> appropriate people and seems to create a lot of deadwood in the system.  I
>> would personally like to see it dismantled for those reasons.  [snip]

>So how long ago was tenure designed?  Until how recently was it necessary
>to protect people?  How is it defended in debate now?

As a non-tenured person in a non-tenture track position, I may not be able
to shed a lot of light on this question, but I can shed a little.  Tenure
as we know it was instituted in the McCarthy era - quite a frightening time
to be teaching "unpopular" subjects such as modern economics, I'm told.
And, living in a state where the legislature is on one hand trying to
abandon tenure and on the other has a lot of power over teaching loads, and
a lot of misunderstandings about how & what gets taught (the evolution
debates still rage in Texas!), it is just a bit disturbing to think of
tenure ceasing to exist.

Perhaps I might propose an alternative I saw in place in Mexico:  people
get tenure, but they receive only a certain salary for being in a tenured
position.  Above this salary, "bonuses" that make living in Mexico City
tolerable (as much as it ever is;) are added for:  teaching undergraduates;
teaching graduates (these both are thesis degrees), publications (weighted
by citation rate!).  It works in that the "dead wood" cannot really live on
the base salary & take off, leaving the lines free to be filled with
hopefully more productive people.  Of whom, I might add, a significant
(and, to me, initially surprising) number are women with children!


Linden Higgins, Ph.D.
Dept. of Zoology,
University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX  78712
linden at mail.utexas.edu

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