Thursday, July 08, 2010

Tenure, R.I.P at the Chronicle

There's a lot to talk about in the "Tenure, R.I.P." article over at The Chronicle, but there was one part in particular that struck me. Here, making the argument against tenure, is Cathy Trower, with my comments added:
Cathy Trower, a senior research associate at Harvard University who has studied tenure for about a dozen years at the institution's Graduate School of Education, says tenure's harsh up-or-out system—and the escalating demands for research and publication at the nation's top universities—is actually driving away talented young people. "More and more men and women are saying, I don't want to be on that fast track," says Ms. Trower, who has studied 11,000 tenure-track professors at the nation's research universities. "Many are saying, This system is broken, I don't want it."

Really? They don't want it? Why am I not hearing, on blogs, from grad students, or from anyone else, comments like "Tenure? Not my style. Glad I dodged that bullet!"?
Only 70 percent of the tenure-track professors Ms. Trower studied at research institutions said they would choose to work at their universities if they had it to do over again.
This is not the same thing as having the other 30% say they would never choose to work at a tenure-granting institution, though, is it? Trower defines tenure as "tenure at an R1 institution," which--breaking news, Chronicle!--isn't the only kind of institution that exists.

And finally, this:
Ms. Trower says it is possible to run a university with hard-working, committed scholars who are off the tenure track. "I'm outside the tenure system," she adds, "and I work really, really, hard."
In other words, you can choose to work "really, really hard" and have all the stress and anxiety of a tenure system without any of its traditional protections. More work, less money--why, according to Trower, it's a win-win!

What am I missing here?


Carl said...

Yup, this is some wicked silliness. But she's from the Ed school, what do we expect?

"Only 70 percent of the tenure-track professors Ms. Trower studied at research institutions said they would choose to work at their universities if they had it to do over again."

Looking back at your post on close reading, there's some work to be done here with the word "their," and this without getting into whether anything about this statistic has anything at all to do with tenure.

Arbitrista said...

Whenever I think about academic hiring and promotion practices I want to scream and grab a machete.

Historiann said...

Love Carl's comment about the Ed school. Tee-hee.

Undine, I completely agree that 30% not "choosing to work at their institutions" does not equal 30% would not choose tenure. (Who among us "chose" our institutions, anyway?)

This sounds as dumb as the NYT reporting on faculty life and tenure, which always seems as if it's reported from life in 1953.

undine said...

Carl--that post does need some close reading. It may be that working at, um, a Certain Well-Known Institution skews your views so that you think all places are like that, but you could drive a truck through the logical holes in that argument.

Arbitrista--I can safely say that your feeling is shared by many.

Historiann--ah, the NYT's 1953 vision of college life! BTW, you are making a difference: I saw someone identified as a "historian" on television and my first, unbidden thought was "you've spelled it wrong! There's another N at the end!"

Historiann said...

Heh. Unless it's a super-sexy cowgirl wearing shortshorts, it ain't me, sister!

Tenured Radical was on MSNBC the other night--maybe you saw her?

Funny about Money said...

I had a nontenurable job, full-time, at a large state university. I started at the same figure as an assistant professor who was hired in the same semester. Ten years later, I moved to an administrative position; when I left teaching, I was earning about the same as my friend, who by then was associate.

I, however, did not have to resort to therapy and psychoactive drugs to keep a grip on my sanity.