The Tenure Controversy at CSU

Who’s right in the tenure controversy at Columbus State?  Dr. Tim Mescon’s policy of requiring more research and publishing for a teacher to achieve tenure was one of the big reasons for the no-confidence vote.  Right before the vote, he backed off on that and said for at least a year the tenure standards will remain what they were in order to be fair to those now applying for tenure.   

Are the more rigid standards a good idea?  I’ll get into that, but first let’s look at the concept of tenure. First of all, originally, the main reason for tenure was to protect a teacher’s academic freedom. When a teacher is granted tenure he or she cannot be dismissed without  cause.  In other words,  the administration will have to show cause. If it turns out that the cause is some political, philosophical, or ideological statement that the instructor made in class or in publication, then the principal of academic freedom will have been violated. That’s not considered a valid reason for dismissal by a lot of people.  A valid reason would be for a professor not to show up for class a lot, or not concentrate on the subject he or she is assigned to teach, or perhaps for horrific evaluations by students.

I have always been told that universities are supposed to present all sorts of ideas, philosophies, ideologies,  and concepts, and to provoke students to critically think about them.  That cannot be done without academic freedom. 

A retired professor friend of mine explained that the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech both have more rigid research and publishing tenure standards than Columbus State, but he said the reason for that is that they are research institutions.  In order to achieve that they have to allot more time for teachers to do research and publishing, which means they will do less teaching. 

One of the problems with this, he says, is that your most prestigious teachers are not spending a lot of time teaching.  However,  being an effective  research school gives a university more prestige.   He believes that is why Dr. Mescon wants to institute stricter tenure standards.  However,  teachers at Columbus State have to spend most of their time teaching.  In order to spend more on research and publishing their teaching loads would need to be lightened.  That’s expensive because it would require more teachers.  There is shortage of money right now as the state keeps cutting higher education budgets. 

Maybe Dr. Mescon’s idea for stricter tenure standards is not a bad one in the future, but it doesn’t appear to be a good one now, and he obviously has recognized that.

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