Tenure 1010: The hows and whys of a professionally paid faculty, Part 2

Tenure provides stability for professors and departments, which produces better education opportunities for students. Randy Neilson/UVU Review

As a teaching-based school, we are especially concerned with the aspect of tenure that allows for free expression and flow of ideas in a classroom without fear of reprehension or job loss for professors.

“Students benefit from the tenure system because their professors will feel more freedom to talk about controversial ideas in the classroom,” said Dr. David R. Keller, professor of ethics. “Part of education is learning about the world and learning about things that you don’t agree with but you need to learn about.”

When a professor can express radical ideas, whether their own or in an attempt to represent a variety of opinions within the classroom, the kind of learning Dr. Keller is talking about can take place.

Some students express concern that professors quit caring once they have received tenure, that professors become self-indulgent and lazy instructors.

Professors and administrators, however, disagree.

“Tenure is not intended to give someone a free ride for the rest of their life,” said Chuck Allison, associate professor of computer science and former president of UVU Faculty Senate. “Tenure is to protect academic integrity.”

The many facets of tenure were considered during the drafting of the new policy. More things changed than the timeline, wherein a tenure-track instructor must submit his or her portfolio for review.

“The fact that they worked on it for three years gives you an idea of how much discussion and debate went into it,” said Dr. Ian Wilson, vice president of academic affairs.

The standard to which both tenure-track and tenured professors are held has been set at par with the national standard of tenure policies, ensuring that UVU students are receiving the same kind of rigorous education.

Professors who have been on campus prior to the school becoming a university have seen a difference in the level of educators who are hired now as compared to before.

“We are past the era of people being grandfathered in,” Dr. Keller said. “That era is over and students need to know that … nowadays, unless you really have strong teaching evaluations and you have a record of scholarly activity, you won’t receive tenure.”

The new tenure policy states that a professor works for the school for six years on the tenure track and is then either granted tenure or dismissed from his or her position. Professors hired by the university can no longer expect tenure. Students have a right to better education than that provided by an incompetent teacher.

Students also have a say in who teaches them and how they’re taught. Through the Student Ratings of Instructors, students can provide feedback on what works and what doesn’t with their learning styles. It is the responsibility of instructors, tenured professors or not, to pay attention to that feedback.

“I have changed the way I taught because of SRI’s,” Professor Allison said.

SRI’s are not only sent to professors and the department chair, but also permanently kept in the professor’s tenure portfolio, according to the new policy.

Among other changes in policy, the university has clearly illustrated that it considers competent teaching key to students’ education. A better tenure policy ensures the procurement of quality professors and the security tenure provides becomes a means of liberation in the classroom.

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