Putting a tenure on education
September 16, 2010
Tenure programs in American universities have been recently called into question. The main critiques of the programs are that they are unfair to adjunct because that tenure-track professors earn more money and receive more benefits. The suggested solution for this problem is to remove some research programs from the curriculum so that teaching loads for tenured and tenure-track professors would increase.
However, this reform could potentially harm undergraduate education. Removing programs from a university curriculum could eliminate research opportunities for undergraduate students, which is something in which students participate heavily at the College of William and Mary. It could also shorten office hours which professors would normally hold to help struggling students. While the change would allow more undergraduate students the opportunity to be taught by a tenured professor, it would ultimately harm their chances to participate in undergraduate research programs, since fewer programs would be available and spots would be much more competitive.
Tenure also provides security in an incredibly devastated economy. It provides job security to professors who have worked hard for their positions and who love to teach and work with students. It also ensures that current and future students will be taught by qualified professors and will have undergraduate research programs in which to participate. This job security allows professors to focus more on teaching and coming up with new research programs to help students develop techniques which will be essential in their future fields, rather than worry about whether or not budget cuts will cause them to lose their jobs.
This is not to say that adjunct professors do not work as hard as tenured or tenure-track professors; all professors work hard in order to help students and to impart their knowledge in their respective fields. However, tenured professors have the added security of a job for life and have a lighter class load — at times — than adjunct professors, as well as more time to devote to undergraduate research programs. Tenured professors also earn more money per year and have more benefits because of their position. This allows them more funds for personal research and the opportunity to publish articles or books to further enhance their respective fields and give back to the academic world.
Most of the anger toward tenured professors comes from other professors, who are presumably not tenured, and from out-of-work Americans who did not or do not have the possibility of such job security. It also stems from the rising cost of higher education, which students and their families blame on the salary of professors. This anger is somewhat irrational, since tenured and tenure-track professors have worked just as hard at other Americans to procure their positions in the academic world. Tenure programs provide opportunities to professors and students in the areas of job security, educational security and undergraduate research, and should be continued in American universities.