Thursday, January 22, 2015

"Tenure protects lousy professors." From the U of Toledo Independent Collegian.

Tenure: Me Time.
The University of Toledo is a mixed handbag of professors. I have had wonderful and insightful professors, but I have also had professors that should have retired years, or even decades ago.

This coming year a wave of retirements is finally shaking up UT. The administration has begun a faculty hiring plan to replace a considerable amount of retiring professors next year.

This exodus of senior professors is long overdue. Over time it is very easy for senior, tenured professors to become complacent, stagnant and outdated. A serious problem begins to arise — tenure policy protects bad professors.

The Rest.


  1. Nice, earnest-sounding kid, but he seems a bit naive. To the best of my knowledge, both lawyers and doctors, at least in traditional professional structures (medicine, especially, is changing quickly), do have a sort of tenure: it's called partnership.

    More relevant to the subject at hand, I'd be very curious to know if the "faculty hiring plan" of which he writes actually involves replacing retiring tenured professors with new tenure-line hires. Sadly, that's no longer the norm in many places, and if you think a young professor may be distracted from teaching by the other, more heavily weighted requirements of tenure (an argument he doesn't make), multiply that several times and you get the distraction factor of employment insecurity (and the lower wages that go with it).

  2. Joe Heidenescher is just begging to meet the lead-weighted pool cue.


  3. You must confess that deadwood faculty are a serious problem. I wonder whether the more there are, the less likely tenure will exist for the next generation.

    1. Indeed, they do bring down the whole profession in the eyes of many. I would prefer, however, that something other than the uneducated opinion of "the customers" be used to measure the deadwoodiness of the faculty.

    2. At first I thought you wanted to try setting them on fire instead. Then I thought maybe some kind of Sir Bedevere test - see whether they weigh the same as a duck!

    3. But we know they're made of wood. What matters is whether they will float.

      Anytime my deadwood Chair hassles me about anything, I want to tell him to go jump in a lake. Since he's not totally shameless, unlike too many other cases, I instead tell him to go publish a paper in a refereed journal.

    4. I like the idea that an article in a refereed journal would be printed on paper. Paper comes from dead trees that before they were cut down were about to fall under their own weight or were otherwise unfit for use as sawlogs to be milled into dimensional lumber or even Ikea furniture.

      Regarding measures of faculty deadwoodiness, I suspect that flammability and buoyancy assays are just as reliable as student evaluations.

  4. Joe, you need a better proofreader. "The administration has replace a considerable amount [sic] of retiring professors..." I'd have expected an English major to reach higher.

    The counterpoint column is much better written. It does not waste valuable words harping on the process of "due process" as Joe does, but instead speaks to issues of merit and freedom of ideas.

    "Professors with tenure are usually able to escape sweeping cuts to faculty because they have more seniority...This layoff system ignores the effectiveness of the professors and their skill levels." Only true if you ignore that getting tenure requires skill and effectiveness.

    "Let’s face it, there are many brand new professors that are much better at teaching than some of the senior professors." Arguably true, but how many is "many" and how few are "some"? Beyond an example or two, Joe does not really define what makes for a "bad" professor. He does no research or analysis on how widespread a problem it is. And left begging is the matter of whether Joe is in any way qualified to judge professorial merit.

    "Tenure ignores actual professorial merit and considers length of employment the only variable worth measuring." Attempted proof by assertion; I'll counter simply by asserting that it is not true.

    "This is disturbingly unfair to low seniority professors, but it is also wildly unfair to students who value their education." This presumes that only good, young faculty are axed, and only bad, old faculty remain.

    And nary a hiccough at the issue of the sweeping cuts themselves? They are "wildly unfair" to all faculty and students. Let's start there, Joe.


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