You seem to have drunk some pretty heady Kool-Aid there my friend. Tenure, The First Amendment, Corporations, Lawsuits, Lions and Tigers and Bears oh my. Where do I even begin?
Maybe I’ll start with your consumer model of universities. When you have a hammer everything looks like a nail, and when you have a business degree, everything looks like a widget factory. You talk about the need to serve the customers, but I’m not sure you really know who a university’s customers are. It’s not just the students, it’s society. I’m still trying to get my head around your comment about the socialistic monopoly on issuing driver’s licenses and all the inefficiencies it creates. Are you seriously proposing that we have an open market system for driver’s licenses? For realz? If you’re willing to float a wild idea like that, you might want to reconsider the protections of tenure. I mean what could possibly go wrong? Let’s just open up Cletus’s house of driver’s licensing and smoked meat emporium. If they can
Well, I can think of several reasons, and your DMV analogy offers a pretty good parallel to education. Sure I hate going down to deal with the DMV. Who doesn’t? But the customer at the DMV isn’t the guy who wants to get his registration renewed. It’s the rest of us who have to walk down the same streets, and would like some assurance that the cars zooming by have functioning brakes and steering columns. That they are piloted by sentient beings who have a vague notion what a turn signal is, and don’t think “Yield to oncoming traffic” is a measure of their stock portfolio. That they meet some kind of air quality standard that won’t poison us with lead fumes. Government doesn’t set these rules just to be a pain in the ass (well, not just to be a pain in the ass). It sets these rules because a democratic society benefits.
If you think the DMV is just a monopoly on issuing pieces of paper that say ‘Driver’s licence”, then it’s not really surprising that you view colleges and universities as customer service centers whose job is to hand out pieces of paper that say “Degree”. Wrong again. Universities should serve the greater good of society broadly. They are one of the foundational institutions of a democracy (you like democracy don’t you, Jim?). When they work properly, universities provide an unbiased source of information and analysis that serve to inform societal debate and decision making. The student isn’t the only one who benefits. Everyone benefits when citizens can tell their gluteus from their olecranon. So when some university I’ve never been to teaches some student I’ve never met to be, say, an engineer, I benefit. You benefit. We all benefit (whether or not we all scream for ice cream) because we can drive over bridges and ride in elevators without worrying that the damn things will plummet to earth. Universities are a public good, and this role is inconsistent with the need to shill for customers like a used car lot.
Speaking of public goods, Jim, you really ought to re-read the judge’s decision in your own case. Here’s a line I might draw to your attention:
"[your case is] of political and social interest in any community because education is a social good and public universities are financed, in large part, by tax monies."I’ve highlighted the key section in case you missed it. The irony is delicious, no? Your right to proceed with your lawsuit is predicated explicitly on education being not just a bidness transaction, but a social good for the wider community. So if you proceed with your lawsuit, don’t you in good faith have to abandon your consumer model of education?
It’s not that I don’t see the abuses of tenure Jim. I mean hell, have you read College Misery? If we’re not going on about the snowflakes in the classrooms, we’re bemoaning the yutz down the hall who couldn’t teach their way out of a wet paper bag, and flakes out on their committee assignments. But here again, your position is incoherent. You seem to think that if something gets abused now and then, we should eliminate it. You claim that the First Amendment is “all the protection you need.” What a noble sentiment – has that All-American, “happiness is a warm gun”, wild west vibe. And after all, constitutional protections never get abused do they? Well, OK, maybe they do. So by your reasoning, then because constitutional rights sometimes get abused, maybe you should just eliminate the constitution too while you’re about it. Or is it just tenure that you don't like?
And remember, Jim, in this society, everyone gets all the justice they can afford. Do you think every prof just has lawyer cash lying around? Do you really think every academic will ‘speak truth to power’ when it costs tens of thousands to defend that right? Where did you get your lawyer money again?
“And last year, Bobby G. Stevenson, co-founder of Ciber Inc., an information-technology company that has had Mr. Wetherbe on its board, rescinded at least $9-million in gifts to Texas Tech to protest how the dean search was conducted.”No that wasn’t leverage, of course not. What it does say though, is that you have backers with deep pockets (or deep pockets yourself). You have corporate connections (you sat on their damn board) with the resources to litigate. How’s that going to play out for, say, an early career history prof, with two young children to support, when she gets a SLAPP suit over her finding that some powerful university trustee has ancestors involved in (insert unsavoury historical event). How much “First Amendment Protection™” can she count on?
Which leads me to my last point, Jim, and I have to say you really tip your hand with this one.
“The inability to easily reduce the expense of non-performing teaching staff is costing business schools dearly.”It’s all about the Benjaminz isn’t it? You (and your deep pocketed friends) want to reduce the university’s costs – specifically faculty salaries. You like to fire people. So does Mitt Romney. And Donald Trump for that matter, so you’re in good company there. Sure, sure you only want to eliminate the “non-performing” faculty. As defined by whom? Some adminflake with a sheet of ‘performance metrics’ and an axe to grind? Someone who doesn’t like being told that their so called “more effective but radically different teaching methods” are really just a bunch of edubabble buzzwords, that aren’t worth a pack of alpaca poop? You want the power to tell someone who devoted their life to mastery of a valuable field that their work is no longer sexy, or “aligned with the priorities of the institution”. Perhaps you could explain to us how these further impoverished faculty will pay for access to “First Amendment protections™” to fight the whims of these assessments?
And you want to go even further. You want to “prove that tenure is, ultimately, an unnecessary burden on higher education.” Be careful that you don’t get used as the Trojan horse for your corporate chums. If you win your lawsuit, no sooner will you be wheeled into the Dean’s office, than your backers will burst out of your belly like the creatures in Alien and begin sacking and pillaging.
I could go on, but I should probably wrap this up. You have big bucks and backers with even bigger bucks. You think everyone should manage their lives like little corporations. You think everyone should be measured by their impact on the bottom line. You think universities serve only customers who pay tuition or supply research grants and the goal is to give them what they want. And you're upset that some tenured proffies at Idaho State were condescending to you back in the day. For this you're going to throw a bomb (metaphorical of course) into scholarship.
I have a big problem with that, Jim. But I think I have a solution.
If tenure is bad for business schools, why don’t business schools leave the universities? You can open up the Ferengi Academy of Acquisition in a strip mall on the outskirts of Lubbock and charge whatever the market will bear. If you really do have a model under which business schools will thrive, the market will reward you. And I promise that the sciences and humanities will put aside their differences and unite to throw you one whale of a going away party.
I remain etc.
Rosencrantz A. Guildenstern
Department of Hamster Husbandry