Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tenure System no Scapegoat of the Decline of Higher Education in the US

There was a story in a US University. A senior professor, who was not satisfied with performance of a junior female professor, told her that she would not be granted tenure as long as he sat on the personnel board, unless she went to bed with him. The pissed-off junior professor went to the school administrators, where she was given the advice to turn in physical evidence. So she went back to the old man, and asked him to write down his threat. The senior professor without hesitation wrote it down. The school administrators then discussed possibly to terminate old man's tenure. However, school lawyers stopped them, 'We can't do that because there had been worse offenses in the history while the accused were allowed to keep tenure. If the school act this time, it will be the base for a lawsuit.'

A tenured professor is practically untouchable. In a recent incident, many scholars and colleagues of Law professor John Yoo of UC Berkeley believed he crossed the ethics bottom line when he gave legal advice to the Bush Administration that torture was legal. Many believed Yoo did it to please his employer while knowingly misinterpreted law as White House Legal Council. Consequently, many innocent persons suffered, and the image of US government was tarnished. However, the school came to the conclusion that the alleged offense did not amount to the level of tenure termination.

Rights and privileges associated to tenure may brings a clue on the motivation behind one Alabama professor Amy Bishop gunned down 5 of her colleagues in a heated discussion when informed her tenure application was denied.

Problem of the US's higher education could be traced deeper than the tenure layer, which was illustrated in an Ohio University case.

An assistant professor was accused of harassment, physical intimidation and professional retaliation against his fellow professors. A faculty ethics committee found the professor guilty of 6 accounts of charges, which were well documented with evidence and third party testimony. His tenure application passed narrowly in the department, but was denied on both School and College levels. Still Ohio University granted him tenure.

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