> I aint sayin keep tenure as is. But I am disturbed by this some of this
> list's apparent eagerness to jump ship just when we need folks to take a
I want to be clear about what I'm saying, here. I was/am
speaking on a personal level; I think we all ought to get up in the
morning and, before breakfast, we ought to think of five alternate career
paths that would make us happy. I'm serious about that. Eric is heading
off to the corporate world in his mind before breakfast. Bob's doing
consulting (well, he _really_ is). Me, I'm alternating between
homeschooling my kids, being a freelance writer, teaching kindergarten, and
running a canoe livery on some river in Maine. I think that's a really
important way for us to keep our sanity and sense of self-worth.
I say this because I don't know how much good taking a stand will
do. I think the profession is changing right out from under us: the big
threats to tenure _aren't_ the full-frontal attacks such as we're seeing
in Minnesota, they're the losses we incur through attrition. I know of
at least two schools where tenure lines were lost because somebody
retired, and rather than hire another tenure-track person, the schools
opted to hire lecturers instead. In one instance, four out of nine
people in the English department retired -- and to replace them, the
department got two lectureships for this year.
I think the real value of tenure isn't so much academic freedom
(few of us need that; we're not nearly so radical as we would like to
hope) but in job security and commitment to the profession. It's not
just a matter of knowing you've got an office for the next thirty or so
years. It's also a matter of knowing that you'll have time to think
deeply about an issue or problem, and that you'll be able to reflect on
it and try different theories and solutions. I know that I really wasn't
able to take a long view of the profession and my role in it while I was
in grad school, and people who are working four part-time jobs and
carrying their offices in their trunks don't have that luxury, either.
And it _is_ a luxury. We'll be poorer without it in too many ways to
count. But taking the long-term view is not very popular these days . . .
University of Michigan-Dearborn
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