Who needs tenure any more?

Overheard at Miami:

“Tenure? I think it should go away. It’s an unfair system. Some people get a golden ticket to lifetime employment and some of us who are just as qualified have to work for low pay and no benefits and have no protections.” — Part-time faculty member X.

We salute Part-Timer X and understand where he’s coming from. It’s tough to stomach having trained for years to be a scholar only to find oneself in a nonpermanent and low-paid position. The precarious situation of adjunct faculty — as well as that of temporary full-time faculty — is one of AAUP’s core causes; it’s unjustifiable on many grounds.

But is tenure to blame for the obvious injustice of the situation?

Let’s get clear on what tenure is. Tenure protects free, uncensored scholarly research and inquiry. Miami’s policy manual clearly associates tenure with academic freedom. In order for inquiry to be free, it must be protected from censorship. When you are awarded tenure, your university has to show just cause in order to dismiss you. That way, you don’t wind up getting dismissed for doing controversial research or expressing unpopular opinions. Tenure is simply a way to enable and protect academic freedom. And while the tenure system is especially important at universities, where knowledge is (ideally) freely produced and disseminated, it’s actually the way more workplaces should work. Instead of aspiring to make all workers equally unprotected, Part-Timer X, couldn’t we aspire to a system in which there could be due process and academic freedom for you and for all faculty?

Here’s what tenure emphatically is not: it is not permission to do whatever the tenured professor pleases, and is not a free pass to incompetent, illegal, exploitative, or discriminatory behavior. While different institutions vary over what counts as cause for dismissal, incompetence in the classroom and illegal behavior would be cause at most universities.

In short, the due-process protections tenure provides should be the right of the majority of educators and researchers, not the “privilege” of a dwindling few.

By the way, if you’re a lecturer, a graduate student, a VAP or visiting instructor, or a part-time instructor at Miami — that is, if you’re among the people who teach roughly 60% of the credit hours at Miami*you don’t have due-process protections, and therefore academic freedom in your classroom is not protected.

 

*See Miami University Budget Symposium 2017 presentation, p. 26.

AAUP denounces DACA decision

Today’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA) will cause massive insecurity, difficulty, disruption and harm for hundreds of thousands of innocent, hardworking people—many of them our students. (The majority of people with DACA status are university students). Miami AAUP urges faculty and students to call their legislators to express support for DACA. We urge Miami University leadership to publicly denounce the DACA decision and to pledge to do their utmost to support and protect DACA and other international students.

Here is AAUP’s statement on the DACA decision:

“The AAUP denounces in the strongest possible terms the decision by the Trump administration to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). This decision marks a continuation of the anti-immigrant racist policies that the administration has supported from the start.

“Many of our members come from families that immigrated to the US. Their forebears came to the US for the same reason that today’s immigrants do, for a better life for their families, especially their children. But the Trump administration, feeding off the fears and insecurity of many Americans, has used the issue of undocumented workers, along with racism and anti-Semitism, to divide people and disguise the real causes of the declining standards of working people, including working people of color.

“DACA, which provides renewable two-year work permits for immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children, was created by President Obama after the Republican-led House of Representatives refused to act on immigration. About 1.9 million undocumented young people are eligible to apply for the DACA program. Nearly 800,000 had their request for DACA status granted in 2016. Of those who have DACA status, about 576,000 are enrolled in college. In other words, an overwhelming majority of those granted DACA status are our students.

“One of the major factors that makes American higher education a world class system is the diversity of our faculty and students. We owe it to these students and their families, as well as to other undocumented young people, to speak out against this action in the strongest manner possible. We call on our members to urge Congress to act immediately to undo President Trump’s action and allow these young people to remain in our classrooms.

“We also urge Congress to enact a comprehensive immigration reform policy that will welcome immigrants to our shores–those fleeing political persecution and violence as well as those who simply seek a better life, regardless of their race, religion, or national origin.”

Rudy Fichtenbaum
AAUP President

September 5, 2017