Want to Kill Tenure? Be Careful What You Wish For

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on June 19th, 2018 by steve

“The trustee hadn’t said a word for an hour as the board of the small Midwestern liberal-arts college debated ways to turn around its flagging fortunes. But during a lull in the conversation, he finally spoke up. As David Strauss recalls, ‘He looked at everybody as if we’d all been fools, and said, “Well, the solution is easy. Get rid of tenure”‘. Strauss, a principal of the Art and Science Group, a consulting firm that works with colleges, had heard the argument before …” (more)

[Lee Gardner, Chronicle of Higher Education, 18 June]

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Third Level Staff – Tenure

Posted in Governance and administration on November 5th, 2016 by steve

IrelandLouise O’Reilly (Dublin Fingal, Sinn Fein): To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to ongoing situations in Irish universities where some staff get permanency whereas others only have recourse to one, two and three year fixed term contracts; if he has correspondence on this; and if he will make a statement on the matter …” (more)

[Dáil written answers, 3 November]

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New Tenure-Track System Improved to Reflect Gender Concerns

Posted in Governance and administration on March 1st, 2016 by steve

Ireland“Trinity’s new tenure-track system of appointments will not only benefit entry level academics but will also address the under-representation of women in higher academic grades. Its path to approval last month by University Council was a long one, with intensive debate across College …” (more)

[Linda Hogan, University Times, 1 March]

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Trinity Needs to Listen to Tenure Track Criticisms and Include Them in Consultation

Posted in Governance and administration on November 16th, 2015 by steve

Ireland“A tenure-track model was flagged in Trinity’s 2014–19 strategic plan. Since then, Trinity has moved forward with the proposal, such that the 40 Ussher professorships announced in March – which, it has recently been announced, will be funded by €16 million in non-exchequer sources – will be recruited under the model …” (more)

[University Times, 15 November]

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Incoming Vice Chancellor of Oxford Criticises Tenure Track and Trinity’s Low Amount of Female Professors

Posted in Governance and administration on November 6th, 2015 by steve

Ireland“Trinity graduate and incoming Vice Chancellor of Oxford, Louise Richardson, today criticised tenure track as an employment model for academics, a system College is considering implementing, and expressed shock at the low proportion of senior female academics in Trinity …” (more)

[Dominic McGrath, University Times, 6 November]

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Tenure is disappearing. But it’s what made American universities the best in the world

Posted in Governance and administration on October 30th, 2015 by steve

USA“‘The single most important factor preventing change in higher education is tenure.’ Wow. That was the sentiment expressed in 2010 by Mark C Taylor, then chair of Columbia University’s department of religion, and every critic of higher education in the United States seemed to agree with him …” (more)

[Sol Gittleman, Washington Post, 29 October]

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With the Consideration of a Tenure-track System in Ireland, Potential for Radical Changes

Posted in Governance and administration on October 5th, 2015 by steve

Ireland“The phrase ‘tenure-track’ means very little to the average student, but for academics and researchers in Ireland, the news that Trinity is considering implementing the system of employment in the college could spell important changes to academic practice across the country …” (more)

[Dominic McGrath, University Times, 4 October]

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Universities (Development and Innovation) (Amendment) Bill 2015 – IV – Staff, Pensions, Innovation and IP

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on February 6th, 2015 by steve

Ireland“This is the fourth and final post in a series on Senator Seán Barrett’s Private Members’ Bill, the Universities (Development and Innovation) (Amendment) Bill 2015, which was discussed last week in the Seanad (earlier posts are here, here and here) …” (more)

[Eoin O’Dell, Cearta, 6 February]

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Universities (Development and Innovation) (Amendment) Bill 2015 – II – Tenure

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on February 4th, 2015 by steve

Ireland“This is the second in a series of posts on Senator Seán Barrett‘s Private Members’ Bill, the Universities (Development and Innovation) (Amendment) Bill 2015, which was discussed last week in the Seanad …” (more)

[Eoin O’Dell, Cearta, 4 February]

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University league tables

Posted in Governance and administration on October 13th, 2014 by steve

Ireland“Sir, – Well done to Dr Edward Horgan for his illuminating and insightful letter regarding university league tables (October 7th). I can easily relate to what he says as I too feel that younger academics are being exploited within the university sector …” (more)

[Cornelius Moynihan, Irish Times, 13 October]

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Predictors of depression, stress, and anxiety among non-tenure track faculty

Posted in Research on August 7th, 2014 by steve

Abstract: Nationwide in the United States, 70% of faculty members in higher education are employed off the tenure-track. Nearly all of these non-tenure-track (NTT) appointments share a quality that may produce stress for those who hold them: contingency. Most NTT appointments are contingent on budget, enrollment, or both, and the majority of contingent faculty members are hired for one quarter or semester at a time …” (more)

[Gretchen Reevy and Grace Deason, Frontiers in Psychology, 7 July]

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The Higher Education and Research Bill 2014 – 5. Staff: tenure

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on April 8th, 2014 by steve

Academic tenure is probably the most controversial area addressed by the Barrett bill. Unfortunately the agenda is far from clear. Senator Barrett writes of addressing “the problems created by the Cahill v. Dublin City University case [2009] IESC 80” (which are …?). He adds that “[m]uch of what is understood as tenure is actually the norms and practices of the public service being applied to higher education and research” – a controversial statement, to put it mildly. As it is, we have proposals in the draft bill, but little by way of justification or explanation. There seem to be four main issues:

Fixed-term contracts. This is flagged up as an issue by Senator John Crown, who graphically referred to researchers “living from one six-month period to the next, wondering when they will get another research grant or whether, at the whim of people whose vanity research project is satisfied by their activities, they have a job to go to”. It is not clear what, if anything, the Barrett bill will do for such people; I rather suspect that cl 24(8)(e)(ii) (“discharge of the contract by operation of law”) is meant to ensure that it does nothing at all. If this is not a problem that the bill means to address, this should be made clearer.

Progression. Cl 24(8)(c) proposes a probationary period of 24 months for all academics (“teachers or investigators”), after which they acquire tenure. Senator Kathryn Reilly has already suggested that this is on the long side. I suspect that university management will regard it as too short, as a proper demonstration of fitness will probably involve quite a bit of paperwork, and the bill requires 6 months’ notice of a refusal to grant tenure (cl 24(8)(d)(ii)). And how is this framework to deal with internal promotions? – If a lecturer with tenure is promoted to a senior lectureship, does s/he lose tenure for 24 months? On all of these issues, this seems to be an area where higher education institutions will already have settled procedures, almost certainly negotiated with union representatives, and so a careful case for outside intervention will need to be made.

Removal for cause. The bill gives various procedural rights to staff members whose removal for cause is being considered, including (“if possible”) a right to be heard both by the academic council and by the governing authority. The right to academic freedom (cl 13) would no doubt be of relevance in many such cases. Where what is alleged is incompetence, there should be evidence from teachers and scholars. Dismissal should carry a right to a year’s pay unless the case involves “moral turpitude” (cl 24(8)(d)(iv)). But what is this all for? It would help considerably if Senator Barrett could state clearly what he sees as the problem here: the existing defence of academic freedom, and procedural rights on dismissal, are already substantial. What is he trying to achieve?

Removal for redundancy. Current university law already guarantees tenure (Universities Act 1997 s 25(6)), but does this preclude redundancy? The only judge ever to attempt an answer (Clarke J in Cahill v. Dublin City University [2007] IEHC 20 para 6.3) thought not, though a carefully-written institutional statute would be needed. But the matter remains unclear. The Barrett bill guarantees tenure in general, but makes an exception for “extraordinary circumstances because of financial exigencies” (cl 24(8)(c)), which exigencies must be “demonstrably bona fide” (cl 24(8)(e)). What does this mean? Experience suggests that there are three main situations where an institution is likely to seek redundancies:

  1. where a particular income stream (grant, programme income), which pays for specific posts, dries up, and it is decided to terminate the posts;
  2. where a particular department or unit persistently makes losses, and so there is a decision to close it or scale it down;
  3. where the institution as a whole is in deficit, and it is decided to reduce total staffing bring the institution back within budget.

Case 1 is already a familiar part of the higher education scene; case 2 would change institutional politics profoundly, as “black hole” departments would suddenly find their position infinitely more precarious than hitherto; and case 3 will become the new nightmare for all staff who cannot produce instant and reliable proof of their indispensability.

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Investigating tenure controversies: Basing faculty promotion on flawed variables will stand to protect the incompetent

Posted in Governance and administration on February 4th, 2014 by steve

“Controversies regarding whether tenure encourages a culture of incompetence has led many US institutions to tighten up their decision making procedures. But many of these attempts to repair the system reflect little empirical research …” (more)

[John Rothgeb, Impact of Social Sciences, 4 February]

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Academic Tourism

Posted in Life on April 6th, 2013 by steve

“We’re all tourists in academia. With short-term contracts being so common, it’s more or less natural to slide from PhD into hourly-paid teaching, into a Post-Doc, a fellowship, or a maternity/ research leave cover. Many of us are well into our thirties before we get the first full-time permanent job …” (more)

[The History Woman’s Blog, 6 April]

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Managerialism in Irish Universities, revisited

Posted in Governance and administration on November 19th, 2012 by steve

I put this 20-minute presentation together for the IALT conference last weekend. It briefly reviews the literature on managerialism in Irish universities, and then summarises developments over the past year. It ends with the proposed Universities (Amendment) Bill.  It’s available as a slideshow here, and for those who want further or more detailed reading there’s a handout here.

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It’s Time to Rethink Tenure

Posted in Legal issues on November 16th, 2012 by steve

“I arrived at Harvard’s John F Kennedy School of Government in the fall of 1972 knowing nothing about how American universities worked. As a Kennedy Scholar from Britain, I selected classes for my master’s degree based on the issues I wanted to study, paying scant attention to which professors taught the course …” (more)

[Chris Palmer, Inside Higher Ed, 16 November]

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UCD introduces new academic contracts

Posted in Legal issues on September 12th, 2012 by steve

“Academics within UCD are to see their contracts revised resulting in a series of changes to how they operate within the university. Some academics have voiced concerns regarding potentially restrictive working time expectations …” (more)

[James Grannell, College Tribune, 12 September]

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Court Rejects Assertion That ‘Tenure’ Means Continuous Employment

Posted in Legal issues on August 7th, 2012 by steve

“A federal appellate court has sided with a private law school in a case brought by a professor who contends she was wrongly fired, and both sides say the ruling is important for how it defines the concept of tenure …” (more)

[Audrey Williams June, Chronicle of Higher Education, 7 August]

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Tenure: Yes or No?

Posted in Governance and administration on July 3rd, 2012 by steve

“This time I have my friend Gregory Kaplan, an honorary research fellow at the University of Hong Kong, to thank for alerting me to a special report on higher education in the Wall Street Journal (and a massive power outage in Ohio for preventing me from getting to it sooner!) …” (more)

[Frank Donoghue, Chronicle of Higher Education, 3 July]

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Weakening tenure is an attack on academic freedom

Posted in Governance and administration on May 20th, 2012 by steve

“Since World War II, Canadian and American universities have offered faculty members tenure, the promise of lifetime employment to those who complete a six- to 10-year probation period. During this time, professors’ teaching, writing and research are scrutinised by their colleagues to determine whether a tenured appointment is merited …”(more)

[Benjamin Ginsberg, University World News, 20 May]

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