Why We Need Tenure
by Nathaniel Mathews | published May. 1st, 2014
RIT does not hand out tenure willy-nilly. The requirements are intense, and moving through the ranks of faculty, or getting on the tenure track from a lecturing position is very challenging. Even with RIT’s rigorous criteria for tenure, there are those who believe the institution of tenure to be an outdated one. But in reality, we need tenure more now than ever before. Faculty members wear two hats — researcher and instructor — and tenure is vital for them to do either well.
Academia is not a united front. Even leading thinkers and scientists disagree — in fact, it’s through this disagreement that we further our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. If a researcher couldn’t move forward with their work simply because it went against current models, we’d never have any new models. But for non-tenured faculty, there’s a huge pressure to just “go with the flow,” lest the Institute decide that they aren’t worth the trouble. Tenure is, in a way, insurance that lets them do what is necessary to push forward the bounds of human knowledge.
Grade inflation is a huge problem in colleges and universities all over the world. And it hurts all of us. Many employers find that students today are woefully unprepared for the real world, and that they lend less and less credence to good grades. According to a 2005 study by then-President Albert J. Simone, RIT’s grade inflation isn’t as bad as it is at Nazareth or the University of Rochester. But tenure is the only thing that holds it in check. Professors who aren’t tenured are afraid of losing their positions, and give students higher grades than they would otherwise. This might seem great for us students at first. But it drags down the worth of the good grades we do work for.
So please, don’t give a professor a bad review just because they gave you the grade you deserved. And don’t lobby to remove tenure from our Institute. It might feel a bit musty and, for those of us who are moving into low-job-security futures, it might feel a bit unfair. But it is important.