Skip to comments.Scholars say tenured professors are rarely fired
Posted on 06/27/2006 8:27:11 AM PDT by freespirited
The University of Colorado has fired two tenured professors in the history of the Boulder campus.
And Ward Churchill, if dismissed, would be the first to be fired because of alleged research misconduct.
Scholars say it's more common at universities that unpopular professors are squeezed out or given early-retirement settlements rather than fired. The protection of tenure can make outright job termination a costly and lengthy battle.
Richard Berthold, a former University of New Mexico professor, retired two years after he was censured for telling his class on Sept. 11, 2001: "Anyone who blows up the Pentagon gets my vote."
The 31-year professor said he was "harassed" into retiring after the notorious comment, which prompted death threats and hate mail. He was given a negative post-tenure review and a 1 percent raise at UNM, barred from teaching a freshman Western civilization class he'd led his whole career, and his graduate-student help was cut, he said.
Administrators there kept a close eye on him, he said, and only one faculty member in his department publicly defended him after his comment drew national attention.
"It started to seem that every time I opened my mouth, I was being accused of some kind of unprofessional conduct,"
Berthold said. "At the time, it was getting to me. ... They made it perfectly clear that they didn't want me there, and it was just not as fun anymore."
Churchill came under fire last year for a Sept. 11 essay that compared victims in the World Trade Center attacks to a notorious Nazi. Ensuing allegations of research misconduct prompted investigations that led interim Chancellor Phil DiStefano to call Monday for the tenured ethnic studies professor's dismissal.
Churchill has denied the claims and said he's under a right-wing attack on academic freedom.
The chancellor's decision, which will be appealed and would need Board of Regents approval to be final, is rare for CU.
Members of one CU committee that reviewed Churchill's work called his case an "anomaly" and said they found no other instances in campus history that resulted in a research-misconduct finding. They discovered one case of plagiarism, but that faculty member resigned, apparently as part of a negotiated settlement.
About 40 faculty members nationwide are fired every year, said Jonathan Knight, spokesman for the American Association of University Professors. The ensuing legal battles can last several years.
R. Igor Gamow, fired from CU in 2004, said in a letter to the editor last month that the university has "well-used strategies to eliminate tenured professors" short of dismissing them.
"The first one is to freeze or almost freeze their salaries," he wrote. "The second strategy is to give them unpalatable courses to teach. The third strategy is to move them into administration."
CU dismissed Gamow for "moral turpitude" after seven women accused him of sexual assault and harassment. He denies the allegations and is suing the school for wrongful termination.
Mahinder Uberoi is the only other tenured CU professor to have been fired, said school spokeswoman Jeannine Malmsbury.
Uberoi was dismissed in 2000 for reasons that weren't made public. He had filed eight lawsuits over six years against the university, claiming everything from racial discrimination to hazardous laboratory working conditions and violations of the state's Open Records Act.
Yup. Have known a few of them myself.
Churchill and Berthold. Add in the "million Mogadishus" guy and you have a good start on a new Legion of Doom.
What they did in the Army.
Oh, Ward Churchill already gone.
Scholars say tenured professors are rarely fired.......
And that's the big problem.
No one should be guaranteed a job for life. Especially someone in the field of educating our kids. It rewards mediocrity and incompetence.
What is the history of tenure? Why was it put in place to begin with?
Amen to that.
Well, I'm happy that I was wrong and that WC is getting the axe after all. It shows the power of the internet and websites like the FR. He'd have never been fired without the new media to shed the spotlight of truth on his fraud and deceit.
UC Santa Cruz needs a new chancellor...maybe they can lure Ward Churchill there.
I'm not sure of its origin, but the reasoning behind it is that it frees a professor to conduct research that challenges the status quo without fear of being fired. Frankly, given the present academic atmosphere, tenure probably protects non-leftists professors (if they can hide their views long enough to get tenure) more than leftists.
Note that Churchill is not being fired for his opinion. He is being fired for plagiarism and other related misconduct.
In theory the professor is supposed to have shown excellence, before he or she receives tenure. Theory and practice don't always coincide.
Too often, the professor who are good teachers don't get tenure, because they aren't always good researchers. But it's research that is usually the more important aspect of tenure these days, so teaching gets short shrift -- and is often handed off to teaching assistants and junior, often non-tenure-track, faculty.
Guaranteed a job for life?? Isnt that some sort of French plan?? No wonder its so screwed up.
As a taxpayer I say let him sue and I'll happily pay. It is worth it if it has a chilling effect on this kind of completely irresponsible behavior in the professoriate.
The man doesn't have a scholarly bone in his body and having him as a professor at an institution that is supposed to search for truth is is a travesty.
Boulder is above much of the atmosphere. Sometimes the oxygen gets a little thin.
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If you dont have tenure, the professors who get fired will be conservatives.
The administrators are always leftists since the search process exposes any leanings. I remember seeing one administrator candidate being blackballed by one of our hardline Marxists because he had published in a Quarterly that actually admitted all opinions. Leftists hire leftists, even in staff positions. The more turnover you get, the further left your campus drifts.
So Conservative professors would, if they were employees at will, get sacked and they would have little defense. To my certain knowledge, our administrators have harassed conservative professors by laying charges against them and then not providing evidence. And more charges and more charges, until the professor goes underground or quits. One conservative received a very nice position by faculty vote and the administration, the next day, hit him with a five year probation.
Faculty are experts at manipulating administrators too. Since I have two hardline Marxists in my department who are very cozy with the administrators, some charge could be trumped up and, if I were employed at will, I would either have to cave in and hew the party line or I would be gone.
Do you think I could assign Thomas Sowell or Ayn Rand or Bernard Lewis if I did not have the protection of tenure?
I swear I am going to do a vanity on this subject.
I'm heading into an academic job myself in a few months. I'm not sure how I feel about tenure, but I had another career before getting the PhD. I find that people who know they can do something else don't find tenure to be the answer to everything.
I think tenure can reward mediocrity and incompetence, but many schools have post-tenure reviews, it's becoming harder (at least at Research 1 schools) to be deadwood.
The problem I see with tenure is that it maintains professors whose areas/skills are no longer needed. I'm a big fan of learning all kinds of esoteric stuff, but if students no longer see 14th Centure French poetry as vital to their education, it's time for the person teaching that course to go or develop a new area of expertise.
I'm on a message board for academics and you should hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth by new PhDs who can't get a job because schools just don't want their area anymore. They bemoan the lack of tenured jobs, mostly, I think, because they know if they had to leave 1 job teaching French poetry it's going to be hard has hell to find another. I don't think these folks are incompetent; they just teach in unpopular (and to students, unproductive) subject areas. Academic freedom be damned, what they want is to keep their jobs even if there are no students in the classroom.
For me, I don't have a need to bring politics into the classroom, but if tenure can protect libs spouting off all kinds of crap, I'd like to think it would protect a conservative who makes the 'mistake' of putting an American flag on her office door.