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.
Mr. Churchill, step over here to edge for a better look at the beautiful campus we have here at UCSC.
UCSC could serve as an effective "shit magnet", the same as Iraq and Afghanistan - to lure the "enemy" into the killing fields... UCSC has all the necessary "attractions" to attract the leftist targets.
Academic tenure = Big Brother thought control
Tenure has got to go!
The thing is, Native American Studies can be a fascinating topic and is worthy of academic study. The problem is that it's dominated by people like Ward Churchill. They aren't merely bad scholars. They are anti-scholars. They actively prevent scholarship from taking place. They turn what can be a rich field into just another politicized academic ghetto and drive any true scholarship away.
I couldn't agree more. I belong to H-West, the scholarly list for historians of western/frontier history.
Most of the members of the list reach their conclusions, then do their "research," then fight to cover each other's backs with ferocity.
It is like the Bloods and the Crips.
I never went to a college, so I certainly am not qualified to argue this point, However. You say if you didnt have tenure, Conservatives wouldnt be able to stay, and then you go on to say its hard for a conservative to get hired in the first place and then are treated to various means to get rid of them. So is tenure only good when you are a liberal?
From the little I have picked up in the 65 years of my life I have found that when anyone believes their feet are in concrete, they start acting like it ,and dont move them much to get the work done. There should always be a means to reward those who work and to get rid of those who dont.
Bingo. Affirmative action bites--you eventually.
LOL. Years ago while in-house legal counsel to a university, the Academic Vice President stated to me, "You have to realize that to the faculty, the French Revolution never happened." And by that he meant the class system was alive and kicking at the universities with faculty classed as "nobility" or "royalty".
Considering how hard professors work to even get tenure, it is sickening this man makes this much money in a made-up field.
Money Mag listed college professor as one of the best jobs, but it is one of the hardest jobs to get, not to mention the horrible pay in most cases.
I considered it, but decided it was not worth it. I am willing to take low-paying jobs, even write for newspapers (I love journalism and have since I was little). But, the drama and politics of academia are not worth it.
Tenure should be abolished for profs. It will encourage much more competition and allow for bad professors to be eliminated and replaced with ones who really want the job and who love their students.
Yikes, and this is why I decided not to become a college professor.
I could get a job at a small Christian college, which I would like, after getting a doctorate etc. But, the pay would be so horrible, even less than public school teachers.
It is not worth it.
I will probably become a HS history teacher instead, again, low-paying, especially in the plains states here, but frankly, still more than many college professors make, and the jobs are easier to get.
My hat is off to you for working in college.
While I think tenure should be eliminated, the reason why the lack of tenure-track jobs is becoming a problem is that people trying to find academic openings have a very hard time doing so, much less actually snagging one. If they find one, it is likely just a temporary gig with pay that won't put food on the table.
Only tenure-track positions provide any kind of job security or decent pay.
The problem with tenure is that it goes too far and effectively makes it impossible to fire somebody.
How easy was it to find your job? Is your salary okay?
Why should Native American Studies be a different department?
It seems to me that the methods used are not different than those used in the study of Europeans, Chinese, or African Bushmen. Someone specializing in Native American Studies could be housed in History, Anthropology, or Archaeology.
Of course then he wouldn't automatically be protected from mean and nasty criticism from people who think his work is shoddy...
This goes double for woman's studies, black studies, and any other "discipline" that is so weak it needs the studies suffix.
I want to read that vanity.
I had 12 conference interviews, 6 requests to interview, took 4, ended up going only to the 2 I wanted, and got an offer from both.
I'm in a semi-technical aspect of information science (knowledge management, design of information systems, etc). My classmates and I have no problem finding jobs, even the ones who are in the library science track. The problem is staying in school long enough to finish and not take a job ABD and never finish.
The salaries are very good in areas such as mine. In the part of my field geared more to library science, they can be a little lower than I would want, but very good compared to humanities grads. If you are a library science grad with a tech background, you can easily make 70K+, traditional fields may come in around 40-50K. I read about humanities grads happy to take 34K.
I used to practice law and I can't imagine working for years to get the doctorate and then settling for 34K. Again, this has to do with the competitive nature of fields like English lit. If you have thousands of un- or marginally employed lit majors, the schools can pay nothing and get away with it. In tech-related or professonal fields such as library science either you can work outside academe or so few go into the field, that the salaries are much, much better.
I got a very good offer, negotiated it up even further, am going to live in a low cost of living part of the country (part of the overall radiohead life plan) where I'll actually be able to buy a house and live like a person. Could I make more in industry? Yeah, but now I want to do something else with my life.
I don't want to discourage any conservative from becoming a professor. The work is brutally hard and the pay (at a small college) is less than in the public schools. But you really are boss of your own time and if you guard what you say you can get off as nicely non-political.
In the secondary schools, you will find yourself hand-cuffed much of the time.
If you are successful as a professor, you really do make a difference and are appropriately rewarded.
Having said that, the cost of faculty politics can be terrific.
I like my job and would not like secondary schools. I really do have control of my classroom, my research and my contacts with students and other people.
So, there are ups and downs to both sides.
Good luck to both of you and if I can give you a hand or some advice, freepmail me.
Thanks for your offer of advice. I think we may have freepmailed previously.
I'm pretty sure I can handle myself in the choppy waters of faculty politics. What amazes me are the folks who post on the Chronicle who seem to never have dealt with real people. They are so afraid of not getting tenure that they put up with terrible situations, they are afraid to speak out in the face of racism and sexism, and they agonize over whether they should have kids before tenure.
I think there's something to be said for having had a previous career, or at least 4-7 years out in the world, before committing yourself to the academy. The young, new PhDs and faculty seem like children to me. One reason I accepted the offer from my new employer was because the small faculty were all about my age. Similar outlook on life, if not politics, similar lack of patience with the office BS that makes life hard. They were quite upfront about wanting faculty who could get along with and respect others.
Of course, I guess you never know what it's really like until you are in it, huh? : )
Churchill also lied on his application (grounds for immediate dismissal in any organization, I believe) by saying he was of native heritage in order to get his appointment. He plagerized the written word, and art. Just an all-round great guy -- the kind of person you'd want teaching your kids.
That is my problem...I am a history major. The pay for that area is awful unless you get to a huge university, so it is just not worth it to get the phd and try to become a prof.
I am trying to decide between teaching high school history/govt. and going into journalism to start out with after college; the latter would require getting a master's, but it would be worth it because I would advance more quickly to an okay wage (would likely start at 27,000 instead of 22,000 or so and would advance to 35 or so much more quickly). The pay for journalism would be really bad, but it would be worth it only having to take 2 more years. Having to take 4 more years to become a history prof with similar pay is not worth it.
I do wonder what journalism prof pay is like, but since it would be a humanities area, it is probably pretty low.
I guess if I want money, I do have two alternatives I may consider down the line if necessary: technical writing or public relations. Both would fit my personality well and actually pay a good wage.
But, being a professor is probably not for me. I wish you good luck in your career, however. We need conservative profs!
You ought "to do things" without the necessity of tenure...an anachronistic feudal holdover.
Well, you are passionate. But if you can't teach the kids because some left-wing kook has decided that you are a throwback . . . .
Something else happens without tenure. Even if you don't get fired, you will find it hard to get on the committees that determine the direction of the school. With tenure, we few conservatives have a source of authority which we can use.
By the way, it was because Hus's friends did not have tenure that he was burned . . . .
Tenure is being used as a tool to maintain a left wing secular outlook among the elites in higher ed. Dare to question or disagree, and the professor become a pariah with all the attendent negatives that that status brings.
Even worse (if anything could be), it maintains the status quo of incompetence, self serving aggrandizement, and a forum or leftist propaganda...notice that conservatives rarely if ever exploit their classroom authority to foist their agendas on students.
Tenure has got to go!
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